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!


Bottom Works Sidings – Unpublished photos

It may feel an eternity ago now, but earlier this year BWS was posing for a photo shoot. The results appeared in the article in MRJ279 but it occurred to me those that didn’t make the editors cut hadn’t been seen. It seems a shame for them to go unpublished so below are a selection of the photos kindly taken by Nigel Turner.

Requiem in 1:76.2

COVID has struck its latest victim. This time in the form a four foot board where no one side is quite symmetrical with the other, or as its also known ‘Six Quarters’. Like an old ship being sunk to form a new coral reef, she will ascend the loft ladder to become a home to the sort of spiders that only live in the attic.

While Chris Witty is yet to start collating data for exhibition layouts that have died because of COVID, I know SQ will not be the only one. 2020 was always meant to be the last year, its a shame it follows most of 2020 in being a bit of a damp squid. Like most of us this year we’ve missed countless exhibitions, such as Swansea, Derby and Perth. More than that we’ve missed countless opportunities to chat, have beer and eat Indian cuisine.

It was only in lockdown that I’ve realised how much I genuinely enjoy exhibitions and exhibiting. We should all be proud that our hobby has that at its centre. My four feet of wood has allowed us to travel around Europe talking utter shit with people, stuff that in the present circumstances would seem exceptionally trivial but really kept us coming back for more. It feels a long time since I sat in a pub so far up north my nose won’t stop bleeding talking about North East steel train movements in the 1980s, with Chris leaning over going ‘I’ve got a layout plan for this in my head. We’ll talk about it over naans later’. Many a layout built and dismantled mentally over a weekend in our time.

SQ has survived a divorce, the following three turbulent house moves, survived my bodgery, somehow stayed together when it really shouldn’t of. It took on its own life beyond me really. It got us mentioned in high circles, it was mentioned last week in same breath as Pempoul when Planet Industrials talked about inspirational models (we really all need to get back out soon). Its been mad really when you think it starts life as a tree and then its in an exhibtion hall in Holland and the only difference between the tree and there is your imagination (ED – and the wood processing factory). I say this as you, the readers, are the only people who truly get this.

So it isn’t just a bit of wood going up in the attic, its a bit of me and I hate spiders. Happy retirement SQ, you’ve done us a lot of favours and you’ve given me a lot of happy memories.

Thanks as always to Adrian at Uckfield for giving it its debut. Uckfield’s kindness to us at OTCM is a favour never under appreciated.

So whats next? Well a couple of things. I’ve built a shelf layout, based on the SR/EKR. Which I’ll share when the scenics are more than my imagination.

I’m planning the next exhibition layout also, think trams, think grim, think tungsten bulbs.

We still have BWS in the stable and we are still chief ground crew for the unkillable behemoth of Portchillin . Who I’m sure would be the headline layout at the first show post nuclear annihilation.

Thanks for everybody as well who stopped by, took photos, invited it to further exhibitions and generally put it out there. It seems fitting its last show was actually to Lowca where it was based to meet the real men that worked the tiny engines in 1:1 scale.

Stay safe, stay modelling and let’s have a beer at that next show.


I’ve done a sad black and white photo and everyfing

Exciting new announcements…. and a modelling update!

You don’t have to dive into the history books too far to find a time when, if you wanted to model an industrial loco, your only option available off the shelf was the Hornby (ex Dapol) Austerity…. I think about 5 years should be sufficient – certainly when we set out to build Stoating Bank in 2013 that was the case, and industrial modelling was relatively unusual as a result…

Roll forward to 2020 and 4mm modellers are spoilt for choice, with a plethora of choices available, whether you model steam or diesel. This has, I’m sure, led to a massive increase in the number of layouts based on, or featuring, industrial systems.

The clever chaps at Planet Industrials cottoned onto this a while ago, and started marketing a collection of parts to customise these locos, consisting of 3D printed and etched brass components. They also produce whole loco kits and last weekend, as part of the virtual BRM show, announced a new RTR model – the Kerr Stuart Victory class.

Readers of this blog probably know that we are well into anything that helps bring industrials to a wider audience here at OTCM towers. Therefore, there is a degree of excitement here about this, and Planet Industrials are already talking about marketing parts to allow you to customise your new loco! We also got mentioned as an inspiration when they announced the model, alongside Pempoul (no, we didn’t think we would ever hear that either!), so it would be rude not to buy one when they come out!

