MRJ 279

We are pleased to say that Bottom Works Sidings appears in MRJ 279, which is out now. 

BWS shares space in the magazine with a major feature on Copenhagen Fields – there is nothing like tough company when it comes to comparisons being drawn! I don’t think we compare too badly though, with a 4 page article that sets out to cover some of the opportunities taken to learn new skills and develop existing ones while working in a small space. The only thing we can guarantee is that BWS won’t be on the circuit for 30 years like Copenhagen Fields!

When work commenced on the layout, back in 2017, I don’t think I ever considered the possibility the layout would make it to the final of the competition, let alone that it would have it’s own article within MRJ, the contents of which I think we have always felt are to a much higher standard than we achieve…. The finished result has only been possible by listening to and learning from others, challenging ourselves to do better, and not being afraid to redo anything that doesn’t look quite right.

Hopefully our readers enjoy the article.


Lockdown Powder

No, it’s not a sudden addiction to the white stuff to quell lockdown boredom. It’s more another attempt at weathering without the airbrush.

Chris has luckily managed to finally move house after a protracted process, which selfishly has meant he hasn’t been able to solder up some points for me. So while I wait for them I’m continuing with the East Kent theme with a loco able to exchange with a proposed East Kent light Railway Deal branch. This is Dover’s 1291, a classic Bachy SECR C class. 1291 didn’t get BR numbers or embellishments until May ‘51, so the plan was that post war she would of been a bit weather beaten.

It’s my first model of a local main line engine and I enjoyed it. Should look quite nice sat next to the EKLR Radial tank exchanging a few wagons on the flats of Richborough. I also added a modelu traction inspector as a bit of a different vibe, overseeing the driving with a stern expression.

Again all done with brushing, powders and cotton buds damp with spit.

We’ve both brought tripods so hopefully we should in the future be able to record some of these techniques to share rather than just finished models.

I’m also moving house imminently so hopefully full scale dedicated modelling space will be available and we can both start churning out new layouts and more stock.

Enjoy the fine weather and I really hope you are staying safe and sane wherever in the world you are. Oly

Modifying Factory Weathering – Bachmann’s Baldwin

I love weathering, it’s probably one of my favourite bits of the hobby. Usually I’m so excited to do it I’ll actually rush forward and do it before I’ve finished the actual model. When a stroke of muck or a splash of powder goes on, it brings it all together in a way that gives a great feeling of completeness.

I’ve been dabbling in 009 for this teased future project, I’ve shown some of the wagons in a past blog post but for my lockdown birthday I ended up with my first ever 009 peice of traction, the Bachmann Baldwin. I’ve always liked the Baldwins, they still capture that look of Rio Grande Narrow Gauge but watered down for trench warfare and then badly laid British light railways. Some of them managed to soldier on until the very early 50s on places like the Ashover light railway and the Snailbeach.

Here on the Ashover one of their two Baldwins is in absolutely deplorable condition.

Bachmann’s model is ace, its finely detailed and looks an absolute peach. What unnerves me though is how tiny and delicate the chassis looks. Chris will attest to my ‘weather now, worry about the running quality later’ mantra and I’m trying to make sure everything I make dirty does actually have the ability to turn a wheel again. But as anyone knows with an airbursh one heavy pass on a chassis can have the pickups and treads completely coated. I did not want this for the Baldwin, it looked a pig to clean and although I don’t know much about 009 I know you need the chassis to be in tip top condition to have a stab at it working right. So I opted for a factory weathered example. This way I knew the chassis would have a bit of dusting and work like a charm.

Factory weathering has come a long way since the dark early days of a tan spray gun application. Heljan and Dapol have shown some nice examples. Dapols slurry tanks are probably the finest factory weathering available to buy ready to run.

Bachmann and Hornby though seem to lag somewhere behind though. Here is my Baldwin from the Bachmann Catalogue:

I mean there isn’t too much wrong with it, there is effort there but as a finished article I’m not convinced by the single application of colour. But as a starting point it’s fine.

For this I didn’t remove any of the finish, I just built on it. I used probably less products than I did for the private owner wagons, so really no reason not to personalise your factory weathered engines.

For this, I used some old brushes of various sizes, burnt umber, Games Workshop Typhus Corrosion, a white chalk pen, some powder and that big jar of dirty wash I use for everything. These chalk pens are a handy modelling tool anyway, something like this:

White Chalk Pens

And from Poundland, these super cheap brushes:

Cheap Brushes

These brushes will never apply any paint, but they are great for a bit of stippling and the odd bit of powder application.

