Wordless Wednesday


Oly’s Holland

It all started with sound logic. The plan made perfect sense, Mark Tatlow had been invited to “Rail 2018” in Utrecht, Holland. Mark has always, religiously, hired a van around 10 times larger than required. This van was usually a classic long wheel base Sprinter, in which Portchullin had received many a war wound on the motorways of Great Britain by being allowed to slide around freely in the rear while the vehicle was driven like it had been stolen by a middle class mad man from Sussex.

Portchullin requires around 5 operators, 1 to operate and 4 to spend the weekend fixing it, so to make the proposition of 5 of us on the beer in Holland more appealing the spare space in the van would be taken up by SQ. So a sort of free layout for the exhibition manager.

That was where all logic ended.

The first issue was everyone’s ability to read the same 2018 Calendar. 4 weeks out we only had 4 of the 5 operators signed up and 1 of our party was convinced the show was the week before and that the organisers and everyone else had got it wrong.

We hadn’t. Chris had planned his entire March around a show that didn’t exist and had made plans with his wife. The sort of plans that when asked to change lead to a raised eyebrow. The plans were kept. The mission just got a little more complicated.

Version 2.0 now meant that Mark, Pete and the van would arrive in Deal on the Thursday morning, load up SQ with Portchullin and drive to Holland. Because of Chris’ plans, him and I were now booked on the 0200am ferry Friday morning. So he could complete his arrangements, drive to Deal, drive to Holland all for opening. This meant a 4 hour dash across Europe at 0430am Dutch time. The organisers had said if we didn’t get through Antwerp by 0730 all bets were off.

The plan reached version 4.3 before 2.0 was settled on for the only workable solution. We also stuck with 4 operators. Because no one else was mental enough to agree…

Imagine therefore my joy at seeing the van Peter had organised turn up and reveal itself to be a normal wheel base Vauxhall. Portchullin wasn’t so much as swinging around freely rather than packed in like sardines.

We had to unpack half of Portchullin to wedge in SQ and then after making an impromptu lid managed to stack everything else on top. We were luckily left with just about enough space for Mark’s pants.

I was now convinced the layout would be timber and ashes by Holland with Pete seemingly having learnt to drive during an undeclared season racing stock cars. With instructions given to Pete and Mark, the sense of doom was replaced with the sure knowledge that definitely something tragic would befall the layout.

Now I love Mark and Pete with all my heart but they are a cross between the chuckle brothers and Terry and June.

But they got there safely and set up SQ….

So its 0200 in the morning and the beast from the east is slowly edging it’s way to Britain and it was cold enough to make me realise that what we were doing reeked of madness, the next level up from full blown eccentric.

“Antwerp by 0730” echoed around our heads as the ship’s bow opened, late, to the pitch black endless plains of the European mainland. It was now 0455 as the grey German tin of Chris’ BMW roared off onto the lumpy French motorways in a sort of reverse Blitzkrieg we knew we were against the clock and the Dutch rush hour traffic.

Now there is something you should know about Chris and that is his obsession to never rely on satnav. He honestly believes that the use of it is the harbinger of society’s collapse. For instance if you were to use a such a thing to say go from your house to the local shops within the next five days we would be living like Mad Max. Therefore Chris has to autistically remember every road and junction from the ferry to the show. He also refuses to share this information any more than one direction at a time, so after saying ‘what road are we looking for?’ and him saying ‘E17’ 47 times we sat joking about old cars and girls, content with eating packets of extra strong mints.

We made Antwerp at 0700, and left it behind in smug competence.

Arriving at Utrecht in good time it was apparent instantly that Holland was colder than the south pole, but we’d made it to find SQ with a building detached, the backscene split and the layout too low. But hey it’s life on the road and the lads were in good spirits. Let’s get smashing…

Set up and ready to go
Hooky running and cracked backscene
With no sleep, there really is only one thing for it
The Dutch bloody love a camera

Lunch served
Camera action!
A skinny bloke
We don’t go anywhere without teabags and our enamels
Waiting for the bow doors
Warp speed
0300am fry up
Janus and buggered backscene
Three days, job done

What’s happened since?…

The layout is slowing edging its way toward the 2.0 version, things have been ripped up, changed, modified and tidied up….

Look for SQ, loads of new stock and plenty of laughs during the GCR’s model event in June.


BWS Update 2: Design considerations and making believe.

When it comes to building a layout, my first job is always to sit down with a pen and paper and write up a list of what I want it to offer. Given that as modellers we will be spending many months, if not years, building the layout and then hopefully many more years exhibiting it for hours at a time, I’m often surprised how many people seem to make things up as they go along!

As most layout ideas I’d come up with over the past couple of years were considerably larger than the scope of the competition allowed, I gave this some significant thought, worrying about building something that turned out to be very dull to operate. As a result I came up with the following as a bucket list:

-Through running, allowing traffic destined for places not modelled to appear on the layout.

-A principally industrial setting, with large buildings visible to close in the scene.

-A reason to run some BR trains onto the layout, even if just a shunting loco.

-Space for at least 2 short rakes of wagons to be left on the layout.

-Bleak winter landscape.

