Why you should buy Model Railway Journal

Model Railway Journal No. 282

Model Railway Journal is the only magazine I buy every issue, well model railway magazine as I get Railway Bylines too. I do read Railway Modeller too as my dad gets that, but MRJ is the only one I actually pay for myself!

I once got called elitist for saying online that MRJ is the only magazine I buy myself! Sadly inverted snobbery seems prevalent in some parts of our hobby – it’s such a shame as it puts people off exploring the hobby.

While certain magazines seem to regurgitate the same content all the time via their staff writers, MRJ is still has a wide range of authors and the topics range from more basic, core techniques to delightfully complex projects. Plus layouts of course! Not every issue will have things exactly in line with your interests but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from articles. For example, the latest MRJ has an article on rewheeling and converting the new Bachmann J72 to EM Gauge – much if it can be applied to rewheeling diesels too. Not the obvious perhaps but an open mind and looking at all sorts of different eras and genres within our hobby is important I think. And this is exactly why I love MRJ. There’s no dumbing down either, MRJ treats the reader with respect.

Morfa Bank Sidings by Hywel Thomas.

The latest issue of MRJ is edited by Karl Crowther, whose work many of you will recognise from EM Gauge 70s. Hywel Thomas’ Morfa Bank Sidings features and it’s lovely! I’ve watched its progress on EM Gauge 70s and it’s delightful – a mix of BR and industrial which always appeals to me, especially the BSC locomotives. Absolutely delightful.

Karl Crowther’s new project, The Kentside Branch, features in this issue too – it’s based on the Furness Railway, which is a real interest of mine. It’s not the sort of article which the other magazines really do. It’s the sort of article which makes you think – I wonder how many people are now thinking if home based projects rather than exhibition layouts in the current climate?

Model Railway Journal is a magazine which makes you think, but most if all it’s one if the gems if our hobby and we should saviour it.

More on Janus

The main subassemblies.

More progress on the first Janus locomotive!

I’ve been quite happy with the progress I’ve made with this – it’s coming together quite nicely. Assembling the cab has given things a real impetus, it seems so much more advanced than it is.

It needed wheels before any more significant progress could be made though.

Prepping the wheels – they’re on the polythene bag in case the epoxy drips through so they don’t end up stick to the bench! You can guess how I discovered that this can happen!

The etched balance weights only have tags on the outer edge – other manufacturers should take note, since the curve on the outer edge is much easier to dress than the concave curves. The only issue with that the curve doesn’t match the inside of the tyre on the recommended Gibson wheels. I suspect they’re sized and shaped to fit Romford wheels.

It’s not a major issue, Milliput was used to fill the gap as wheel as building up behind the etch to give a more solid appearance. It’s a small detail but where balance weights are cast into the wheels it’s a nice little extra.

Using Milliput to finish off the balance weights

The wheels need to be yellow, not a colour to go on black plastic! So the tyres were first blackened then the wheel centres were primed by applying Halford’s white primer with a brush. Spray some into a small pot or even an old aerosol lid, and then brush it on. It’ll not cover as well as when sprayed but it’s good enough to apply the yellow over. Two coats of Humbrol Trainer Yellow, which is a good match for the yellow used by British Steel used, covered quite well.

Painting the wheels – at this stage they don’t look too pretty! This is after their first coat of yellow.

The chassis was sprayed with Clostermann black etch primer, lovely stuff that it is! A tiny amount of oil in the horn guides prevent things clogging up and I use short lengths of pipe cleaner threaded through the axle bearings to keep them clean. Light passes with the aerosol builds up a good, hard wearing finish.

The chassis after being sprayed with Clostermann black etch primer.

I turned attention back to the body again and what’s nice is that some details are starting to appear. The locos have distinctive handles on the bonnet panels and the tool boxes. I’ve used N gauge handrail knobs to represent these and the result is quite pleasing. I just need more to complete the bonnets now! The holes need opening up with a small broach, it might try your eyesight but the result is worth any squinting!

N gauge handrail knobs make very effective handles for the tool box!

I’m just waiting for axle washers to arrives. The ⅛” washers I have are too big and show behind the wheel centres unfortunately. But the main parts temporarily placed together give a hint of what’s to come.

The basic components in place and the chassis ready for wheels.

The Janus, Shoehorning and Metal Hacking

I fancied a change from plastic bashing with the SPA wagons…

Proper old school finescale modelling, MJT Flexichas horn guides!

I hadn’t touch the model for some considerable time, I did the bulk of what was completed when I still worked at Gilberdyke Signal Box, and that closed over two years ago!

After what has been a month from hell I just wanted a project to get lost in for a little while, and it’s worked.

