A break from normal service …

On a blog that’s largely dedicated to representing the railway in a way thats so filthy it leaves you wanting to have a shower afterwards, writing something about cleaning track feels a bit odd. As we all know though, cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to track and the wheels so – noting that a liberal coating of weathering powder over everything increases the amount of dirt our trains pick up (who knew….) – it was time to come up with a way of keeping things clean.

Before anyone starts getting uneasy, don’t worry, we will get to the weathering bit later….

Starting point for this exercise was a Mainline LMS brake van and the Lanarkshire Model Supplies track cleaner kit, which is a nifty bit of apparatus designed for the LMS brake van, and can be purchased Here

In summary, you solder up an etched box, fit it under/in the model and then drop a hefty roller into the box which drags on the track and, when fitted with a cleaning cloth, cleans it. So to get cracking the box was soldered up:

You then need to cut a big hole in the under frame and floor of the brake van to accommodate, before screwing the unit in – that is about that, in its most simplistic form.

I decided to go a bit further and fit some better buffers and new handrails to improve the look of the model. Reference photos showed these vehicles as having low level brake pipes though so I chose not to add these, as with the rest of my vacuum brake stock with similar characteristics. After removing the paint we had something looking like this:

The model was then given a coat of Phoenix BR Bauxite, and lettered using various bits of Modelmaster sheets to represent one of the vehicles constructed by BR in the early 50’s to the LMS design.

Finally, the model was weathered using my usual mix of Tamiya brown/Matt black and NATO Black to fit in with the rest of the fleet. A bit of rust on some of the steelwork seemed to be the norm from prototype photos so this was represented on the end plates and guards duckets.

I aim to use this to run every couple of hours during a show just to make sure things keep moving – I don’t see it as replacing the pre exhibition track cleaning ritual, more topping up and ensuring cleanliness through the day. Hopefully it’ll blend in while doing this job and impact less on the scene than a giant cleaning cloth coming down from out of space!

For anyone interested, I’ve pulled together a quick video showing how the model was put together in a bit more detail:


The Morning Shunt

We may both live in Kent, but that doesn’t stop us being 60 miles away from one another – with the various lockdowns etc over the last 18 months, opportunities for OTCM to be united as one unit have been quite limited. With things easing, I was down at OT towers for a few drinks, and it only seemed appropriate for the SLW class 24 featured in the last post to have a trip out and a play around on Oly’s shunting plank.

It seemed rude not to film this, so feel free to enjoy 6 minutes of one of the most engaging locos to operate shunting pointlessly around:

It may not have escaped readers notice that Oly has been updating the layout and making it a bit less 1950’s East Anglian and a bit more 1970’s Northern…. any resemblance to other OTCM layouts is purely coincidental and it was not intended to become a replica!


SLW Class 24 – Taking a Brave Pill!

Ever since Mr Tatlow invested in an SLW 24, and we were lucky enough to get to play with it on Portchullin, it’s fair to say we have always wanted one – earlier this year I finally had the opportunity to obtain the model of D5021 in its unusual Chromatic Blue livery with small yellow ends.

Enough has been written about these that I don’t need to repeat any of it here – the second production run addressed most of the issues raised by people with the first batch and to my eyes this model is just about spot on.

I was left with a bit of a dilemma over what to do with my new investment though – D5021 got this livery due to poor communication between workshops in 1966, and wore it for a couple of years. It is, therefore, too early for my usual timeframe of 1972/73. After a few ideas of building a layout just for it had come and gone, the seeds of an idea were planted when I found the below photo on Rmweb, somewhere amongst the waffle and froth. Sadly the photo was given no credit and I have been unable to find the original photographer to credit them here.

