Staying Alive….

Firstly, I’m sure you’ll all enjoy the Beegees fuelled ear worm this post title has created…. Yeah, sorry about that.

A couple of years ago (I might be being kind to myself here, it’s probably more like 5) I picked up a couple of the then new Hornby 0-4-0 Sentinel shunters and repainted them to fit in with the rest of my British Steel fleet. Following a weathering session I was very pleased with how these came out.

I fitted the standard Hornby chips to these and they ran fine on the workbench. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said when I put them on the layout. For some reason, even though I keep the railhead clean, the weathering powder used in preparing the trackbed and blending it in did not suit a very short wheelbase 0-4-0!

I’m currently working through my collection of industrial locos and upgrading them with better quality chips, as well as fitting stay alives – the difference being remarkable. As part of this project I thought I’d dig the Sentinels out the ‘don’t know what to do with them’ draw and see if a stay alive could be squeezed in – below is how I did it!

First up, remove the cab and the long bonnet module so we can see the insides – this is going to be a squeeze so the Hornby 4 pin connector also needs to go – with this snipped off, trim the motor and pickup wires to a sensible length and strip the ends.

Next up, we need to make some space in the moulded cab interior to fit everything. Here I’ve hacked open a much wider slot than originally existed. The handbrake wheel is also sacrificed in the name of reliable running.

With space created, it’s time to deploy the new kit… a DCC Concepts Zen Micro 8 pin chip with the plug cut off and the wires cut back is perfect for the job here. This is coupled to a decent size Lais DCC stay alive (budgets and all that). Remember to pop some heat shrink around all the soldered joints!

There is just enough space within the short bonnet and under the cab floor to squeeze the stay alive and decoder sat next to each other. The wiring can then be tucked into the space previously occupied by the Hornby 4 pin plug. (yes I know the masking job I did on the motor when respraying the chassis is a bit ‘rudimentary’)

Finally, the cab floor can be clipped back into place and the loco put back together.

Fitting the new decoders and the stay alives has completely transformed the locos, and they are now smooth runners even over my dodgy (weathering powder covered) trackwork. As such they will be making an appearance at future shows…. All in all a successful side project!


A Dreary Tuesday… Part 4

The fourth update on the new layout focusses on finishing the wiring job for the fiddle yard. As this was filmed a little while ago I’ve been able to make a little further progress and am in discussions to get a custom fiddle yard control panel engraved… very fancy!

Work on the layout has slowed a bit of late. Given the intensity of the fiddle yard build it has been nice to take a step back and work on some rolling stock projects (more of that in a future post) and to enjoy the summer weather.

The next layout update should cover pointwork as I am nearing the end of construction of this, at which point wiring will commence – before long it should be possible to run trains round the whole layout!

At the same time, I need to do some work on BWS to bring it up to standards for it’s exhibition appearances this Autumn – we will be out on the road at the below events in 2022:

Great Electric Train Show, Milton Keynes, 8th and 9th October

South Hants MRC show, Portsmouth, 19th November


A Dreary Tuesday… Part 3

Work continues apace on the new layout – as I’m posting videos slightly in delay of actual progress, the latest charts the first stages of construction of the fiddle yard, while in reality I’ve just finished building points for the scenic section…. Keep up at the back!

As such, here is part 3 of the video series on building the layout:


Another New Layout: Part 2

I’ll be the first to admit it, I am running a bit behind when it comes to putting posts on here of how construction is progressing with the new layout – I can’t even blame the fact I have been busy modelling, as things have slowed down over the last few weeks due to other commitments.

Fortunately I already had a backlog of stuff I had video’d last year that just needed pulling together, so I can make it look like I’ve been consistently busy, and as such part 2 of the series of videos on constructing the new layout is done.

This one covers the construction of the baseboards, which I have done in the same way as I successfully used for BWS – ply baseboard tops glued and pinned to 9mm ply frames, this seems to result in strong yet relatively lightweight baseboards, which work for me!

With all the baseboards built I am currently working through the various ancillary parts that are also needed to make it into an exhibition layout – lighting pelmets, supports for the lighting pelmets, legs etc… I don’t actually have anywhere to set the whole layout up at home, so need to hire a hall for a morning at some point to put the whole lot together and check that what I have put together works in reality. I seem to be putting this off at the moment, either through fear or just being busy, but I look forward to the day we can do that and get a train running!