The basic chassis which is set up for three point suspension. The twin bars to the left hand end are designed in by Mike Edge but it’s intended to leave the other axle fixed which isn’t true compensation in a model railway sense. So I decided to allow this to move too which has brought a whole load of other challenges!

Compensation is seen in some parts of the finescale end of the hobby as rather basic and old hat and springing the better option. I do like sprung rolling stock and locos but the Janus locos never seem to glide in the way my spring stock does, they seem to bang about with little finesse, it’s all part of their charm I suppose. So springing wouldn’t be right to me so I’ve stick with compensation.

As I’ve said in the caption above that I deviated from the instructions in order to get true three point suspension. This meant that I had to change the position of the motor too.

The rods are made of three layers – as supplied they are rigid but for a compensated or spring chassis they need to be jointed. This view shows the three layers cut ready to make the two halves. I’m articulating them prototypical at the knuckle but you can easily joint them around the centre crank pins.

I had a spare High Level 108:1 gearbox to hand along with a Mashima 1224 motor so I elected to use these. It has meant sacrificing some of the since in the cab but I think it’s worth it – it’s all below the window line so it won’t be obvious but the performance makes it worth it I think. It’s definitely shoehorning everything in place.

The really delightful aspect to Mike Edge’s kits are the finesse of the details – separate window frames and even door hinge make a huge difference.

After dithering around the transmission and finally making a decision I move to the body. Is made the bonnets before but not the cab. One bonnet and one end of the cab needed to be modified to give room for the motor. There’s no point detailing exactly what I did here as I’d not recommend this approach to anyone else! I should have planned it in from the start – I will with the next one.

At this stage I’ll just emphasize that if you follow the instructions, it’ll go together very well with no problems whatsoever!

The main elements of the locomotive together.

I did deviate from the instructions again when it came to adding window frames and door hinges – is rather do these when the parts are flat, even if it means extra care is required later on.

It’s pleasing how it’s coming together now. With the cab in place it looks like it’s going to be a locomotive.

The battery box is seven separate components and it requires quick work with the soldering iron so as not to disturb parts around the join you wish to make!

And beginning with the finer parts such as battery box details is very satisfying. For such a small loco the construction is particularly involved. Not a complaint just an observation – certainly shows that locos like these are more complex than many enthusiasts realise.

SPA Wagons

SPA 460974 at Scunthorpe in 1992, photo by, and used with permission from, Jeff Taylor.

One of the key items of stock for West Halton was always going to be the SPA wagon – they feature in many photos of latter day steel traffic on the branch. Of course it wasn’t just these but the combination of these, brake vans and class 08 pilots was incredibly appealing. Indeed, images like this were the catalyst to the whole West Halton project.

The DJ Models designed SPA model, now marketed by the Kernow Model Rail Centre, should have offered us a new and improved starting point but instead it offered far less than the older Cambrian Models kit. Sadly the RTR model has probably reduced the chances for a new model of the SPA wagon – I’m quite happy to build my own but the SPA is a surprising gap in Bachmann’s range and is one crying out for Cavalex Models to tackle as an obvious companion to their superb BBAs.

Until then, it’s the Cambrian way!

It’s been a few years, yes years, since I last did anything with SPA Wagons I have. The lack of parts has been an issue, notably most of the underframe parts. The original plan was to use Bill Bedford sprung running gear but recent developments has changed this.

The first SPA wagon.

There’s nothing wrong with the Bill Bedford parts, far from it – these are very good indeed and I’ve used them for all sorts of other projects.

Stenson Models have released new suspension units for long wheelbase air braked wagons which include brake gear details. The SPA Wagons have brake calipers acting on wheel mounted brake discs, rather than traditional clasp brakes. The brackets for the brakes are huge and on the SPA are very noticeable – it goes back to the issue of underframe details which halted the project.

It’s not hard to fabricate details like these but in the interests of longevity these need to be reasonably robust.

Stenson Models Suspension Units.

The new Stenson items, designed by Colin Craig, incorporate the brackets and a simplified representation of the brake calipers. The design, as you’d expect, is superb.

I managed to get my pile of SPA wagons from my parents’ house – in a socially distanced manner – but I elected to start afresh for the first one with these new suspension units.

The main parts of an SPA laid out.

Stenson Models’ instructions are very comprehensive – take care with the first one to make sure you bend everything the right way and everything else will be straightforward. I’m very pleased with how robust the units are once constructed. I also intend to attached parts of the brake gear to the brake caliper brackets.

The instructions suggest moving the solebars closer together – I presumed Cambrian moved them outwards to allow room for their swivelling w irons. It should allow a slightly better overall appearance too.