D5021 at Manchester Victoria – presumably at some point between 1970-1974 before application of TOPS numbers. (Original photographer unknown)

Noting that the only significant alteration to occur through between the condition of the model and my time period was the application of full yellow ends, this would be a relatively straightforward conversion that would leave me with something a bit different. Although 24’s rubbed shoulders with 76’s frequently, this was only at the western end of Woodhead, with a good number of the 24’s being allocated to Manchester in the early 70’s – the same could not be said at the Eastern end where they were rare visitors…. so I’ll have to come up with a dubious back story as to why it is in South Yorkshire!

When we got involved in weathering Mark’s 24, Which he wrote about here we were in relatively safe territory – weathering is usually removable should something go wrong. (Plus if anything went really wrong we could just blame Mark). However, I definitely needed a brave pill before I attacked the front end of this model, first removing the various details then thinning the yellow panel with a fibreglass pencil to disguise its outline. Next it was out with the masking tape, remembering time spent here was time well spent.

Once done, the front of the model was primed using Halfords white primer – a number of very thin coats being required to build up sufficient density without the risk of runs…. something I often seem to suffer when spraying yellow. To counter any chance of this I decided to brush paint using Phoenix Warning Panel Yellow, thinned a little to allow a smooth application of what is relatively thick paint – a technique I’m far more comfortable with.

Once dry, the masking was removed, the details refitted (apart from one wiper which sprang off and has hidden in a dark corner of the workbench – I’ll have a proper search for it at the weekend!) and a little time was spent with some polish removing the D prefix from the numbers.

It was now time to move onto the weathering – a brown/grey mix for the underframe followed by my usual grimy black/grey on the roof. The black/grey was then VERY gradually applied to the ends, the yellow enamel acting like a glue for any subsequent paint finishes added.

After a little bit of work with the PanPastels, adding some variation and streaking to the areas that had been airbrushed, I was left with the finished result:

Overall I’m really pleased with the results – and will be even more pleased when I find that wiper! The prototype photo appears to show the footsteps up the body side plated over – I’m more than happy to live with this not being the case as there is no way I could do a repair justice. Similarly the TOPS panel is missing – I decided to retain the builders plate given this is so well printed instead.


Bank Holiday Weathering

Things have been a bit quiet here, but that’s not to say things haven’t been happening, I’ve been busy building baseboards for my new project and this has been taking up most of my modelling time – they will be the subject of a future blog post.

The recent long weekend provided an opportunity to get some more work done on those baseboards,and also get a couple of projects that have been waiting on the workbench weathered and finished off.

To get things started, a nice straightforward backdating of Bachmann’s 37038 to 6781 – simply renumbering, adding headcode blinds in place of the dominoes and adding screw links/ bufferbeam pipes…

As with all my Bachmann class 37’s, the model has also been lowered by around 1mm by modifying the bogie tower slightly – this helps convey the weight and presence of the real loco far better than the factory effort in my opinion.

Next up is a bit of a hybrid – a Vitrains 37 that has been in my loco box for years, and really needed sorting out. I’ve backdated by cutting out the headcode boxes and adding the buffer beam cowels. Replacement buffers are from the Lanarkshire range.

It’s not perfect, and is missing the boiler port, but it has come out miles better than I ever expected – again the body has been lowered a bit, this time by adjusting some of the fixing clips.

Not one that’s been sat around for ages, but a bit of a rescue job, is this Hornby 31 – purchased cheaply as a non runner. The cause of this issue turned out to be the large hole where the motor should be and it turned out to be a simple fix costing less than £20. The body was however in a weathered finish applied by Hornby – you know the flat brown spray they used to apply when weathering was the new thing to do…..

Having removed most of the factory weathering with polish, I added the characteristic bodyside strip using some Microstrip, and cut a representation of the nose doors into the Hornby ends (which were based on ones plated over). Then it was more of the same as above, pipes and screw links on the bufferbeams and then weathering.

These can now migrate to the loco box and make space for the next couple of rolling stock projects required to fill the new fiddle yard, which is considerably larger than those we are used to!


Hunslet Filth

For anyone who hadn’t realised, we love nothing more than a filthy industrial loco here at OTCM towers. The latest models to emerge from the shed du train top up the industrial fleet on BWS and register highly on the patented OTCM filthometer.