More details and production dates are expected in the future – initial information provided at the announcement is replicated here:

Not to be outdone, Accurascale also jumped on the announcement bandwagon with the latest coal wagon they are producing – the humble 21 ton mineral, or MDO/MDV if you like your wagons with a post 1974 twist. You may remember we were massive fans of Accurascale’s entry into the wagon market, the 24.5T hopper (HUO) – if not why not have a read here and here!

Much is written on this subject so I won’t repeat it here, but these represent the later, welded, body design. A handful of these will supplement the collection of earlier, riveted, bodied examples built from Parkside kits already in my collection. Detail on these, particularly the underframe, looks top quality and will no doubt show up my efforts!

We have both got back up to speed modelling wise – it feels like ages since we posted any actual models, and the dark evenings with nowhere to go have provided good opportunities to get stuff done. `I’ll leave Oly’s stuff to him, for now this is what I’ve been up to:

Opening proceedings is a Bachmann 37 I picked up second hand a couple of years ago that has been waiting for me to do something with it. I always think the model as it comes sits a bit too high (to allow it to negate 2nd radius curves) and this takes away the heavy, low slung, look real class 37’s have. To that end, as with my other 37 I’ve lowered this by about 1.5mm, removing material from the bogie towers. Otherwise I’ve backdated with some Precision Labels headcode blinds, renumbered, detailed the bufferbeams and weathered. She just needs some lamp irons before being ready to enter service. The polish in the grille highlighted in this photo needs removing too!

Next up, this Bachmann class 20 has received the same treatment as the 37, with the exception of the headcode blinds (obviously) and lowering (there doesn’t look to be an easy way of doing this to the Bachy 20 unless anyone knows otherwise?)

Moving onto the wagon fleet, this month I’ve been focussing on coke. While Hornby produce very nice models of the diagram 1/150 and 1/151, the 1/152 requires a bit more thought. These will run as a decent length rake and as such I’m not after finite detail, more trying to create an overall picture as they role across the layout. As with the last batch produced, I’ve used some 3H examples purchased pre built, and removed the top (above the hopper slope), replacing this with styrene sheet and some microstrip to represent the body strengthening. Rivets were removed from the lower hopper side as these later examples were welded, before being weathered into something representing the state most of these wagons spent their time. Various patching adds variety and interest to the rake, period photos showing this was prolific.

All of these need new brake handles and a bit of finishing off before they are loaded and added to the stock box.

Also awaiting their turn to be completed are the rake of BAAs I was working on during the first lockdown, which have now been finished other than transfers and weathering. I need to get transfers made up specially for these, to represent the first batch turned out at Ashford (actually BABs as they were also through vac piped), finding photos of the initial markings is proving somewhat challenging!

These will remain pretty clean as they would have been in traffic for less than 6 months in my modelling period.

Next up is something I can claim no credit for – but rather nice nonetheless. A rake of PTA wagons for some iron ore traffic – these have been detailed and had the correct bogies added by the previous owner. British Steel had obviously modernised the steelworks served by my layout at the same time as Scunthorpe. Eagle eyed readers may notice these are P4, so they will be retro-graded back to OO at some point, as well as having Kadees added as per the prototypes. A repaint into the original paint colour of dark grey is also on the cards.

Lastly, I’m working on this ALD Models 02, which is a 3D printed kit – this is my first time working in this media and it is a reasonably old print (having sat on a shelf for a couple of years) so we will see what the output looks like – I’m going for a cross somewhere between an 02 and a standard industrial spec YEC 0-4-0, and still coming up with ideas so am a little unclear of the final result!

I’ll try and post a bit less a bit more often from now on! Thanks for reading!


25 Years On

With what felt like near endless rain over the weekend, I took the opportunity to be productive and started clearing out some of the huge stack of Railway Modellers that languish in the loft – the aim being to review each one and rescue any useful articles before they head for the great recycling plant in the sky.

While sorting through the first batch of mags, I found the November 1995 issue, and picked this out as being significant – this was the first copy of Railway Modeller I ever purchased, albeit second hand, as a keen 8 year old having just been introduced to the world of model railways through a visit to Pecorama. Needless to say this is quite well thumbed, and it was interesting to re-read the content, obviously looking at things in a very different way now to then!