So where to start, using some fuse wire and a bit of superglue I lashed up a pipe that sits between the two tanks, not only does this fill the gap quite nicely it seems to match prototype photos of the Baldwins at Ashover. Taking the dark wash I made sure with a fine applicator I got to the particularly grey bits of the smokebox.


This being the ‘face’ of the loco I really wanted to get the weathering right. Once this had dried I gave the running plate a lighter shade using a Tamiya tan colour. 


Then using the cheap brush and some burnt umber applied some rusting to the front of the loco. Following this, with a cotton bud in hand, I applied the chalk pen and then wiped it off with the bud before it could dry, giving the white effect at the bottom of the smokebox. To finish this off it all got a wiped off wash of Typhus Corrosion. 


You can see in the below photo how the dark wash has been used on the chimney, the tank fronts and smokebox to bring all the elements together, giving depth to the loco’s front. If you had not of used the fine applicator to get to the smokebox recesses areas of light grey would now be visible between the smokebox and tank sides.


I then applied the same dark wash to all bodyside panels drawing it downwards with a cotton bud again.

Using the chalk pen again you can add details like leaks etc, again applied with the pen directly and wiped off quickly. The matt black in background is ready to treat the roof.


Using three cheap powders from ebay (Kromlech is the brand) you can add some subtle effects, being careful not to get them caught up in the chassis. I use a rust, a tan and a soot colour, not a lot at a time is my advice. You can always wipe away if needed.


Then finally some AK wet effects for water spilled down the side. Job sorted. Here is mine finished with crew and shovel from ModelU…


And to prove I’m sticking to my ‘finish items before they go in the box’ here is the Radial complete with ModelU crew, couplings, coal, lamp, oil pot, and shunters pole and I cut out that NEM pocket on the front…


Happy modelling folks! Now off for my 685th lockdown pub quiz…


This week I’ve mainly been drinking – Mud City’s Chocolate and Vanilla Stout at 6%

East Kent Light Railway No. 5 – Oxford Rail Adams Radial

I have always been a little obsessed with the East Kent Light Railway (EKLR). It’s my local preserved line and it is as eclectic now as it was during it’s operational life. Before we crack on with the model, I’m going to bore you with some history. Back in the early 1900s Kent, thanks to coal discovered during one of the abandoned Channel Tunnel attempts, was destined to become some form of industrial eden.

When you walk around the fields near my house it is neigh on impossible to imagine what the plan once was.

Surprisingly, this map is not to scale. I live somewhere near the Iron-Ore Mines.

Here, in the garden of England, the plan was to tear up the landscape with the heavy industry of the Victoria era. In this maelstrom of coal, iron ore and steel Colonel Stephens saw an opportunity. If a Railway could connect the coal mines to the ports and the iron ore to the steel works it was be a licence to print money. So a light railway order was applied for and off the Colonel went to build his railway.

For those of you outside of the UK who might be wondering who the Colonel is, he is not the man at KFC, he is a sort of Railway folklore. During 1899 the UK government issued ‘The Light Railway Order’, to help during the railway boom to get the iron road to more isolated communities. The order allowed engineers to build railways a bit ‘slapdash’. Everything was watered down, including the speeds, to allow railways to be built and operated at a price a lot lower than those of their ‘heavy rail’ brethren. Of the railways built under this order, there can only be one undisputed King, Colonel Stephens. The fact these railways were run on a shoestring, usually did not survive very long, disappeared into the long grass, operated with rules and procedures drawn up on a fag packet only helped them pass into railway legend.

Like most of Colonel Stephen’s railways the dream far outstripped the reality. The industrial eden as planned soon dried up due to war and the struggle to actually draw the coal from the earth. The collieries that did manage to establish themselves were some of the hardest in the UK to bring coal up. Money was lost, hopes were dashed as the EKLR started to spread out across the lanes and fields of Kent.

Here shows a map of the proposed and built railways of the EKLR. What is important to both me and EKLR Adams tank is the dotted line to ‘Deal’, my home town and where I currently sit looking at thankfully sunny skies.

As Oxford Rail tried to break into the baby train market they announced, just before Hornby, a Adams Radial tank. A long lived prototype of handsome proportions with a random history and for the manufactures, loads of colour schemes.

The thing that got me excited was as part of the initial release would be EKLR No. 5, EKLR ready to run models is a bit niche. How the East Kent ended up with a retired iron road race horse from the London and Southwestern (LSWR) has always been a matter of conjecture. It is likely that the colonel purchased what was then No. 488 for the exact reason why I purchased Oxford Rail’s version, the price.