First up, a Hunslet (believe it or not from the post title) diesel shunter, a couple of which became BR 05s, but the lower roof version. This is a Silver Fox resin body on a Bachmann 03 chassis, and is probably the fastest loco I’ve ever completed, in about a week! Replacing the handrails with wire and adding some vague details in the cab being the only work done.

The best known industrial use of these locos was at Avenue Coking Plant near Chesterfield, and I’ve weathered this to a similar condition to one of the examples there.

Getting this completed prompted a comparison with its later, high cabbed, brother, an example of which already nestled in the BWS industrial fleet and is a simple repaint of the Heljan model.

Next up, and featuring a very different form of internal combustion is the only kettle in the fleet, Coal Products No10. I’m just waiting for the Light Railway Stores to move into their new address for the nameplates to be produced.

This loco is based around the Dapol/Hornby model, and has had a lot of work done to it, then a bit more. The final job is to replace the steps with some from RT Models when they arrive.

This model has featured here before, Modifying your Hornby Austerity but I wasn’t happy with the finish, so it’s been stripped down and started again. Under the saddle tank there is a new motor, flywheel and stay alive to make things run very smoothly at slow speed – I’ve always thought the original motor lets down what is actually a sound mechanism in these models.

As covered previously, the saddle tank side seam has been removed by moving the joint to the underside of the tank, and filling the seam itself. A bit of time with a large file has sorted the shape of the original chassis to something more closely resembling the prototype. After heavy weathering, I’m quite pleased with how this has turned out.


Suffolk Shelf

As a supplement to the YouTube video (thank you all those that watched it) here are some images of the current shelf.

Happy Weekend everybody – we got through another week.


Unglamorous Necessities

I’m not sure any of us would say 2021 has got off to a cracking start, – miserable weather, dark evenings…. just when we thought things couldn’t be much worse, the government started wheeling Priti Patel out for press briefings. At least in Kent we were spared being thrown into another lockdown; we just didn’t really get released from the last one….

So as we fast approach the 3 month mark since we were last able to enjoy a pint in a pub, it’s good that we have modelling to help us through these difficult times. It’s been said before, most recently by James over at West Halton Sidings, but the ability to loose ourselves in a miniature world and focus the brain on all the different skills we can apply is so important to getting through difficult situations like the one we find ourselves in right now.

The fact that, apart from endless walks (and there really aren’t enough routes to make each one interesting), there is not much else to do has definitely meant plenty of time modelling for me. With some time off over the Christmas period, I decided that I had run out of excuses to myself for having a stock box half full of models that were about 70% complete, and it was time to crack On and finish them.

This has meant much of my modelling time has been spent with a set of scales weighing models, car wheel balance weights to add the necessary bulk to bring them up to at least 25g per axle, and pliers making up 3 link couplings – hardly glamorous but necessary all the same. The addition of weight has lead to some opens requiring loads (again something I’ve been putting off for ages!)

Given this isn’t exactly stuff that has you flying by the seat of your pants, but I thought you might like to read about in a spate of (ill judged?) inspiration, I have illustrated this post with the images I’d usually bombard Oly with while he’s trying to eat his Sunday dinner, so apologies for the mess in the background!

First up, a Bachman shock open – as with a lot of this stuff, it’s been in my collection for years and I think appeared on my first layout when I was 15! Some of these were cradled internally for conveying coil traffic, so I’ve added a hood along these lines – this is simply tissue paper superglued into place, and painted with a couple of coats of thinned dark grey acrylic.

Next up, a Bachmann BR standard brake van, which had been picked up cheap at a toy fair and hovered at the bottom of the stock box ever since, it’s Railfreight red and grey livery hurting the feelings of other stock in more mundane colours….. a quick repaint and things were looking much better – I just need to buy some vac pipes to finish it off as a through piped example.