The other important update for this post is that the layout now has a name! After much pondering and indecisiveness, I’ve chosen to go with something a bit unusual, as you would expect for one of our layouts… As such, the layout will, in future, change it’s name from ‘Another New Layout’ to ‘A Dreary Tuesday…’ with a subheading of ‘….in the Dearne Valley’ – this will, I hope, convey a certain image to potential spectators before they reach the layout, while also being something a bit different to the usual layout names.

Until Next time….


Another New Layout….

Here at OTCM, layouts are like buses, and turn up at the same time – perhaps one of us working on one inspires the other to do the same thing….

And so it is that no sooner has Oly posted about his latest 4ft endeavour, I’m posting about something a little larger. I was actually first off the blocks it’s just taken me nearly a year to break cover with this project!

It’s no secret that BWS was intended to be a test bed for a larger layout, and it’s small size was always going to be very restrictive for a layout trying to depict heavy industry. It still makes me a bit uneasy seeing Mainline locos hauling 5 wagon trains across the layout. Sometimes I wake up at 3AM in a cold sweat thinking about it.…

Hopefully then, it’s no surprise that I’m marching on with something larger. Don’t worry though, BWS is still around and should be appearing at a few shows and in a magazine this year.

Before I got going, as ever a specification was drawn up of what I wanted to recreate:

Same setting as BWS – the winter scenery and dark industrial colours seem to compliment BR blue well, and the OHLE was the biggest talking point on the layout, so carrying that on was a must.

Roundy Roundy – The layout needed to accommodate something that could be interpreted as a scale length train. 30 wagon MGR’s were never going to fit in the space available but 18 should give the impression of a full train without dominating the scene.

Double track with independent shunting – The trackplan needed to accommodate the ability to shunt without interrupting on mainline operations to perform run rounds, but also allow for multiple trains to run to keep public interest at a show.

Cameo presentation – The display should be much the same as BWS, although it would be rear operated, with presentation high on the agenda just across a much wider viewing window.

Rather than putting together a series of blog posts to describe construction, I’ve decided to do updates in video form, so to kick things off, here is part 1, covering the background behind the layout:

Next time out, we will look at baseboards, which I built in March 2021 and am only just editing together!!

Oh and a name, well I haven’t got there completely yet, but something a little different is on the cards…. I’ve got 2 ideas on the same theme, and need to make a decision and stop being indecisive…. More on that next time too!


Enterprise in 4mm

Sorry it’s been a while, it has not been through a lack of desire but I’ve just had other shit to do. Work has been horrific and COVID for everybody has turned a screw in one way or another. My shituation is no better or worse than a million battles we’ve all had to get through, but hey, we made it right?

Since I jury rigged Six Quarters into the loft, in the sort of way she will never come back out, but she can live a life of exile that won’t make me feel guilty for ripping her apart, I have been thinking how to replace her.

I had a long diversion into OO gauge 1950s Bristol, which left everlasting scars, but after the normal merry-go-round of my layout plans I’ve settled upon, by way of 80s France, late in 90s Britain. When EWS had a fleet of diesels and electrics on their arse and embodied the hope of the new century into the ‘Enterprise Network’. A version of BR’s Speedlink for the 21st Century with the 66s landing on our shores like a Norman invasion.

As you know we’ve modelled stuff well outside of our own timespan and things long lost to progress. 99/00 Britain is slap bang in the middle of my memory and OTCM’s ‘Britain’. Modelling your collective memories into a wooden box is a lot more involved than perhaps understanding someone else’s memories and translating nostalgia. Or maybe I’m over thinking it?

But I look to Portchullin and my friend Mark, who has modelled himself as a child on a 1974 holiday, with his actual family on the layout. Is this a richer modelling experience I wonder?

So I find myself wanting to modelling a slice of my past, how I remember it. However it’s worse, or richer depending on your view, as this period is what slingshotted me into a railway career that I am now sixteen years deep. A period so transformative for myself and for the railway in general. So am I modelling a railway I remember or a railway I wished still existed or one that is both? I know, I know it all sounds like an existential crisis.

99/00 is when I truly fell in love with three things, Blink 182, Jessica D and Lima diesels.