-Smooth slow speed running, meaning shunting moves take some time to complete.

-A believable historical setting, giving a reason for each move to happen rather than just pushing wagons around for the sake of it.

-No road bridges and definitely no buses on top of them!

-Something to make the layout stand out from the crowd if possible.

As was touched on in my last post, this created a few headaches after the abandonment of the initial design, but I have managed to incorporate nearly all the features into my final plan I believe, so here we go:

I’m not really sure if this qualifies as a ‘Bitsa’ layout or not – it’s not trying to model a small part of a location but certainly relies on an enlarged scheme to make it work! Hopefully the below plan shows how the layout forms one component of a larger industrial complex, alongside a busy BR mainline.

The idea is that a small ironworks had been located here for some years prior to the opening of the railway, which passed a mile or two away, crossing the end of the valley in which the Works was located. A tramway was constructed by the iron company, allowing them to bring in raw materials and export finished product considerably more efficiently, and as a result the works grew rapidly. Eventually, the tramway was upgraded into a railway proper, and exchange sidings were built alongside the main line. At around the same time, the iron company saw potential to develop a new, more efficient Coking Plant, and, due to a lack of space on the original site, this was constructed adjacent to the exchange sidings, linked to the Works by way of the private railway.

Difficulties in operation with all trains needing to reverse twice to leave the site led to the installation of a new steeply graded spur and further sidings served directly by the GCR in the early 20th Century – these new sidings were laid out on the site of further old works, (leading to the layouts name…) and led to a vast improvement in operability, providing a second access route to the Coking Plant for inbound raw materials and outbound coke for distribution in the local area.

Things stayed much the same until the mid 1960’s when the works, by now owned by British Steel, lost its iron making capability (which had been somewhat left behind by much larger more efficient works within the local area) and was converted to a rolling mill, steel billets being delivered by BR from the Don Valley and further afield.

It is during the early 70’s period the layout is set, well the winter of 1972/73 to be precise, although I will make no apologies if certain things appear that push that date a little – the overall aim is to construct something where everything blends together and looks ‘right’.

Once the plan was confirmed and I had a setup I was happy with, work commenced quite rapidly, with the trackbed being cut from 12mm ply that was conveniently left after we had some work done in our bathroom at home for the rear sidings, and 5mm foamboard for those in the foreground. (A small height difference between sidings makes a huge visual difference I find.) The location of lines being roughly drawn in to give a feel for how everything would look:

Turnout construction is now well underway – I will cover this off in the next post as this one is already a bloody great rambling monster!

Cheers, Chris

BWS Update 1: Introducing ‘Bottom Works Sidings’

I won’t lie, it’s been a seriously long time since I last completed a layout for myself. By that, I mean, in the best OTCM fashion, I was the principle builder, aided at various points and nagged constantly by Oly. In other words what happened with Six Quarters but with the boot on the other foot.

Stoating Bank was a completely joint effort, so tracing back, the last layout I could claim to be mine was built back in the early-mid 2000’s, when I was definitely still at school! There’s been plenty of false starts between then and now, some of which progressed further than others, but the lack of any layout production has been on my mind for a long time (and created further nagging from Oly!) even though in the most part there has been a good reason not to build anything…

Anyway, last year, when Model Railway Journal and the Titfield Thunderbolt bookshop announced their Cameo Layout Competition, I thought this would provide the ideal incentive to build something compact but with a deadline to keep things moving. I’m sure most readers don’t need any introduction to the competition, needless to say the formula is layed out in some detail in Ian Rice’s book ‘Creating Cameo Layouts’ (funny that…)

So, originally entered as ‘Bottom Works’, and now having gained the ‘Sidings’ suffix, this layout had a bit of a troublesome start, with the original plans simply not working in the available space, resulting in a significant amount of replanning to come up with the present scenario – I see no need to hide this fact, it is proof if ever it’s needed that even with full size plans drawn, you can’t really be sure on the final ‘picture’ until it is actually on the baseboard proper…

The original concept had been for a small set of interchange Sidings within a steelworks internal network, with a number of rail served buildings around the running lines. I did a fair bit of planning on this and the intention was for something like this:

As you can see, quite an ambitious project!

Having decided there was simply not enough space to fit in the desired buildings without making them look ridiculously small, there was a significant pause while I attempted to come up with an alternative scheme – many different ideas were played with, none of which ‘clicked’ in the way I wanted – everything felt too much of a compromise, and would offer far to Little in the way of operational potential.

It may not seem logical, but, while this was ongoing, we decided to put saw to wood and actually get the baseboards built – the size and shape of these were a given so a free weekend was chosen in November and Oly and me put together one layout ‘box’ and two fiddle yards… I think seeing this completed this spurred things on somewhat!

The rather high lower facia board will be cut down to the correct profile once this is confirmed – similarly holes in the end to allow trains in and out (quite important I find) will follow suit.

Work is now well underway on the next stages, with pointwork being constructed for the final plan. I’ll explain more on this in the next post on the subject!

And as for the name – I wanted something suitably generic but still giving a sense of area… as the layout will be set in South Yorkshire, I felt the locals description for the laser part of a Works would almost certainly be ‘Bottom Works’ and this just clicked instantly!