After repurposing 2 of the 3 Bachmann Conflat A’s in my collection to make a twin bolster conversion, the sole survivor was weighted down the easy way (straight on the deck) and a container affixed. Some Ambis Engineering load securing chains were then added…. Thank god I converted the other two into a steel wagon that’s all I can say!

Years after a bit of a half arsed weathering job was abandoned, I’ve also finished weathering these Presflos…. at present they are on the light side as I’m yet to work out how to get some weight into them, other than drilling a hole in the bottom and filling with sand – any more eloquent suggestions on a postcard to the usual address please.

A couple of old Parkside Vanwides, which got weathered as well as weighted – no prizes for guessing which is before and after. It’s all a bit patchy to try and add some variety to the rake, and don’t worry, that polish has been cleaned off now!

Vans vans vans – at this point things things are shaping up quite nicely with a range of shades of bauxite in the rake.

I decided it was easier to bang the weight inside these opens and fit a load than try to keep them empty. As I wanted them to form part of a mixed freight, scrap seemed a reasonable load, so after a bit of renumbering and sorting out some previously shoddy half baked weathering, a false floor was added. This also provided a good excuse to buy some of the Goodwood Scenics scrap metal materials, which I’d fancied trying out for a while….

….. and done. I’m pretty sure there is far too much scrap in them for the rake to be allowed out on the network, pieces will be blowing off and providing false readings on track circuits all the way from Healey Mills to Tinsley, but I set the false floors a bit high – let’s just hope the HM yard master had some watered down PVA to hand 24 hours before departure!

Last but not least for this update, and not one for the purists, but an approximation of a Trestrol is progressing quite nicely. While it matches the dimensions provided by Mr Bartlett and friends in their book, the rest of it is a bit more dubious, resembling a pair of Bachmann Well wagons much more closely! I know an etched kit is available to do it properly, but it’s not cheap (there’s a lot of brass involved!), I couldn’t really be bothered and I had a couple of well wagons sat round that I had no real use for….. so a new lot of Trestrol it is. This will be finished off with etched trestles from above mentioned kit when, hopefully not too far in the future, we are able to resume our modelling/social days and I can get the bits of Mr Tatlow who has ordered them for me!

So onwards and upwards, I’m keen to start building baseboards for a new exhibition layout once the weather starts improving, and hopefully the situation as far as future exhibitions becomes clearer and brighter than it is today, but for now I’ll continue to get as much stock ready to go for it as possible. (Lesson learnt from BWS – sorting stock takes ages and is a nasty distraction from working on the layout when an exhibition is pending!)


Iron Ore in the 70’s

In my last post relating to the Accurascale PTA wagons, Heavy Ore I touched on the fact that I planned to backdate the wagons on one side, modelling them in a livery appropriate to wagons used between Teeside and Redcar upon introduction, rather then the 80’s Ravenscraig livery portrayed by Accurascale.

This turned into quite a fascinating research exercise for me, with much information being provided by the outstanding South Pelaw Junction website (which also provides updates on what is a top quality layout) and by James from West Halton Sidings…. Given my modelling is supposedly set in South Yorkshire in January 1973 (although I don’t get too hung up on exact prototype fidelity) I had always thought these would be one of those out of period but a nice model things, however it turns out the North East sets would make their way to Scunthorpe when cross supply was required, and as such I could justify my rake a lot more easily!

The guys at South Pelaw have pulled together what I would expect to be the most comprehensive collection of photos of these trains, including a couple taken just after introduction. These proved invaluable in working out what needed doing – the wagons wore a large British Steel logo at the top of the third panel from left, with a shortened version of the BSC number below (remembering these were private owner wagons). A collection of small makings reflecting maintenance history, wheelbase and minimum radius then seem to have been spread along the bottom of the right hand panels, with the tare and gross weights shown on the far right panel. Numbering sequences for inner and outer wagons for the BSTE (Teeside), BSRV (Ravenscraig) and BSSW (South Wales) wagons are shown on the ever helpful LTSV website.