Shortly around the start of the war the LSWR side-lined the worst 30 examples of the 415 class, a crack 4-4-2 tank express tank loco for suburban passenger traffic. Our loco, 488 was one of the first to be withdrawn. As it languished war raged on and then in 1917 the Ministry of Munitions needed a loco to work at it’s Naval general depot at Ridham. No 488 was overhauled and sent off to work. Only 2 years later, following the end of the war, the 4-4-2 was laid up at Belvedere stores depot and put up for sale in 1920.

After WW1 there was a surplus of locomotives for sale, the heavy building programme during the European conflict meant the market was awash with bits and pieces for sale at decent prices. In 1923 the old racehorse caught the eye of a certain Colonel. He was currently in the midst of planning his route to Deal and the Adams was firmly in his mind to operate that branch. So like most modellers he was deep into collecting stock for a future project long before a rail had been laid…

If the Ministry had indeed given 488 a good overhaul and refurb, the price paid, £375 (£22, 846.93 in today’s value), was somewhat of a bargain, much like the Oxford version. I paid £55 for a brand new model. So who cares if I don’t need it, who could resist?

Now the model, what does £55 get you? Well this:


It’s a lot finer than I imagined, the detail is crisp and looks really nice. There are some negatives and I’m no nit picker but the main downsides are:

  • The moulded NEM pocket and guard irons on the front bogie
  • The chunk of plastic under the boiler due to the motor
  • One sandpipe had fallen off

And that’s about it? I mean it’s fifity five sodding quid. It is a pure bargain. There is a sturdiness about it I quite like too, feels a bit old school. The lump under the smokebox reminds me of Hornby back in the day. The days when you could drop it and everything would be alright. Consider me impressed.

Now when 488 became no 5 at the EKR there is a lot of missing information about what it did, if anything. Being a bit heavy and the only photos existing being at Shepherdwell there are some who believe it never ran. The Deal branch idea was never completed, some earthworks were done, but no track work complete. So the point of it dried up a bit. It did however get some miles in, The Oakwood Press book on the EKLR, reckons in Ministry and EKR use it got up to about 172,165. This is not high mileage by any account, but certainly it did not sit idle.

In my mind, the Deal branch was built (that’s a blog post for a different day) so therefore it would of been used as destined and run more miles. Having Survived the next war, the real prototype was sold to the Southern in 1946 for use on the Lyme Regis branch, where it survived and insanely preserved at the Bluebell railway.

If it was used on the Deal branch, it is likely it would of stayed on the EKLR until Nationalisation in 1948 where the same fate of the Lyme Regis branch would of likely called (the Adams tanks at the time were the only locos capable of running on the west country line, and the southern only had 2 left)

Therefore it would of been quite knackered after WW2, and that leads me to some experimentation on whether you can weather a loco without an airbursh. I wanted to try it for some time, and for £55 I was less worried if I buggered it up. Also the shade of green isn’t quite right, it’s far to light, it should be a Maunsell darker green, so really it’s ripe for some weathering experimentation.

Is it better or the same as Airbrushing? I think not, you just cannot get that finish I like without an airbursh. But as a loco that has just survived the second world war, it will do. Just needs crew and some couplings.




As always, thank you for the interest.


In for a penny, in for a POund – An update from Oly

My modelling is a bit like my love life, I’m balls deep into it before I realise the error. With that in mind, I am going to introduce you to my new layout, some new models and some skills to practice. Well over a couple of parts. As one article would be a bit long and a bit tedious.

Unless your on a Japanese whaling vessel stuck in an ice drift a long way from the equator you will be currently at home, either on revision 6 of how to kill your family without the authorities working it out or so blindly drunk it’s a miracle you logged into wordpress at all. Or of course everything is fine and this is a form of bliss you’ve been praying for. Whatever the case that drawer full of broken bits and long forgotten dreams you promised one day you would resuscitate is now sitting slightly ajar, inviting you to try and remember why that J69 simply stopped working 6 years ago.

I read an article that said lockdown was allowing people to suffer from odd cravings, such as the ability to eat pickled eggs in pubs. However mine has taken on a far darker tint, in the shape of private owner (POs) wagons. Ever since Chris decided to go fully ‘tri-period’ he had a craving for post war POs, and post war POs (PWPOs) are a very specialist subject, and there are plenty of opportunities for the type of filthy weathering and odd prototypes that gets our proverbial juices flowing (OPTGOPJF). All great acronyms you’ll agree.

So I started with the least modelled PO, the metal ones. When you think of POs you think of wooden bodied rainbow painted wagons, garishly clanking their way around Britain’s network waiting for a rough shunt to turn them to match wood. Post war the majority of wagons that survived were ‘pooled’ and they became common user. There is a pretty rare and spectacular photo on rmweb that shows the wording they wore prior to British Rail in ’48.