The suspension units temporarily in place – you need 30 thou Plastikard spacers but I didn’t have any to hand so the black is 20 thou and the strips are 10 thou – this gives the correct ride height.

There are lots of other bits to do too – a minimum of new buffers and new lamp irons I think. But there’s still plenty to sort. There are lots of angle pieces missing from the solebars, so a good session of fitting small Plastikard triangles to each model awaits. This might be seen as going to far but I think and hope it’ll improve appearances.

The brake gear is going to be more involved – the brake levers aren’t available though commercial parts might be able to be converted for use but I feel there’s a degree of fabrication needed. We were looking at having these parts etched (I used to be reasonably proficient with AutoCAD when I was at uni!) but time will tell on this – possibly see how the first one goes and then decide!

The basic body is assembled and the suspension units are made – now the real fun starts!

Scunthorpe Steelworks’ Control Towers

Looking towards 4 Control from the Blast Furnaces. The building opposite was previously a weighbridge.

A bit more of the rather interesting buildings which help control rail traffic around Scunthorpe Steelworks.

Former weighbridge buildings near 4 Control.

I do find these buildings very appealling. A comment on my previous post about why the building, which I now know was formerly 4 Control, is on stilts has lead to some very interesting information coming out.

I posed the question on a couple of Facebook groups, one of which is for past and present steelworks staff – I just about count!

4 Control

And the answer is a very straightforward too, as Glenn Britcliffe kindly explained –

“The building was the hot metal weighbridge downstairs where the Iron controller resided. At this time the Iron Controller was responsible for the balancing of iron between the steel plants at Appleby Frodingham and Normanby Park works – Metal & Slag locos were controlled by Slag Control down at the furnaces. No 4 or south Ironworks rail traffic control upstairs.

“4 control closed back in the 1980s when Entrance E closed, and when the granulators were built at the furnaces and slag ladles were done away (and Normanby Park works had closed), the Iron controller, 4 Control and Slag Rail Traffic Control were merged with the controller in the weighbridge.

“The reason the building was on stilts was so that when sat inside you were at the right height to see the numbers on the torpedoes as they passed the window. As well as controlling the locos in the area, the controller has to monitor and record the location of torpedoes, enter all the data into the steel plant computer and collate a load of information for the works manager. We used to get a phone call every morning from John Henry Craig and his successors at around 7am wanting to know every detail of what production was overnight.

“It was supposed to be the most difficult of the rail traffic controls to learn, I got all of 2 days and when I went in or my 3rd days training , I was met by Dave ‘Swinger’ Hardy who told me that the 6-2 man had phoned in sick and as he was back 2-10 he couldn’t stop and would sort anything I couldn’t sort when he got back. Terry Larder decided as I’d had a shift on my own I was trained and I covered the job for the next 4 years. It closed when team working was introduced in October 1999 and the weighbridge closed as someone said they didn’t need to weigh the iron anymore, and the locos were controlled by the metal team leader at the furnaces.

“After 21 years without a weighbridge and loads of arguments between blast and BOS about how much iron the furnaces sent to BOS , a new automatic weighbridge has been installed at the same location.”

Glenn Britcliffe

I find this fascinating and it gives a nice insight into operations at the Steelworks too.

Former Control building near the Plate Mills.

As Glenn mentions, the building had more than one purpose. As a result each Control Tower is subtly different. Compare the Tower by the Plate Mills with Nine Control – the upper floors are very similar but the ground floors are very different. It also incorporates a weighbridge.

9/Mills Control

They can accommodate different things as well as the Traffic Controllers, so my plan is base my model on 4 Control but with the building on the ground and possibly more windows to suggest the building fulfills other functions, such as provision for the British Steel shunters and ground staff.

Weighbridge buildings opposite 9 Control

The operation is interesting too – not signalling as many of know it though. Trains move round by verbal authority, points are controlled on the ground either hand pull or electrical. Those used most are electric and these have what look like grand position signals but are just points indicators. By my time on the steelworks the lights in these had been replaced with blue LEDs and they were very bright! Train speeds are low and most internal rolling stock isn’t fitted either. The Traffic Controllers also issue Permits to Work for P-Way for maintenance and renewals.

Electrical switch machine – the red plunger operates the points. The blue lights aren’t signals but are indication for which way the points are set.

Thankfully from a mixture of counting bricks, which are a standard size, and known dimensions, such as door heights, I have been able to determine the basic dimensions which should allow construction to start with few issues.

Hunslet No. 74 with Mills Control in the background.

But I’m getting ahead if myself now.

A Learning Curve….