After sitting on how to progress with this for a while, I found Fox did a transfer sheet for these wagons that, while primarily intended for the later blue South Wales livery, also covered, or could be amended to be used with the earlier iterations. A couple of packs were duly ordered.

Inner wagon after backdating

Removal of the lovely Accurascale printing was achieved with a sharp scalpel and some polish on a cotton bud, leaving a blank canvas to work from. I didn’t find these transfers up to the same standard of most Fox products, coming on a yellow tinged carrier film that I really struggled to disguise. That said it was the only practical way to proceed so I persevered!

Some sources suggest that the centre strengthening beam was not painted white from the outset, but was an addition shortly after – I could find no evidence that it was not present from introduction, and it appealed to me, so was duly painted on.

Outer wagon after backdating

After a quick blow over with the airbrush to tone everything down (but not much given these are supposedly almost new) I was left with an appealing set of wagons a bit different from everyone else’s, and a much better knowledge of the history of iron ore workings in the 70’s!

Although OHLE flashes don’t appear to be present in the prototype photos, it seemed a shame to remove these, and given my layout scenario envisages a steelworks in the Dearne Valley, any traffic serving would have been close enough to the wires for these to seem justified.

They may not be perfect, but I’m pleased with how this little project has turned out… of course, in a rare situation for modellers, this 10 wagon rake is actually longer than the prototype 9 wagon sets that were dragged up to Redcar by pairs of Thornaby 37’s….

On the same theme, last year I picked up 10 Lima PTA’s that had been modified considerably by their previous owner but came in P4 and painted a very odd shade of orange. Still the bogies had been replaced and all the prep work done for correct couplings to be fitted – as I paid less for these than an out the box Lima example costs and it saved me building 20 Cambrian bogies, this seemed a pretty good deal!

With the P4 wheels dropped out and replaced with something altogether less prototypical (but more likely to stay on the track…. jokes) the wagons were repainted into dark grey. Having searched high and low for prototype photos from introduction, to no avail (although the article on BR and the steel industry in the May 1972 Modern Railways was very interesting nonetheless) I opted for a best guess solution, using some of the spares from the Fox transfer packs (of which there were quite a lot!)

Upgraded Lima PTA rake

While they are almost certainly not 100% accurate (like most of our modelling…), and probably not even 50% accurate (I like to think we normally do a bit better than that) the finished result looks quite smart, far better than bright orange, and hopefully provides a nice bit of variety alongside the Accurascale models. This set is, of course, well short of the prototype rakes of 20 or so, a pair of Immingham 37’s having a considerably easier job dragging these from Immingham to Scunthorpe than their Thornaby cousins!

Now I’d best start work on 2 pairs of 37’s to pull them!


Heavy Ore

I’ve always been a fan of those step changes that occurred on Britain’s railway and in British industry during the 60’s and 70’s – take the introduction of MGR coal traffic, or Freightliner; both kick started methods of operation completely unrecognisable from what had gone before, revolutionising freight handling in their fields.

The same can be said for the subject of Accurascale’s latest 4mm release, the PTA wagon. With one notable exception (more on that in a bit) BR still relied on a motley collection of short wheelbase wagons not much different to those inherited at Nationalisation for the the transportation of ore at the turn of the decade – Long, heavy trains slowly rumbling along at 25mph or so. Hardly compatible with the accelerated expresses they had to share the main lines with between Britain’s ore reserves and the steelworks….

Imported ore fared better – comparatively efficient trains had been running between Bidston and Dee Marsh since the early 50’s, formed of bogie hoppers almost identical to the famous ICI examples, while British Steel and BR had completely changed operating practice in the north east with the considerably better known Tyne Dock to Consett workings (although I think people were more interested in the 9F front and rear than the wagons!) – these clearly paved the way for things to come, the increased reliance in imported ore making it easier to roll similar practices out on a wider scale.