Grim right? And until Bachmann brought out some factory weathered examples pretty ignored in those conditions.

After BR got hold of them and while they cracked on with turning out their own wagon patterns, POs were often renumbered and replanked like these from the RCTS:

An under modelled grim prototype? Where do we sign up. Dapol make a sort of 20 ton double side door metal PO, I have no idea on the prototype as I did little research into it (read, ‘zero’) so like a lot of that era’s models it’s probably very much wrong (if it is, and like unfixable in its wrongness, then please don’t tell me as I like the redness of it). I got the idea while brushing up on my new layout idea, where one of similar prototype is covered in a tarpaulin in the long distance of the shot.

Now on lockdown I’m very far away from an airbursh. In my currently living quarters an airbursh or even a permanent bench is highly unlikely so all this modelling has been done with brushes and what I can get on my daily exercise. So you don’t need a lot. In fact to get this model as is (minus the fox tranfers and Smith’s 3 links) I used:

Fibre Glass Brush, typhus corrosion, burnt umber, lifecolor frame dirt, a dark wash, matt black, rizla fag paper, EZ line, cotton buds and white spirit.

Apart from the Rizla paper I had everything else in my ‘box’. You would most definitely have similar, if not exactly the same.

The first step is to fibre glass brush the crap out of the wagons, obviously the heavy the fade the more knackered the wagon. I did this by splitting the wagon into 3 different parts, wheels, chassis and body.

I’d then spray the chassis with matt varnish and when dry treat that and the wheels to liberal coat of frame dirt from Lifecolour. Which always seems to brush on monstrously but dry quite nicely. In normal times I’d of airbrushed this stage.

This is where the plan diverted for the wooden examples and I covered the metal PO in typhus corrosion and burnt umber and allowed them to dry.

Then using white spirit from poundland, the same source as the cotton wool buds and rizla I worked it back off. You’ll also notice for the observant of you, Rachel has woken up.

For those of you who want to watch this technique in the medium of video, here is the old favourite of OTCMs only moderately successful foray into YouTube.

Two steps in one here. Get your dark wash and cover the chassis. Wipe it off while wet with a cotton bud, when dry chuck on some soot coloured powder lightly. Will look almost, and I say almost, like you airbrushed it.

Then mark up where the markings need to go, you’ll notice on mine two black panels and an end door white stripe.

If any of it goes tits up, just use a scalpel (sharp) to tidy it up.

Give it one last wash all over the body to bring it together. Now is time for the Rizla. They’ve surprised me with how much of a good material they are. I paint mine first before I put them on the wagon. This time using the same wash as we’ve used already

Stick down with small bits of super glue with a cocktail stick. Keep the other end of the cocktail stick for later.

Remember I said about keeping hold of the cocktail stick? Use the non gluey end and with a chalk pen pr white pen and scratch on some unidentifiable hieroglyphics.

In this photo you’ll now notice I’ve fitted the 3 links as per. Now using the gluey end of the cocktail stick, put a splodge where you want the EZ line. This is far easier than it looks. Attach. Let dry. Stretch and stick again.

Now just wait for the royal mail to bring the transfers. Done! Remembering the headache you have is from drinking those 4 cans of VE day pale ale in the sun.

For wooden examples, don’t use the typhus corrosion. Use a ton of washes to really darken the PO scheme and then add some light planks (I used Tamiya Tan) then one last wash to bring it together.

Remember that’s how it started. Everyone can model, honestly. Just crack on. If it gets so bad (and I struggle to see how) put it in the drawer.

Also I may have lied when I said these wagons are just for Chris. Stand by for part 2, some more how to and a layout.

Thanks, Oly

P.S. We’re going to start telling you what we’re drinking. Remember Electric Nose used to say what he was listening to while he modelled? Well that sort of thing but with beer, mainly as Chris and I drink a fair bit of it and like the hipsters we desperately try not to be we like it craft and a bit well snobby (well Chris does, I’d drink bath water if it had ice cubes in it and an ABV above 3%)

So this week, as you have worked out, I’ve been drinking 40 cans of Time and Tide’s VE day pale ale (what? You got a big discount for buying 40 cans) and it’s made using an awesome local initiative:

Model Trains: The Saviour of Lockdown

While for many the current lockdown measures mean sitting at home bored with limited things to do, we are fortunate as a railway modelling community that, for us, being stuck at home actually presents a great opportunity to push on with various projects.

For us, given we spend, on average, 15-20 hours a week commuting, being able to invest this time in building models has seen a noticeable step up in production at OTCM towers, with weekly video calls to keep us inspired to boot.