So until recently all my weathering on my and the stock to be used on West Halton Sidings. Has been done by using Enamel Paints or Acrylics and applied using brushes and building up the layers. A few years when me and “Our Lass” or Anna as she is normally known as moved into our house. She saw me looking at some photographs on my mobile of 20104 that Mr Wells had finished and Weathered and as per normal I got the looking at more railway porn! Yes! I said quite trouser tightening this image!… Anyway as I zoomed in and looked at various bits. She asked if I could do what Mr Wells had done and I said yeah, but James uses an Air Brush for his weathering where I use paint brushes. I said id probably go down the workshop (James’s garage) and spray my stuff at his. I though that was the end of the conversation and that was it!

So Christmas Day arrives and like other years…….. I am working again!…… For all those wanting a job on the railway don’t coz you will loose soooo may bank holidays and be 12hrs at work on Christmas Day and so on! So when I came down to see what Santa had bought me. I was perplexed there was quite a few boxes in the living room I was a little confused. I set about opening them and I was taken aback when the 1st big box I opened was a Spray Booth, I didn’t have a clue what the instructions said as it was all in Russian! The next was an Air compressor and next a Air Brush and Air Brush cleaning kit and a few other Air Brush related items.

So I’ll be the 1st to admit its taken a bit to get this house how we want and that includes the Garden but we are happy with it and I can now start to tackle a few projects. One big project is to learn how to use a frikkin air brush. So I had have hoped for a few lessons at GC HQ or the workshop as we know it as but this little virus known as Covid-19 has put pay to that! So having got a few things out the way model railway wise I started a bit of reading. Aspects of Modelling – Weathering Locomotives by Tim Shackleton and the Art of Weathering by Martyn Welch and Weathering for Railway Modellers by George Dent. With those read and digested over a period of weeks when on Saturday Night Shifts. I was happy and understood what I was reading, so I looked to You Tube and my god there are 1000’s of You Tube channels with 1000’s of tutorials on how to do this and how to do that. Some a brilliant and some are frikking rubbish some of the best that I have watched have been from the US when guys take it to the 8th degree! To be fair some from Germany despite having no clue what they are saying are totally fantastic and the guys and girls that do military stuff are streets ahead of the game when it comes to us that do railways and we can learn a lot from them! One U Tube channel that you should check is this –

Clicky for Video

These guys are wired strange folk like me and the Wells they are into stuff that involves the Steel Industry and I think Bottom Works Sidings is brilliant having seen it in Model Railway Journal and being build on the guy’s blog it looks class…… Its amazing how far Hull area trip loco’s managed to get! I can’t wait to see it in the flesh……. Anyway so I started watching these productions and the OTCM one was very very easy to watch and it backed a up a lot that I had read. So with my gifted airbrush

My Air Brush that was a Christmas Gift.

Along with my air compressor and Spray Booth I have set about spraying things in anger! One thing that is worth its weight in gold is the collecting cup…… Sounds dodgy don’t it!

The Collecting Cup

If you haven’t got one of these then stop don’t start till you get one as you will have no place for the waste paints to go and it will be impossible to go on or start on a project they are worth the weight in gold! You could use an old mug or cup that don’t want but this sealed unit really is the best way to go.

So having tested my air pressure and got the correct PSI and the correct jet stream I did a test on some paper to see what the flow of air was like. I was time to take the plunge I tried it out on some battered old Hornby vans and a Dapol HEA wagon and after a few attempts I started getting better 1st attempts was just rubbish as you would expect. I busted out at the weekend some Accurascale PFA Wagons a Bachman “Tilcon” JGA for future projects and to be fair I am quite happy the results the learning curve has been very very steep tell me what you think

The Cawood PFA’s
The Tilcon JGA

See you soon with more progress hopefully!

An Introduction to Scunthorpe Steelworks Control Towers

Nine Control at Scunthorpe Steelworks. This is the steelworks’ equivalent of a signal box, controlling movements within its area of control. They use radio instructions to permit a movement from one place to another rather than fixed signals as you’d find controlled by a conventional signal box.

A really distinctive type of building within the Steelworks at Scunthorpe is the control tower. All rail traffic is controlled from these, as long with issuing permits to work to p-way too – which is my own direct experience of them from my time with VolkerRail.

There are various examples of these towers around the steelworks, though only only ‘Nine Control’ (also referred to as ‘Mills Control’) is in use, the hot metal traffic is controlled by the blast furnaces from their offices these days, or at least when I was there back in 2009.

These buildings instantly stand out for me, very much a part of my time at Scunthorpe. So to incorporate one into the overall layout scheme seems like an obvious step, and it’ll provide a nice contrast with the older signal box on the main line.

