A summer of no inspiration…

…Yep, you may well have guessed from the lack of activity on here recently, that both myself and Oly have been going through a phase of being completely uninspired. I could lie and say that was due to us enjoying a normal life but the words normal and us don’t really wash… so, while Oly has been LDV van spotting in Scotland, I’ve been farting around with a few models but not really achieving much, and getting stuck on the train for bloody ages trying to get home from the Exeter show…

Last weekend things got back on track a bit though, with one of our roughly quarterly modelling day being held with Mark Tatlow and Pete Bond, in which I actually got some stuff to a standard worth photographing. Given most of the day was spent either taking the piss out of one another, getting soaked in the rain, or in the pub, I feel that’s an achievement worth writing home about!

A break in the British summertime rain this evening gave me the chance to grab some photos in the evening sun, so here are the mediocre fruits of the OTCM summer production:

I’ve got a few Parkside 21 ton minerals together and looking pretty decent, although all are still waiting for buffers, couplings and painting, which will happen at some point…

I splashed out on one and treated it to some Prickley Pear semi sprung W irons, produced by good friend Paul Tasker – this seems to have been successful and it will be interesting to see the difference in running once in the rake. The concept of this system involves the two rocking W irons being linked by fine wire, with a central pivot point to limit the amount of play… therefore providing a halfway house to springing, without the complicated bits!

I also got the chance to weather my pair of Hornby Sentinels over the weekend – these have simply been repainted and (not very well) filled along the seam in the bodyside… which looks worse in the photos than in reality, honest! Shawplan Laserglaze makes a massive improvement too, and that’s about it. There’s still a way to go with these, and they need some identities before too long, but getting them this far has spurred me on a bit…

The colour is inspired by the wonderful shade of green British Steel liked to use in the 1970’s, and weathering has been applied with an airbrush then cleaned back using thinners, building this up layer by layer, until the desired effect is achieved. Dry brushing some detail and a little bit of work with some powders got me to this result, which I am pretty pleased with.

Finally, the arrival of this during the week has got the creative juices running a bit, so let’s see what happens next month! 



Modifying your Hornby Austerity 

It seems like a long time ago now, and in fact it was, but readers with long memories may remember back in February my post showing my Modified Hornby Austerity.

I left that post promising some more on how the modifications were made, if people were interested… well, happily they were (well at least one person was) so the aim of this post is to explain these modifications and how I did them.

Before we go any further please be aware that, as with all OTCM projects the following criteria apply: a) none of it is in any way professional. b) this was made up as I went along so there’s probably a better way of doing it if you actually think about it and. c) there will be at least 3 bodges before the finished result is achieved.

So, with the smallprint out the way, let’s look at what we have and what we are looking to improve upon – the Hornby Austerity, ex Dapol, is a lovely model, especially for its age, but a couple of features really show their age, most noticeable are the incorrectly profiled chassis and the seam between body and chassis which runs along the side of the saddle tank. These are the 2 areas the newer model from DJM has really improved on, so will be the 2 I focus on improving in this post!

The inaccuracies of chassis and saddle tank seam stand out on this (almost) straight from the box example, I don’t think the body is actually screwed to the chassis here so it looks more obvious than it actually is…

First thing is first, remove the body and weight – I also removed the motor to ensure nothing got into it that shouldn’t while I was chopping in that area… that leaves you with something like this:

Next up is to chop along the saddle tank moulding behind the lower handrail – this should then give you a nice piece of saddle tank separate from the chassis. 

Note as a result of this you chop straight through the screw hole for the weight mounting. Don’t panic about this too much, we will overcome that challenge later!

First job now is to attach the weight to the body rather than the chassis – to do this I used a good blob of Araldite and put the body and chassis back together while it set to ensure correct alignment.