Taking the opportunity to do something a bit different from the norm, Oly has been building up a small fleet of narrow gauge wagons, feeling this may be more suitable as a lockdown project than something standard gauge given the lack of space within the house. These are constructed from Parkside kits and are all of WW1 descent, the idea being to build a collection of stock for something that started off life as an early 1920’s contractors railway.

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These have been supplemented on the workbench by a variety of scenic projects, an abandoned and sheeted over tractor unit, built from an Airfix kit:

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The Thorneycroft Amazon, again from the Airfix kit:

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And finally a small lock up store, put together using a few leftovers of styrene sheet:

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I purchased 8 Cambrian BAA wagon kits about 4 years ago, and having built one and decided it was a bit of a bugger to get good results with, left the rest in the kit draw for a rainy day. Well it might not have rained much, but there didn’t seem much of an excuse for not cracking on given where we are, so I have finally put together the remaining 7 wagons, definitely achieving better results than first time round. A huge amount of time was spent with a file cleaning up various mouldings in order to get to a standard with which I was happy, but otherwise construction was more or less as intended by Cambrian. The only upgrade being the fitment of Lanarkshire buffers to replace the (pretty terrible) ones supplied in the kit.

While probably not up to the standard of the Bachmann offering, buying that doesn’t keep you busy for 4 weeks, and then there is the other issue that the price is now North of £40 for one, making a rake quite a substantial investment! Fortunately there come in considerably cheaper, and I can say that I’be built them.

The first BAA wagons (or Bogie Steel AB’s as they were when introduced) appeared on the network in 1972, and as such just slip into my modelling time frame of early 1973. I’ve always thought them quite attractive vehicles, and they probably deserve more credit than they receive given many are still carrying huge lumps of steel around the country today, over 40 years after they were built – quite an achievement!

Aside from that, we’ve been getting distracted by local brewery delivery services (thank god they exist) and the presentation and lighting effects of this little gem of a layout discovered online: called Brooklyn 3am and featuring a couple of sidings for switching, it’s well worth a look.

PAGE 87 – July 2009

If anyone is prepared to sponsor an OTCM trip to Sydney so that we can see it please get in touch at the usual address.

Until next time.




Prototype Inspiration: Railways around Lowca

Back in November last year (remember those days when we used to be able to go outside?) OTCM went on a mad tour to exhibit Six Quarters at Solrail 2019 in Workington. There was a reason other than sheer madness for this – SQ was inspired by the industrial railways immediately south of Workington itself. The trip itself was covered off in an earlier post, Solrail 2019: Better late than never!

Given how close we were to the prototype, and the fact we are usually in the opposite corner of the country, it would have been rude not to head down to the village of Lowca to see what the location looks like today. This then got considerably more involved as we ended up chatting to a couple of drivers that worked at the location while at the show, who gave us plenty of additional information, as well as kindly sharing some photos from their own collections. However one thing was clear, the area provided great modelling inspiration! So why not grab a cup of tea (preferably in an enamel cup) and read on, as I suspect this might be quite a long post….

While today the only rail activity in the area is the Cumbrian Coast Line, running from Barrow in Furness through Whitehaven and Workington to eventually reach Carlisle (taking quite a long time to do so…), this was far from the case in times of old, with a plethora of lines concentrated around Whitehaven, Workington and the various mines and iron works in the surrounding area, as attested by the RCH Junction Diagram below. Connecting into these lines were an even more complex array of industrial railways serving the mines themselves, although these thinned out considerably after WW1, the small mines they served becoming worked out. Some of these lines featured fearsome gradients, to the extent there were a number that had to rely on rope working to get the coal out, but these fall a bit outside our sphere of interest so we will focus on some that survived a bit longer, in particular the yellow coloured line heading off the bottom of the map.

Distington,_Siddick_Jn,_Workington_&_Rosehill_RJD_111 (1)

The village of Lowca sits on the cliff tops about 3 miles south of Workington, and, rather confusingly, Harrington No5 Colliery was located here, and not in the village of Harrington, just up the road. Given all the other lines in the vicinity were at sea level, or just above, and nowhere near the cliff tops, there was a fairly significant issue when it came to rail connecting the village and it’s collieries, but we assume the local railway builders adapted an attitude of ‘sh1t happens’ and cracked on regardless, approaching the village from both the East and the North – after all, why have one big gradient when you can have two!

From the East, the colliery and washery were accessed via a 1 in 25 gradient climbing from a small set of exchange sidings (Bains Sidings) adjacent to the erstwhile Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Junction Railway, which joined the Cumbrian Coast Line at Parton. Not to be outdone, the Lowca Light Railway approached the village from the North, linking it directly to Whitehaven, climbing onto the cliff tops at a gradient of 1 in 18! The Light Railway also served Micklam Brickworks, located just north of the Washery, as well as Harrington Docks, the branch to these dropping at 1 in 15 from Rosehill Junction. For a short time after WW1, the line was graced with passenger trains… Indeed Copperas Hill station, located half way up the gradient, was believed to be the steepest graded adhesion worked station in the country – quite understandable really.