One of the other things that stood out was the number of ‘fallen flags’ there were in the advertisements. While looking at some of these, I also registered that this magazine would have been on sale in the local newsagents exactly 25 years ago – it therefore seemed relevant to turn the clock back to a date before websites were a thing, and have a run through the adverts to think about some of the losses (and gains) the hobby has seen in the intervening quarter century (god that makes me feel old…)

The Signal Box in Rochester took a regular 2 page spread towards the front of the magazine – while this wasn’t my closest model shop, it’s size and competitive prices meant it was the one I visited most often until, having become part of their empire, it closed it’s doors as part of the downfall of Modelzone.
Kent Panel Controls – given how long it is since KPC stopped trading, you still see an impressive number of their controllers at shows around the country. My local club has a collection that are still used as the main hand held units whenever a new layout is constructed!
Mainly Trains were my ‘go to’ for small parts as I started to discover the joys of kitbuilding. How they ever made a business case for listing items of such low value on what must have been (it certainly is now) quite expensive advertising space is up for debate!
Mid Sussex Models in Burgess Hill – another significant advertiser that has fallen by the wayside….
…As has Wakefield Model Railway Centre – I’ve walked along Dewsbury Road several times while on work visits to the area – if work trips ever become a thing again I’ll have to keep an eye out for where it was once located.
Time for a vision of the future – ZTC may not be around any more, but this new fangled DCC technology certainly is. I wonder if ZTC could ever have envisaged what we are now able to achieve with the latest DCC technology back in 1995?
Another controller brand – AMR – and another one you still see operating layouts today… These controllers were certainly built to last!
Mikes Models – I can’t be the only one who wishes a range of water cranes and lamps this extensive was still available – we may now be able to buy a range of locos and rolling stock that modellers in 1995 could only have dreamed of but has this come at the cost of the simpler things in life, that can go just as far to set the scene as the trains?
Another lost model shop I was a reasonably regular customer of – Scale Rail in Eastbourne. I remember them having a permanent model railway exhibition upstairs, as well as a giant Scalextric circuit you could hire by the hour, but thats a separate topic! Again, it’s surprising to see valuable advertising space being taken up by an order form – a real sign of the times.
Beatties are an obvious retailer to have fallen by the wayside, I was always a fan of their bold advertisments. Also of note is the amount of space Rails of Sheffield were taking in this era – an interesting comparison to the vast adverts they take across all magazines today!
Similar to Rails, Hattons were only taking 2 pages of advertising 25 years ago, relatively plain and a far cry from todays adverts. How these two retailers in particular have managed to style themselves into ‘mega retailers’ and manufacturers in their own rights over the last 25 years is nothing if not impressive….
Looking to what manufacturers were up to, Graham Farish may still be with us as a brand, but Grafar is no more – I started out with a couple of these sets, and very reasonable they were too… saying that, the consigning of the huge flanges and shiny wheels always fitted to these models to the bin is something to celebrate!
Over in the blue box corner (probably still sporting a flappy lid at this point?) Bachmann were showing off their new 158 model, recently replaced, and the latest incarnation of the A4 (more shiny oversized flanges!) – still a stylish advert though!
Meanwhile, in the red box corner, Hornby were producing this special edition version of a certain popular steam loco, rather confusingly in a blue box! While the quality of Hornby models has clearly improved for the better over the years, I do miss the sense of excitement they used to portray in their adverts, with motion blur essential!

Thats it for now – I’m off to flick through about 250 more magazines, and maybe do some modelling… I’ll get a chance to write about that at some point!


Return of the Workbench

After what has felt a very long period of disruption in modelling output, while both of us moved house (we have to do things in parallel you see) things are now back up and running at OTCM towers, so hopefully there will be some renewed bodging coming your way over the next couple of months…..

Oly’s new work area. Books above and tools to the left.

Oly has gone smart with plenty of space for books above (because more ideas can only be a good thing…) in what has now been assigned the ‘train room’. Meanwhile, things are still temporary for me, some spare furniture from the move currently blocking the area allocated as workbench space within the ‘layout studio’. I’be therefore been sticking with my old work table until this can be installed – that hasn’t stopped it getting filled with a wide variety of half finished projects….. the first job is to crack on and get these finished off before I start anything else, there’s quite a lot so I’d best crack on!

Chris’s temporary workbench – excuse the mess!

Hopefully this will result in an upturn in modelling related content over the next few months!


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%