Hot Metals Control, now disused.

I’m on a Wagon Kick This Week!

Cavalex Models BBAs before and after.

There are some nice ways to spend lockdown, modelling is of course on of them. I’m currently on a little bit of a wagon kick.

The second of our batch of BBA wagons, from Cavalex Models, is just about finished. What’s lovely about these is how little is required to make them into something very special. I’m still in awe at the out of the box item, it makes weathering them an absolute pleasure.

A faded and part weathered BDA next to an as yet untouched example. The difference is very clear.

And while on my wagon kick I’ve started looking at the box of BDA wagons I have. Literally a box full too, about twenty acquired over the last few years. They’re all Bachmann models and, whilst basic, are sound accurate models. They benefit from a few little upgrades – on the lever braked wagons I’m going to replace the rather thick moulded levers with etched brass replacements. Like wise, on future ones the chunky hand brake wheels will be replaced with those from Stenson Models for both appearance and strength. It’s weathering and finishing which really makes the difference with them. I’ve got about twenty to do so it’ll be a long job but the fading process is really satisfying. Humbrol Matt Varnish with a tiny bit if pale grey, Matt Leather, dark grey, etc, can make for different shades which change the appearance of the colours. And Railfreight red did fade terribly to various shades of pink!

The brake now complete with its roof and chimney. The faded OLE warnings are from Railtec Transfers – they’re superb!

And of course the brake van with which you’ll all quite familiar with now! The delightful faded 3D (to represent plates rather than the now common stickers) overhead power warnings from Railtec Transfers complete the body – they’re absolutely great! I’m always impressed with Railtec’s products.

I’ve also added a chimney to the roof made from small brass tube, tapered at the end. This is easy to do if you have access to a lathe but failing that, holding it in a power drill and using a sharp file to achieve the same affect will work too. Just go careful!

So we’re very nearly there now.

Walking the former York to Beverley line.

And whilst modelling and our hobbies is very important for our mental health remember to get out for fresh air too, especially big you’re working from home or furloughed. We’re lucky to have the former York to Beverley line on our doorstep and we regularly walk along there. It’s a good five mile round walk. It’s very refreshing, if a bit bracing at the moment!

Model Railways and Mental Health

08405 – finished!

I think most of you will know that don’t have perfect mental health, I mean who does? But I have Clinical Depression and Severe Anxiety. So far from perfect in fact.

Since the autumn I’ve been back having therapy, and one thing which we’ve discussed us how as humans we are naturally creative. If we don’t, it’s not good for us. Of course this will take many forms and is a very personal pursuit. In our cases it’s creating models of railways and all the bits and pieces which go with them.

In these present times, it’s tough for everyone. I’m missing just popping to a nice café for cake, for no real reason beyond its just nice! This is before everything else we normally take for granted – though I suspect we won’t all take such things for granted for a long time now.

This means our little escape from the world, our chance to loose ourselves in something we love and enjoy is even more important than ever. So make time for yourself, go and do some modelling, go and make something, finish off a project! I’ve finally finished 08405, it’s a rather lovely feeling really.

Self care and giving yourself a break is very important – I must remember to practice what I preach though!

Crosby Mines

Crosby Mines, photo courtesy of Colin Woods.

This is the view looking north at Crosby Mines, taken from Winternton Road, taken by Colin Woods around 1969/70 and he’s kindly agreed to let us share it here.

Looking north from the road, the North Lindsey Light Railway mainline (so to speak, after all this part of the line hardly seems like a light railway!) snakes towards Normanby Park South and Dragonby Sidings which served Lysaght’s Normanby Park Steelworks. At Crosby Mines the area was criss-crossed by all sorts of lines, both mainline and industrial as they served the ever changing opencast ironstone workings. Whilst the NLLR itself remained on a consistent route, the industrial lines changed constantly over their existence. Even during my short time on Scunthorpe Steelworks I saw how industrial systems could change, quite rapidly at times, to suit the needs of the their industry. It’s fascinating.

How the mine workings changed as they were worked lead to the immediate area having a very dense rail network. But it wasn’t glamorous by any means.

Maybe it’s this down at heel look which appeals? Colin’s photo reveals a wealth of details, from truncated, overgrown sidings to partially demolished structures. The scars left by mining are clear to see, debris is left scattered all over the place and there’s an air of dereliction. The NLLR p-way is in good condition when you look, not the neatest but this is no Prize Length, and the signalling also appears in good order. This is a proper working railway and one few photographers have recorded.

It’s a beautiful image, the path is so inviting, calling us to follow it and walk down to Crosby Mines Signal Box.

I’m very grateful to Colin to allowing us to share such a lovely photograph.