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The remains of Copperas Hill station, looking South.

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Copperas Hill looking North, down the gradient – we wonder how many over run incidents there must have been in this direction!

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Looking down the trackbed of the Harrington Harbour Branch…. the steepness of the gradient is evident.

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On the southern outskirts of Harrington, the Harbour Branch crossed the Cumbrian Coast Line on a heavily skewed bridge, still at 1 in 15 we think! The sports fields over to the left of the shot were once the site of much heavy industry.

Harrington No5 Colliery closed in 1968. However, the washery remained open and ensured the survival of both lines, if anything leading to the most inspiring part of the sites life for a modeller. With the former WC&EJR line closed North of the exchange sidings, coal from collieries at Workington was worked by BR along the coast to Parton, passing Harrington washery 200ft above it on the way. It was then required to reverse, propelling up the stub of the former line to reach Bains sidings. At this point the NCB took over proceedings – one of Harrington’s Austerity tanks being assigned to drag 5 or 6 loaded wagons up the bank, through the centre of Lowca, and into the former colliery site. From here they were shunted out onto the cliff top, around a remarkably sharp 90 degree curve, climbing again at 1 in 25 to reach the connection into the washery, before propelling the wagons back in. Once reloaded with washed coal, the wagons had to head back to the top of the gradient, crossing Lowca High Road a second time, to be weighed, before they could be shunted over and returned to the exchange sidings.

By this era, trains from the North consisted almost exclusively of British Steel workings coming up from the steelworks in Workington itself to be loaded with coal, presumably used for coking. By the time of most photographs, and our interest, these were hauled by a pair of Yorkshire Engine Co 0-4-0 diesels, usually working cab to cab. However, NCB locos were known to make forays down the line from time to time too.

Today, little remains to identify the colliery and washery site, it having been landscaped and turned into a rugby club. However, if you pass this and head round onto the coast path itself, Micklam brickworks is still in situ, and the coast path continues to pick up the former Lowca Light Railway trackbed heading northwards, through the remains of Copperas Hill station and Rosehill Junction. In Lowca itself, many of the buildings that surrounded the line are still recognisable, and the line down to the exchange sidings has been converted into a cycle path.

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The remains of Micklam Brickworks, high on the clifftops.

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We believe this building was once the original loco shed, before it was closed and moved into the colliery site itself – The style of the building would lean towards that being the case, and it has not changed on OS Maps over the years.

As mentioned previously, we were lucky enough to be able to chat to two former drivers that had worked at Harrington during our period of interest, although not at the same time – John Harkness and Ray Penn. They shared some interesting stories, and were able to point out that Oly’s model of the level crossing keeper was inaccurate the prototype, who’s name escapes me, had landed that job after loosing an arm in an accident underground, while Oly had modelled him with a full complement of limbs! John was kind enough to share some photos from his collection with us, which are included below – apologies for the poor quality of the scans:

John leaning on an Austerity by the weighbridge. The level crossing over Lowca High Road and the colliery yard are in the background, with the post office to the left.

Looking the other way, with the post office on the right of the image, some British Steel internal user opens are brought into the former colliery site.

A rake of 21T hoppers crosses Lowca High Road – this is the view that inspired Six Quarters, and was modelled, albeit in reverse.

Sitting outside the colliery loco shed, with the washery sidings at a higher level in the background.

Looking across the colliery yard.

The Washery building and sidings, with a mix of BR 21T hoppers and British Steel Internal User wagons in the sidings.

The location was visited by Gordon Edgar a number of times during it’s latter days, with many of his photos appearing in his book ‘Industrial Railways of Cumbria’ which if you do not already own, comes highly recommended, purely on account of the level of filth it contains within its pages. With his kind permission, we have included a number of his photos below, and have added our own aligned as closely as possible to the originals, to provide a ‘now and then’ album of the site, starting at Bains Sidings and working up the hill…..

Storming the Bank

Storming the Bank

A train of coal is seen climbing the 1 in 25 up to Lowca, in the first image this has not long left Bain’s Sidings, while in the latter it is passing the connection into a loop that once served a much smaller pit. Today this section of the line is a cycleway, with the driveway to a garden centre build alongside:

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Last Run

As the line comes into Lowca village, it passes various terraced houses – some newer buildings now surround this site, but the original buildings are still there:

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Lowca Weighbridge

The site of the weighbridge was more or less the top of the gradient, the line running alongside a rendered wall to pass through the village itself. Today the wall is still there and a footpath uses the old trackbed, although this has been landscaped somewhat:

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Trains from the weighbridge then had to cross Lowca High Road to access the colliery itself. Readers probably recognise the building here from Six Quarters! Today the building remains intact, and the road has a noticable flat spot where the railway used to cross.