The newly separated lower saddle tank sides can now be offered up to the body shell, and providing they fit well, which they should, glued in place – I used a generic superglue for this task…

With the tank now complete as it were, it’s time to add some filler. At this stage it’s worth taking note the main handrails are positioned incorrectly and as such, it’s probably worth removing them and filling the holes they leave at the same time! There’s also a couple of additional handrails and footsteps that shouldn’t be there on a non BR member of the class so these got the chop too… These locos didn’t have conventional handrail knobs and so I replaced with some 0.45 wire cut over length to start with…

After spending some time sanding down the filler to ensure all is smooth, you can do any other bits that you may wish too – I’ve replaced the smokebox door fittings, chimney and handrails as can be seen…

With these bits done the cab was reconnected to the saddle tank and it’s all starting to look the part…

Providing everything is done, the body can now be primed and painted…

Next step is to look at the chassis profile – this is a pretty simple job using a razor saw and some plasticard – you need to build up the chassis ends a bit to allow a straight edge to be achieved then hack away! Although the outcome is probably in no way dimensionally accurate, it definitely evokes the look of an Austerity and therefore is more than good enough for me.

Watching a video of the real thing spanking up Foxfield bank on your iPad in the background is obviously not an essential step but certainly helps with motivation!

Once you’ve done all this, you end up with something looking like this, which, to my eyes at least is a massive improvement on what you started with, while also having kept you entertained for a good few hours and given you a sense of achievement to boot.



Thomas and the Coal Board

“Dad why can Thomas not be on your layout?”

A few weeks ago Evie asked me the above, I looked at her and I geniunely did not have any real reason. I mean apart from the fact he has a face, he’s modelled by Hornby from a period when scaling down dimensions was something for the Europeans, he is blue and his crappy chassis means his reputation as a really useful engine is a tad over egged.

But then blow me down Chris and I are stood falling hopelessly in love with a new and improved American layout at the Chatham show and inbetween the perfectedly modelled rakes comes Thomas in all his finery charging along like a dog on heat. Kids became amazed, they really loved it and lets be honest most of us got into this game through Thomas and his odd selection of friends.

Have a look – its top drawer filth.

So I thought why the hell not, he is cheap for starters which in my world is number 1 and if at an exhibition it gets one kid interested then it would be worth it. Why get hung up about finescale, it should be never be taken too seriously anyway and to be honest a £20 investment is nothing compared to kids seeing their favourite loco making a cameo appearance. A cameo on a cameo? A paradox maybe.

But he had to be knackered and filthy, he is working well past his sell by date and hired by the NCB after all. So somehow, forever smiling, here is Sodor’s numero uno covering for the failed normal Austerity. 

He needs coupling, crew and the wheels cleaning a bit more but you get the idea.
Evie when she saw it smiled in the sort of way only kids can which made it worth while but then turned straight faced, commenting ‘he will be lonely without Percy though’. 

But there is something odd about that model, he sort of radiates happiness and I found myself smiling at it a couple of times. Maybe that inner kid has not quite grown up yet.


Layout Progress #12

This one might take some time, not because I have done much, but as my wife says I can ‘talk a lot of bollocks’.

I have had a busy time since the last update, the summer has sapped the modelling mojo like it always does but model trains have been on the agenda whether I like it or not.

I am sworn to secrecy but I may or may not be off to Scotland in the next couple of weeks to ‘film’ a TV programme about model trains. Now readers this sounds the height of glamour I know. Has OTCM hit the big time? Errr probably not so unfortunately  you cannot go around saying ‘Oh I read that blog before it was famous’. In fact I am sworn to such secrecy on the whole thing you actually never ever have actually read this, okay? (but I promise when I am allowed to talk you will hear all about it.) But its such a secret here is some information about it in the paper:

Daily Mail – Model Trains

Following on from the shit time the UK has been going through/is going through at the minute something that eccentric and ridiculous is hopefully needed (that sentence is the closet OTCM will ever come to current affairs/politics)

So in the last few weeks that has been quite a large thing kicking around, but it did mean some jobs needed escalating such as my Mum’s curtains (Ed – I really do not need that mental image)


Sown and pleated – Note to Mark Tatlow, no drawing pins

The curtains have got me thinking on presentation, the ‘should I maybe’ drop the letterbox height is probably now more ‘I am going too’. Some experimenting has been taking place and dropped a few centimetres does make a big difference. So its either a completely new front piece (really do not want too) or a sign made at a signmakers that doesn’t look like I just stuck it on (which it will). Also that picture is by no means at all the finished job, much more to come including how to hide that fiddle yard.

The pit checks point pulls are going to be attached as soon as I can work out a way of doing it where they actually stay attached

Also it looks like we have its first confirmed exhibition, Uckfield 2017. No big deal, its just Andy Jones and the Gravetts will be debuting as well. Which has epically put the fear of God up me to raise my game on my tiny first ever solo layout. Also as the Gravetts are such personal modelling heroes if they so much as say hello to me I may wet myself and have to hide for the whole weekend.