So come 2022, I’m in a decent job, I’m apparently a ‘top’ earner, I should be able to live all my teenage dreams. But the trouble is I’ve seen Blink 182 and they weren’t all that, Jessica had 3 kids and lives in badly fitting leggings and I cannot afford Lima Diesels. There’s two reasons, I either had low expectations or the world’s gone mad.

As girls eat pickled eggs in their lingerie on OnlyFans to earn £200 and Bachmann announce £300 Diesels I cannot help hark back to the days Hattons sold ViTrains 47s for £37.

I’m not advocating the continuation of exploiting poorer countries so we can enjoy a hobby at a bargain price, we are just running out of the ability to do our hobby either expensively or cheaply and this can only end badly.

As we know these price increases have done nothing but shove up the 2nd/3rd/4th/5th/6th hand market. Even a toy fair is like having your pants pulled down. The worst is all the detailing suppliers, A1, Craftsman, Westwood (with the exception of Shawplan) have all gone to the wall or stopped completely and who’s going to cut up a £100 Lima 37? Certainly no one wondering between hunger or heating.

Bugger the cost of living crisis, we’ve got a cost of modelling crisis. It’s going to see the not so well off, the not so retired, forced out the hobby. When the monthly budget is eaten away by everything else, who can afford to do this hobby? People say this may hark back to the days of yore when people ‘modelled’, no it won’t, people are no longer conditioned to compromise, or using the most basic of tools. Hell most would not be able to hold a scapel without cutting off their own eyelids.

They’ll be no modelling, they’ll be shaking the box like a salt and pepper grinder. Who’ll want to see or buy compromise when only the very best is available, whatever the cost?

In that vein I’ve started a layout that’s a magnet for expensive models. It’s full of ‘modern’ diesels and electrics, wagons that cost more than a lorry load of baby formula. But I’m doing it Poundland style. It’s going to take me months to buy stuff second hand to do it, I’m going to beg, I’m going to borrow. Most of these pictures are stuff I’ve ‘borrowed’ from Chris. It’s the layout I’ve always wanted, it’s my teenage dream, however it’s an iPad on a Nokia 3310 budget.

Google defines ‘Enterprise’ as “a project or undertaking, especially a bold or complex one.”. Making model trains and an exhibition layout within a cost accessible to all, the term Enterprise seems apt.

An old Lima 60 with Appleby interior and A1 grilles curves round into the FY remembering the halcyon days of Lima being able to shit out a model every day and a few etched bits brought with your pocket money lifting them to a whole new level.

Mainline class 56047 brings in a selection of Chris’ wagons into the yard

This class 08 now has the pride of working on all of my layouts, being repainted more than a graffitied wall, here it sits waiting to test the points and the sector plate

This 47 has had more lives than trigger’s broom, the chassis I got as part of a GFYE 47 when I left my first job. Hellfire.

Westhill Wagon works cant 3D pieces. Leaning into the new world of model trains.

A break from normal service …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Morning Shunt

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

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

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


SLW Class 24 – Taking a Brave Pill!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bank Holiday Weathering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Le Bassin

sidérurgie miniature

Large Slim and Tonic

A journey through a quarter-life crisis, weight loss and getting somewhere.

Yeovil Model Railway Group (YMRG)

Making The Biggest Layouts That Will Fit In Our Huge Clubroom - since 1974


South Wales Steel in the 1980s

Two Bolt Chair

4mm finescale modelling, slowly

A Model Meander

[mee-an-der] noun: a circuitous movement or journey.

Kyle of Sutherland

A record of my P4 layout Kyle of Sutherland, which I scrapped in 2018, and the continuing work to upgrade and improve its finescale trains, locos and rolling stock

Model Railway Musings by D827 Kelly

Model railway planning, design, building and other things related

Amtrak in the Heartland

Devoted to the history and operations of Amtrak in the Heartland of America.

Dominion & New England Railway

Building an achievable transistion era O scale layout

That Railway Girl

“Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories.” ― Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar

The Erratic and Wandering Journey

Railway Modelling in S Scale (1:64) and Scale 7


N-gauge modelling (and beyond....)

The Niagara Branch

Penn Central's Connection to Canada in HO Scale


Come along on my knitting adventures!