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Lowca Colliery Remains

Within the colliery site itself, we think this vaguely aligns with what is now a rugby club but landscaping has made it hard to tell exactly:

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The line now curves through a sharp 90 degree bend and starts climbing again as it reaches the clifftops, a very exposed place, which has today been returned to nature:

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Irish Sea View

Slightly further round the curve sidings joined the ‘main line’ before it climbed through a short cutting to the washery link. Again this is now returned to nature and landscaped:

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Lowca Light Railway

Reaching the top of the gradient, before the line started descending again as the Lowca Light Railway. This pair of BSC locos show the gradients! Although not a direct comparison, this panorama shows the area today:

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So what about modelling this? We think it would make an ideal, if very different, round the room style layout for the industrial modeller. A fiddle yard could easily be located under the colliery site, with trains being pushed out by BR locos into a model of Bains Sidings, situated in one corner of the room, from where NCB locos could run up a gradient into the colliery itself. A tight curve in one corner of the room would then take you round to a model of Micklam Brickworks, before another steep gradient finished in a very small fiddleyard representing the other end of the Lowca Light Railway…. it could also make quite an attractive L shaped exhibition layout, although keeping things moving over the whole layout while at a show might prove quite challenging!

That’s all for now folks…. If you’ve got this far, well done and thanks for reading! We must extend our thanks to John Harkness for sharing his photographs with us, and to Gordon Edgar for the images used to illustrate this post – it should go without saying that he retains the copyright so please don’t pinch them for use anywhere else! Oh, and Gordon’s series of books on industrial railways, particularly the Cumbrian one, make great reading and are ideal for browsing if, say, you were told to stay in isolation for several months…. and remember your friendly railway book retailers have taken a big hit with the cancellation of so many shows, so try and buy from them rather than multinational conglomerates that may have names starting with A and finishing with Mazon!

Chris and Oly

Solrail 2019: Better late than never!

It’s a while back now, but the weekend of the 16/17 November last year saw us out on the road to Solrail 2019. Whats notable about that I hear you ask? Well, principally the fact it takes place in Workington, which, for a layout that lives in Deal, couldn’t be much more the opposite corner of England if it tried. It may not have passed readers by that Six Quarters takes it’s inspiration from the area, so if anything it was like taking it ‘home’ – well at least that was the logic behind such a mad trip!

So at 06.45 Friday morning, we were on the road in the Citroen Berlingo hired in for the job – it may not have been daylight but we were checking out the features that had made this Van of the Year 2019, as we headed off towards the A2 to commence the mammoth journey…


The early start saw us making good time until we came to a halt in the roadworks on the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon, where we were able to take in the technical details of shipping container design on the plentiful HGV’s alongside us, and have a good old moan about why they aren’t travelling by rail.


Fueled by a couple of coffee stops, progress was rapid and by lunchtime we had made our first port of call – Locomotion at Shildon. Numerous interesting exhibits were on show with quite an LNER bias:


Our favourite exhibit had to be this Clayton mine loco though, brought to the surface from the last deep mine in the North East and still in the condition it came out the ground, which is largely comparable to most of the rolling stock we turn out!


One footlong Turkey and Ham with all the trimmings later, we were crossing Stainmore Summit, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of the railway that once was – it’a a shame the massive metal viaducts were all dismantled. Next stop was the Eden Valley Railway at Warcop for a quick sniff around, despite it being closed. Oly had got wind there was a bit of 400 action available, and this turned out to be the case, making us feel much closer to home! There was also an interesting collection of industrials sat awaiting their turn in the restoration queue.


After this we blasted off into the North Lakes, arriving in Workington just before the sun set: the building the show was housed in being quite impressive:


We were setup in no time and soon ended up in conversation with our next door neighbours, who were fortunately local and able to provide some gen on good curry houses and spots for decent beer. Unfortunately the gen on the second point was that ‘Workington is sh*t for beer’, something we couldn’t argue with it turned out! Fortunately the curry was good though and this got us through to the Saturday… where Oly was able to adopt his ‘look chilled while operating’ pose for the camera.