Uckfield 2017


Also the DJM Austerity nears completion, note to self never ever buy a loco where everything is painted red as repainting it is a grade A nightmare. The red flashes on the wheels you can see will hopefully be blackening soon.

The bits that look good are from RT Models, the paint is a Halfords Rover Group colour (always has to be a crap British car colour). I got round the badly fitting Smokebox with a lot of filler and swearing.34836323060_eecfdefb72_b35183111586_a1eb00f777_b35093101061_0bc29ff216_b

Also I have been having these brain waves of late about sound. Chris and I always have a thing about whether sound is good and actually worth the cost. I think it is good but it is not worth the money. So I wondered if I could somehow do it better but do it for less (the dream right?)

So I have a plan, I take a lot of cheap items and I try and make it sound a million dollars.

Here is the logic and its based on ideas from the Americans mainly. Looking at Broadway imports ‘Rolling Thunder’ (got to love a Yank name) and an article in Model Railroader’s 1000th edition along with an N gauge layout that escapes the mind from here in Blighty I reckons externally mounted sound is the way to go.

So how am I going to do it? I want to mix ambient sound and DCC loco sound to create ‘atmosphere’. My guidelines are:

  • atmosphere when no locos are present (ambient noise)
  • bass for loco sounds
  • sound that has a quality and richness but if you do not want to hear it you can easily channel it out
  • as above – it never imposes
  • System can be updated and added too (no big money spending)

In other words the sounds fit the layout, they do not overpower or annoy the exhibitor next to you either.

DCC sound chips, especially for steam locos can be shrill and tin like.

I am lucky that I have a small layout, so external sound has no need to ‘travel’.

So I went to my local Maplins to find some portable speakers to set as my bench mark for performance, after all I was going to rely on eBay Chinese peanut price products to get this done. Through some form of miracle however a shop on eBay started selling the benchmark speakers, in hot pink, at £4.99 inc P&P which is a huge decrease in the Maplins RRP.

The Kitsound speaker at £4.99 is always going to sound better than anything in a loco… https://www.kitsound.co.uk/product/speakers/portable/cube

The brilliant thing about the kitsound cube is they can be lashed together with audio jacks to work together, and charged by a mini USB.

So the plan is in a nutshell is too:

  • hidden mounted cube speakers x 2
  • Cheap Chinese sound mixer with minimum two input
  • Cheap MP3 player with ambient sound
  • multi mini USB charger
  • Baseboard hardwired DCC sound chip (one for each class of loco rather than one in each)

In terms of costing without the DCC sound chips is under £35 quid.

The plan is to have this operational (ambient only) for Uckfield. DCC sound chips are expensive, but as I mentioned with a sound chip hard wired and a one loco layout you can have one chip per class of loco rather than a chip in each.

So stage 1 is complete with the speakers mounted, they are brilliant at 50x50mm and only 105g.



That is all folks, more soon when either I do it, or am allowed to talk about it,

Thanks for the continued readership,


Pacers, Pints and the Pennines.

The other weekend I joined a couple of mates from work for a bit of a beer crawl from Leeds to Stalybridge, stopping off at ‘all shacks’ for a pint in a well located pub adjacent to the station…. as Oly said, we were working to a schedule that could only be devised by a bunch of train planners…

Needless to say, a quality time was had by all, with much top quality beer being consumed, and many pacers being ridden upon As we went from station to station. For anyone who has not done this tour, I thoroughly recommend it, and photos from the day hopefully sell the benefits a day in this part of the world can bring, I was even brave enough to point the camera lenses at the pride of the UK multiple unit fleet for the record:

Following a night in Leeds, with a top quality curry consumed (what else), we spent the next day ‘route learning’ (ok, maybe cranking a bit) around West, North, East and South Yorkshire, covering a few interesting places – the main highlights being Gilberdyke with its semaphores (for more information see James Wells’ Eastmoor blog as James works in the box there) where we changed trains with a brief photo stop:

After a trip via Doncaster, where the newly opened Refreshment Rooms on platform 3 were visited, (and should be by everyone as it is absolutely bloody quality) we found ourselves on the once a day service from Leeds to Goole via Knottingley, passing a few notable landmarks en route:

Disused platforms at Castleford Station:

Kellingley Colliery, the last deep coal mine in the U.K. To close last year, a sad sight…

Goole Signal box, in a somewhat unique setting:

And a gratuitous shot of our 144 in all its finery, as it prepared to carry out the once a day shunt at Goole from the down to up lines in the rain:

Well it’s definitely a different way to spend a weekend!