So we find ourselves in the early 1970’s, and British Steel investing heavily to remain competitive. With BR promoting customers investing in their own wagon fleets, 4 wheel wagons with roughly 25 tons capacity are clearly no longer going to cut the mustard in this brave new world, enter stage left the PTA.

Taking advantage of the then reasonably recently established improved route capability permitting an axle loading of 25 tons per axle (what we now know as RA10) the PTA tipped the scales at 100 tons when loaded, and didn’t really resemble anything that had gone before. Investment at the docks allowed rapid loading from overhead bunkers, while the rotary couplings fitted allowed the wagons to be unloaded without uncoupling. This latter feature also influenced the wagons distinctive livery – the end fitted with the rotary coupler being painted bright orange, contrasting with the dark grey of the rest of the bodyside.

BR undertook the construction of the first batch of PTA’s, fitted with their FBT6 bogies. These were destined for Humberside, where they can still be found running between Immingham and Santon FOT, fulfilling the Scunthorpe blast furnaces appetite for ore, some 48 years after introduction in 1972. Given the conditions these wagons work in that is some achievement!

British Steel took construction in house for the later batches, these being constructed to serve Llanwern, Ravenscraig and Consett Steelworks. Although they followed the same basic philosophy, the body design was significantly different to the BR built batch, with axle motion bogies giving further variety. It is these later examples that are the subject of Accurascale’s new model.

Accurascale PTA’s fresh out the spray booth and on parade

Available as an ‘outer’ pack (including 2 end wagons with buffers and 3 inner wagons with knuckle couplers) and an ‘inner’ pack (5 wagons with knuckle couplers) I treated myself to both packs, to make a rake of 10 in the 70’s/80’s grey livery. They come packaged in a very nice bookshelf style presentation box, with a magnetic lid, so you know you’re onto something special before inspecting the models!

The model captures the massive proportions of the real wagons very well.

I got a bit carried away and weathered these before I took any photos – suffice to say printing and painting on the bodies is top draw from the box, the only detractor being that they are too clean! One of the end wagons also features a working flashing tail lamp – one of those things that appears a bit gimmicky at first but rapidly becomes something grown men get far too excited about!

Outer end detail – the tail lamp flashes! Tension lock removed and replaced with screw link and pipes as supplied.
Printing of the 1980’s markings is top drawer.

The bogies are beautifully moulded, with visible AXLE MOTION wording on the side. It’s a little bit of a shame the wheelsets do not have brake disk detail included as other more recent releases do – I will invest in some Gibson wheels with this on them to rectify the issue at some point. Weathering With an airbrush really highlights the detail in the moulding and the depth of the various springs and other components – this is the best I’ve seen in this field.

Bogie detail
Bogie detail at the other end

I’d intended to backdate this set to their as introduced condition, but the quality of the printing was so good I couldn’t bring myself to remove this from both sides! Therefore I’ve kept the factory livery representing a Ravenscraig set in the 80’s on one side, and once I’ve sourced transfers the other side will become a Consett set. This did mean I could crack on and weather the side being left as is sooner!

Fixed coupling end
Rotating coupling end

A mix of airbrushing and brush painting has been used to make these grubby – using a range of Tamiya acrylics mixed to a mucky grey/brown colour, then over sprayed with flat brown which looks about right for ore dust in my eyes (remembering this falls from above so spray down!)

Given we are all missing shows and the opportunity to chat to people to explain techniques, I thought I’d chat to myself and collate the end result into a video, so in OTCM’s second attempt at directing motion video, here is how I did it:


Overall, these wagons are top quality and have been justifiably popular (Accurascale’s most popular model for Pre-release sales to date I understand) and they represent good value for money when compared to other models of a similar detail level on the market.

The grey interior is vastly improved with some attention from the airbrush and powders.

If you’re still reading at this point, hopefully I’ve not bored you too much, and fingers crossed my interpretation of the history of ore movements is reasonably accurate! My next job is to go and amend history to come up with a reason why a rake of wagons introduced in the North East in 1974 is operating in South Yorkshire in 1973…. they must be out on test or something!


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