It was immediately obvious the layout was attracting a lot of interest from the locals, with numerous people recognising the building on the layout or actually living in Lowca itself. Given that we are used to answering questions regarding where the layout is set with ‘in Cumbria’ needing to give an answer that the road would be Lowca High Road and the railway crossed by the rugby club was a little unusual…

Sunday took this to another level as we ended up meeting two drivers from the prototype location, Ray Penn and John Harkness, it was great to have a chat with them about operating practices in the early 70’s on the site, and some of the staff who worked there. To top that off, SQ received it’s first piece of silverware!

Before heading home on Monday, we took the opportunity to have a poke around some of Workington’s rail infrastructure, which is all very attractive and modellable, before we headed down to Lowca to see the prototype site ourselves. Another blog post will follow looking at Harrington No 5 Pit in the near future, hopefully with plenty of then an now images to show how things have changed, so for now here are some photos from Workington:


And one from Lowca, with Oly posing in the Van of the Year 2019:

With the sun shining, we headed off through the Lake District, the better weather being more conducive to admiring the view:


Before being hit with a wall of fog as we headed into the Pennines!


The rest of the journey was uneventful, a foot long Turkey and Ham with all the trimmings was consumed at Scotch Corner (there’s a theme developing here…) and the layout returning to it’s shed at about 18.00. All in all a very enjoyable weekend and well worth driving 850 miles for! Many thanks to Phil for the invite and to all those who made it a really interesting experience.



Catching Up

Well it’s been a while since the last post, the intervening time having been rather hectic with work as well as the usual distractions around Christmas, with endless grief of a house move also going on, most of that seems a long time ago now, although relocation is ongoing! This all left me feeling rather uninspired at the back end of last year, but things have got a bit better recently, so what’s been going on Railway wise?

November saw us exhibiting Six Quarters at Solrail in Workington, with a prototype research trip built in for good measure… more of that in a follow up post though – there’s a bit much to get in here!

Christmas brought me a couple of packs of NCB IU HUO hoppers from Accurascale, taking advantage of the substantial saving available in their Black Friday sale. These are a bit modern for us in NCB livery, so will be repainted into BR livery in good time. Also arriving was a Dapol Bolster E, which I decided to weather taking advantage of a bit of time off:

This really is a lovely model, Dapol have pulled the stops out and it shows they are right back in the game having shaken the legacy of a certain someone… I backdated slightly removing the TOPS code but otherwise it’s just had the detail bits from the box fitted.

This inspired me to finally get started on the Rumney Models detailing kit for the older Lima model, which I’ve had sat around for a couple of years….

I’d not tackled anything like this before so it was an interesting challenge. I struggled with a few bits but it’s a well designed kit and patience turned out something looking half decent, certainly a huge improvement on the original!

I think the running plate is the only bit left of the original model, so it’s been quite an in depth project – I now quite fancy doing another but with a bit of a different prototype in mind. I should probably get this one painted and finished first though.

As a bit of a side project, I’ve dug out a model that’s been sat in the projects draw for about 2 years since I last touched it…. an interpretation of a Diamond T that I found a photo of in service with the NCB Mines Rescue Unit – I’ve been unable to find any more details other than it obviously being a winch of some nature, so it’s very approximate, but something a bit different! I need to sort some transfers and wing mirrors, but otherwise it’s almost done:

I don’t think there’s a huge amount more to update on – BWS is next out on the road on the 15th February at Tonbridge I really need to sort a few more bits for it before then, so need to keep inspired!


Uckfield 2019: In retrospect

I can’t believe a month has passed since Uckfield, and I’m only just getting round to actually writing about it, but with a weeks holiday and a trip to Workington with Six Quarters (more on that in a later post) having taken place in the interim, I guess it’s easy to see where the time has gone…

Anyway – Uckfield was, as ever, a great show, and I’ll stick by my previous comments that it is now the best show in the South East if the finescale end of the hobby floats your boat… on display was a top quality line up covering most scale and gauge combinations, and a wide variety of prototypes.

The Uckfield club did a great job of looking after us for the weekend, and were jumping at the gun to help me unload when I arrived on Friday evening, which is always a nice touch even after a short drive. Even better the tea was brewed and ready to go too, and at the end of the show, a rapid exit resulted in the layout being safely tucked back away in my loft within 90 minutes of the show closing, which must be a winner.

BWS performed well all weekend, with guest operator Will learning the ropes quickly…

And Saturday night was spent on the bash as the show conveniently ties in with the Spa Valley Railway diesel gala and real ale festival, which is a complete winner for Saturday evening entertainment at a show!

I didn’t take photos of all the layouts, but here are a few that caught my eye:

Orford (7mm)

Midland In Bristol (7mm)

Thakenhan Tiles (7mm)

Chica, IL (HO)

Blueball Summit (2mm)

Roll on next October for the 2020 show!