Next time out we will have a history lesson to give the context for the layout, as well as confirming the final plan!



A pair of Janii… Or a brace of Januses?

Don’t panic, I’m not going to try and master the English language by debating the correct plural for a Janus, but it does leave a minor dilemma when you’re dealing with them in multiple!

Anyhow, the announcement a while back that Oxford Rail were planning to produce a Janus diesel cane as very welcome news here at OTCM towers, we are big fans of the class and, as probably the most typical steelworks loco going, I was on the verge of commissioning someone to build a couple from the rather excellent Judith Edge kit. We don’t normally do chequebook modelling here but I’ve done etched brass kits, and, while they look OK I get zero pleasure from building them and someone else can do a much better job so I’d rather focus on being able to spend my time building something I actually enjoy…

The Oxford Rail model has been reviewed several times online already, so I won’t bore you all with another one. Readers could do far worse than peruse James Wells’ review on his West Halton Sidings blog for a comparison between the Judith Edge and Oxford models.

I was lucky enough to pick 2 returned models up with a big chunk knocked from the RRP for no real reason other than a few minor cosmetic blemishes… this was of little bother to me as I wanted to repaint mine while doing minimal modifications, the only real one being the filling of the hole in the bufferbeams.

As mine are intended to go into use at a coking plant first, with likely future use on a layout based around a steelworks, I decided to use the same shade of green I’d previously finished my Sentinels in – Vauxhall Leaf Green. If the M.D. of Halfords happens to read this blog (and I’m sure they do) please keep supplying your range of 80’s car paint aerosols, cars are definitely still painted in such awful shades!

Inspiration was gleaned from Orgreave Coking Plant near Sheffield, where locos wearing a darker green shade worked Like this and from the Scunthorpe area, this abandoned loco at Flixborough Wharf by Gordon Edgar being a Stunner

Having left the locos on the side for ages, this weekends trip to Holland and Oly wanting to run some British Steel Traction on Six Quarters (the Lowca Light Railway was a joint NCB/BSC operation in its later years…) I finally got my arse into gear and cracked on a couple of weeks ago. The body splits into 3 parts (cab, bonnets and footplate) which make it easy to spray and work on, and fill the bufferbeams.

At this stage I got distracted from the original spec and decided some new buffers would look good on one, so some RT Models examples I had in stock were duly fitted.

After a coat of paint, weathering and reassembly, I am quite happy with how my pair have turned out:

Next job after our jaunt to Holland will be to replace the plastic handrails temporarily refitted with some soldered up from 0.45mm brass.

So thanks to Oxford and Golden Valley for saving me a lot of time (or money paying someone to build them for me) allowing me to crack on with various other projects in the kit draw!


Forgive, But Not Forget?

The DJM Austerity has never been a true friend of this blog. It was always what OTCM needed, a true highly detailed Austerity. It was our bread and butter, our raison d’être.

Unfortunately the model in reality was a bit crap, especially in comparison to the latest mass produced gold from Bachmann and Hornby. You can sort of forgive the chunky bits, sort of, but what you cannot forgive is the fact you’ve known cars from British Leyland built better and be more reliable.

The last DJM Austerity came the closest to being involved in any kind of model train domestic abuse incident. It was like a girlfriend who promised everything only to turn out to be a raving bunny boiler. It’s still banished to Chris’.

So why on earth did I buy another one? The answers quite simple, I am as tight as a duck’s arse. Hornby’s current version of the Dapol model, is well the Dapol model, with all its fables and compromises. And it’s expensive.

The eBay mentalists have seen prices of even second hand ones rocket to levels just shy of brand new items. eBay continually surprises both Chris and I with insane prices paid for absolute shite, to understand why people pay what they do on eBay is to understand the very fabric of time. It’s just impossible.

So I am Warley and DJM is flogging Austerities fresh in box (as if that’s a guarantee of quality) for £60.

Sixty raving quid! One thing is immediately obviously, we’ve been ripped off previously. This model detail wise is spot on for £60. The RT bits cost a tenner. So for £70 you are on the home straight. What about it running like a two legged dog? Well if you run it in, and I mean leave it all night running in, and then chip it with a capacitor and turn the back EMF off you can get it running like a three legged dog. Which is just slightly above enough. Hopefully with time and not a single lump or bump or incline it might one day to get to a full proper four legged dog.

The RT etch and injectors gives you everything you need, and it’s quite a fun job for a novice who fancies detailing something. It’s probably worth replacing the smoke box door dart as it looks a bit like you do when you go outside on a cold day in only a t-shirt. The etch consists of a few fold up steps, which can all be done with glue if you are not into molten metal and with the other bits you’ll end taking the chunkiness out and bringing out the finer points of a good looking engine.

So you’ll need:

RT Models Austerity Steam Injectors

RT Models DJ Models detailing Etch

RT Models smoke box door dart.

Smith’s Three Links

And crew, but even I don’t have them yet.

That’s just a reminder to always clean you windows, I cannot handle sprayed filthy windows.

Thanks folks and happy modelling,