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…

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!


Layout Progress #11

There has not been much modelling on this blog of late, it is that time of the year over in Blighty where the weather likes to tease us hopers into believing we might have a decent summer. In the UK there is one thing you learn quickly, when the sun does come out you just go out immediately as you literally may be living through what summer there is.

This added with Chris’ preparation for the big day and well its all been a bit stale. Chris is up to his arse in DIY in his love nest and I have started a new job which means I am settling in with long hours and a light work load which can be tedious.

And there are a couple of modelling projects greeting me every time I go in the shed that I would rather did not remind me they existed.

But I digress with excuses because I have been saving my pennies and brought some bits for SQ. Remember that big hole that needed a building? That then got a shell? Well yeah, here she is, the newsagents from Lowca, Whitehaven. It would not of got where it is was it not for Pete building the basic shell and Chris’ impressive nagging to get it done. There are still a couple of bits that need adding, but yeah it was that grim in real life. The patch of brick work is also copied from the prototype, here is a link to the photo that started the love affair with all things ‘NCB’:

Gordon Edgar’s Amazon at Lowca



There is also a much needed flagman, he was a Bachmann Scenecraft station member suitably ‘Northernised’ #Finescaleflatcaps


Dangerously nearing a cliche is something I really had the horn for doing, a dog waiting for it’s owner. The dog seems miraculously strong to bend the lamp post, this is my dodging modelling and needs straightening. The level crossing sign I bodged from some plastikard after buying some crap signs for roughly a fiver, more fool me. Again copied from the one used at Lowca.


Above and below is the whole scene together.


I hope you all like the update, I am quite into it on the whole. Its really given my mojo back and I still get shocked at what I can achieve with half an hour a night and a sleeping pattern devised by toddlers as well as pretty basic skills.

The layout is also showing signs of actually working after a long time pretty much inactive. I found some DCC chips with capacitors on eBay from ‘the far east’ (always worryingly generic) and instead of burning down the entire workshop are giving sterling service and seem to be working without fault even in that bloody DJ Models Austerity.

Hopefully we should have more modelling coming at a decent rate over the next few months. Some of our American and Canadian friends have been inspiring us massively and we hope in the next couple of months to give you an insight into how that inspiration is turning into something physical.

Bye for now and happy modelling,




A Bloody Wedding

Today was a big arse day.

Chris got married to his girlfriend Heather and model trains have a lot to do with it.

As a true believer Chris was allowed ‘to do’ the wedding favours. So obviously he choose OO gauge wagons carrying personalised gin.

In this photo the wagons are obvious, however the gin has already departed. After all I was there.

There is no small wonder Chris has done no modelling of late as every wagon was sprayed and hand written (bugger that)

Luckily however we were all allowed to keep ours so expect a super detailed version soon.

Saturday Heather and Chris are having a big old piss up and a lot of modelling people are going (also maybe expect a drunken selfie, but to finescale standards)

I imagine all our readers along with myself wish Chris and Heather a happy marriage.