A Botch Job

Today we had another modelling day at Mark Tatlow’s, these days are always great, loads of modelling with a nice lunch and sometimes the company is just about passable (you have never had to listen to Pete’s CD collection)

I sat there today and watched Chris get 3D with a brass kit from Judith Edge. Chris is pushing his skills to try new things and his knowledge and collection is only going to prosper for it. Mark also helped me out by soldering some simple bits together, this got me thinking on the drive home, I need to push harder in my own skillset.

I have most definitely crashed into a glass ceiling that probably faces us all as modellers at different times. The moment you realise that what you want, or indeed need, is not in a RTR box, it is going to have to be built either from a crappy old kit or an up to date brass puzzle and it’s going to require some new skills.

And I find it terrifying. I know now though that it has to be a change in mind set. Right now I know I can get half decent results from an outlay. Its an investment mentally. If I spend £50 on a model, £20 on stick-on bits, I know what the outcome will be.

Buying etches, motors, gearboxes with no idea how each piece fits into the other is a big outlay when the route to completion seems vague. I have bodged and botched my way to 29 with never actually having to get dirty with ‘real’ modelling. I need to learn new skills, try new methods and accept that I may not get it right, and stop worrying about how angry or frustrated that will make me.

I brought and started a DJH Andrew Barclay about 2 years ago and buried it in a box when it didn’t work the first time. Its probably time I dug her out and had a look.

So as Chris’ lovely Yorkshire 0-4-0 prototype grew from a 2D sheet it made me realise I had not shown you my latest botch job, a UK Bachmann GE.

Instead of buying and building what I wanted I had this idea I could bash an American GE into a British looking NCB internal. As a prototype its now too far out of whack, we had ALCOs working in steel works and Esso brought some other GEs. But its still a botch and not actually what I wanted…….





Retracing the Overseas Railroad…

While in Florida on our honeymoon we took the opportunity to drive from Miami down to Key West to spend a few days there… prior to arrival in Miami I had no knowledge of the local railroad network other than searching for any interesting looking locations on Google maps. However a chance find of a railway book in a local bookshop (pretty rare in the states compared to the UK I find) I discovered that there had once been a Railroad running the length of the Florida Keys to Key West – this got me excited! Why on earth had there been a line running for such a long way to a seemingly unimportant island? Further research revealed that in the early 20th century Key West had been the most important city in Florida, as well as being the closest deep water port to the Panama Canal and Cuba, therefore making it a very desirable goal.

This line was built by the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) and was an impressive piece of engineering, endless viaducts linking the chain of islands that make up the Florida Keys, the longest being the 7 mile bridge linking Knight Key and Little Duck Key. These engineering achievements led to the line gaining a reputation as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ and from Key West there was a train ferry to Havana, as well as shipping to other parts of the world via the Panama Canal.

Anyhow, one of Florida’s great hurricanes in the late 1930’s severely damaged the line, and a cash strapped FEC was unable to fund repairs. As a result, the trackbed was sold to the State and turned into a highway, which over the years has been rebuilt on a new alignment with new bridges. As such I wasn’t expecting to see much of interest on our journey down.

Therefore I was surprised to see that most of the original structures still survive and are now a cycle track, although some have been severed to allow shipping to operate.

The viaducts as built were made from a mixture of shuttered concrete and metal girders. The handrails have been added more recently to allow pedestrians to use the structure.

The seven mile bridge is a seriously impressive thing, stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see!

The old concrete viaduct has now been superseded for road traffic by a new structure running alongside, although it’s a shame most of the time you can’t see the old structure while driving.

On the Keys themselves, the trackbed has been turned into large parking areas alongside the highway. These presented the perfect opportunity for a gratuitous hire car in a hot climate portrait!

In Key West itself, there is this small Railroad museum near the old station site, which holds a number of interesting items and plans, although very small by British standards!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay here forever, and had to head back itto reality last week, oh well!