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!

box 2box 1

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 😉



This charming Manse

Nothing to do with that most curmudgeonly of musicians, Morrisey, although it has originated from just the other side of the Salford boundary.

Some time ago, given the scale of work to get the layout progressing to a reasonable state of completeness before Expo EM Autumn at Partington in a weeks time, Phil Taylor offered to do one of the buildings. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I gladly accepted the offer, and sent him some photographs of St Brides Manse.

I’d seen the progress a few weeks back and was really pleased how it was coming on, and yesterday got a message from Phil to say its ready – and during his lunch break today drove up to Rawtenstall to deliver it, where it joined the flat pack St Brides church on my modelling tray in the signal box.

Manse 5

As a break from growing grass this evening (enforced due to running out of my chosen base flock of Woodlands Scenics turf burnt grass, which goes down before the grass machine gets to work) I got to work planting the manse in position, up high above the rest of the village. I also stood the flat pack St Brides up against the temporary Airfix church just to get an idea of how it’s all going to fit.

To say I’m well chuffed with the result is an understatement, Phil’s done an exceptional job on this charming manse, I only hope I can match it with the work on the House of the Rising Son next door 😉


Another convert to the cause

Todays modelling session by the lever frame saw a move away from buildings, and to a bit of work on stock. Like the village hall, it was one of those jobs that you can leave just before you get train entering section, and go back to once the train has been dealt with.

A few weeks ago I took delivery of one of Dapol’s new 122 units, with a view to it providing a branch service for Kinlochleven. It looks a pretty fine model actually, but of course there are always those who find fault, probably only because its Dapol in this case, a much maligned manufacturer who don’t really deserve it, especially as they got rid of the root of their problems a few years back. Todays task was to convert it to EM gauge.

As I balk at buying new wheels until I’ve tried regauging the existing wheels, and all my Bachman units run very well using this simple expedient it was a no brainer to try it on the 122. Getting the unit out of the box I was at first a bit offput by the lack of a diagram / illustration of parts that you usually get with Bachman and Hornby models, but turning the model upside down and having a look underneath showed how easy it would be to remove the keeper plate/ side frames from under the bogie.

conv 1

Its kept in place by two lugs on the bogie body fitting into rectangular holes on the front and back. Now certainly with Bachman these can be a pig to get off, but in this case someone from Dapol is thinking ahead of the game, and they have put a hole in at the point the bogie stretcher meets the keeper plate which means you can get a pair of fine nosed pliers in and gently prize away the plate from the lugs. It took seconds and there was no danger of damaging anything. The only other tools needed for the job are visible in the photo, the trusty GW wheel puller, and an EM back to back gauge.

conv 2

The wheels just pull out of the frame, the brass bearings in the photo just clip in – they also provide the pick ups to the split axles via the strips down the outer side of the frame – again just visible in the photo.

conv 3

It’s then just a case of pulling the wheels out to a back to back of 16.5 milimetres and slotting the wheels back into place, remembering that because of the way the gear meshing is, there is a right and a wrong way round! Before the keeper plate goes back on though, there is a further job to do to ensure there is enough clearance between the dummy side frames and the wheels. A scalpel is required to snip out the strip of plastic which connects the brake shoes. Now another plaudit to Dapol, you need to do exactly the same with Bachman units but inevitable you lose a brake shoe or two, they are a bit flimsily attached. No such problems with the 122 though, they are robustly attached and I removed all 8 strips with no loss, and no sign of loss either.

And that was that – the job was actually completed in the period between 11:07 and 11:58 according to the train register and that included pulling lever 20  – making a brew 😉

conv 4



A Hall back at the box

No not the return of “Slack Alice” (Witherslack Hall to the uninitiated) to the East Lancs, but North Ballachulish Village Hall. The more intensive service on mid summer weekdays makes it difficult to do any major modelling work when I’m on Townsend Fold which is far more intensive to work than Rawtenstall West.

I’ve tried to find some of the smaller jobs which I can pick up and come back to between trains without having to leave things at a critical stage. The village hall window frames fitted nicely into that, each of the main window frames is built out of .20 x.20 microstrip with 9 separate pieces on each frame. Each piece of microstrip was cut to size and fixed onto the glazing material using Di Limonene The glazing had already been put on the back of the window apertures. I was able to build around 4  frames between trains and a loco failure meant I could get the full building glazed by the end of the shift. Not much remains to be done on this building now, other than paint the eaves and soffits, and fixing the doors and drainpipes in place before fixing to the baseboard. The building is based very closely on the one a hundred yards or so down the A82 from North Ballachulish at Onich.


On the other hand the sight of a Black 5 double heading with City of Wells was a bonus as well 😉  (the pics show the return up working where I’d more time to wield the camera and shows the Black 5 as train engine with the poorly West Country on the back!

Its going vertical

One of the sure signs of progress on the layout is when you actually stop working in the horizontal plane, ie baseboards, track and basic ground, and start to work vertically. The first vestige of this was the signals, but now with the buildings starting to be “planted” its really beginning to grow tall.

I’d been asked to do some photographs of the layout for the forthcoming Expo Autumn show – I must admit I was a bit reluctant  to do photos when I’d not got the groundcover down but the completion of the station buildings – barring putting on the notice boards which should arrive from Sankey Scenics (where the signage came from) tomorrow. I’m quite pleased with the buildings considering they were all flat white styrene sheet a months ago!