Why Buy Something you can make for Pennies?

Just a thought, and this isn’t a rant about ‘how much things cost’ at all. Rather I just wonder why people will pay so much for something which they make themselves for pennies.

Look at the price of the building behind the class 60…

The building costs just short of seventy five pounds. That’s a lot of money for a small, low relief building. And it’s N gauge too by the way, so it’s not large at all.

Now, the price for this sort of product is not out of line with other similarly sized ready made buildings so that isn’t an issue. But what I don’t understand is how the hobby is at the stage where people will spend so much on something which could be simply made in Plastikard and/or card. A bit of research online could probably bring dimensions of these could be estimated from photographs (a standard door is 6′ 6″ so provides a useful datum).

In many cases using kits and ready made buildings is fine of course – signal boxes and other standard railway buildings are very useful and it makes a lot of sense!

But even in these cases making your own has a lot going for it. If you’re inexperienced then you can learn and awful and save a good deal of money too. Something simple like the building in the photograph is an ideal place to start this sort of work. I have seen plenty of comments online that people avoid in case it doesn’t work out. But so what?! Of it doesn’t work you’ll still learn a lot and the second attempt will be much better as a result.

So this week, why not challenge yourself to go and have a go at building something instead of buying it ready made?



Vauxhall Astra Mk. 2 GTE and Vauxhall Cavalier CD Mk. 2

I always think that road vehicles can really date a layout, even with no trains about. There’s a reason why period TV dramas and film have vehicles appropriate for the time in which they are set, for just this reason.

Over the last few years the number of accurate 4mm scale die-cast vehicles available has soared. One problem has been that many tend to be at the premium end of things. This isn’t what we really want or need – the ‘everyday’ is much more what we need.

Oxford Diecast is producing a very wide range 1/76th scale vehicles and many are exactly the  sort of ‘everyday’ types that I think will be just what we need. I treated myself to two of their models the other day, a mark 2 Vauxhall Astra and a mark 2 Vauxhall Cavalier. For anyone like me, growing up in the eighties and nineties, these are two cars which you’d see all the time.

Even though the Astra which is the GTE version, not the everyday version, the Ford, Vauxhall and Rover performance models were very much performance for the masses. And even by today’s standards the GTE is a quick car! And cars like these were not uncommon sights in their day. Or maybe I just noticed them more than the boring models?!

Vauxhall Astra GTE

The Cavalier though, is a very normal spec – nothing fancy and at primary school I guarantee than there will have been someone in my class whose family had one parked on their drive. It is a typical ‘fleet’ car, one which might have spent its life going up and down the motorway between offices and sales conferences. The sort of life which I would hate!

The models themselves aren’t bad at all – at first glance.

Shape-wise both are pretty good – they look like what they’re supposed to be. But these small models lag far behind the 1/43rd scale models which Oxford (and others) produce. The paint is terribly thick and the cast lights just don’t cut it. Big squares of silver just don’t look like real headlamps. And compare the Astra with the real thing – the tyres are a much bigger profile (and the wheels too small I feel) and the model looks like it’s on stilts! The rubbing strips on the corners of the bumpers are bigger than they should be. So can this be turned into something more accurate? Well I hope so.

The paint doesn’t help matters – it’s so thick and tough. Nitromors struggles with it – but beneath this horrible shell you will find a lovely, crisp casting which will be so much better for a decent paint finish.

So we shall see how these turn out. It’s all too easy to focus on the negative (as I have done!) but it’s far better to have these as starting points than not all.

The Next Tractor

The two sub-frames and the bearing carriers.

A bit of bonus time this morning so I made a start on the next set of Penbits bogies I have for another class 37. So, a temporary workbench for the morning – some of you may have worked out where it is, but keep that to yourselves!

In the time I’ve had I have sorted all the bearing carriers and the basic subframes – I’ve said this before but it’s worth reiterating, the Penbits kits are absolutely superb! The go together beautifully! Some kits can be a bit of a chore, the result and overcoming the problems they present become part of the appeal but the actual construction, less so. None of that here though, just an enjoyable building experience!

The temporary workbench.

The only problem with modelling diesels to this level of detail is the repetition involved – I mean, look at all the brake gear! Whereas your typical 0-6-0 steam loco has six brake hangers, most mainline diesels have two per wheel. So twenty four in this case! But look at those beautiful etchings – if you’re in the right frame of mind, it’s very relaxing doing the brake gear.

In fact, building one of Ian’s kits is a lovely way to spend a morning.

Brake gear


Frodingham Deltics

Fordingham Deltics making a return.

A bonus this autumn in North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire has been the return of, shall we say, classic class 20s on the Railhead Treatment Train circuit as a result of wheel flats on the regular 20/3’s. The regular locos will be back soon, but for a brief moment we can enjoy the sights and sounds of this pair.

(Incidentally these two, 20205 and 20007, aren’t proper Frodingham Deltics but 20205 was stored at Frodingham in 1992, the period in which West Halton is set.)

All Change at Rail Express Modeller

An interesting development at Rail Express, Nigel Burkin appointed as the new editor of Rail Express Modeller.

Rail Express Modeller

Those of use who started modelling diesels in or before the mid-nineties will remember his two ‘Thoroughly Modern Models’ books and articles in early issues of BRM. He also edited the short lived Modern Railway Modelling from Warner’s – something which could have been something very special but faded away within just a few months.

Thoroughly Modern Models – Diesels in 4mm by Nigel Burkin, 1997

I just hope that REM doesn’t go the same way – REM has lost its way since the days of Phil Sutton and Gareth Bayer we feel.

If Nigel could recapture the spirit of the original ModelRAIL supplements then many would be overjoyed! Maybe the pioneering feel of ModelRAIL combined with the prototype information in the early editions of DEMU Update? Gareth being the connection between Update and REM!

We’ll see how it turns out but I hope there’ll be more on high quality modelling than the promised step by step articles. REM doesn’t need this, mags like Model Rail (confusing when Chris Leigh took the name on for his monthly from 1997 after destroying the original ModelRAIL), BRM, Hornby Magazine and Railway Modeller cover basic techniques, REM doesn’t need to duplicate this.

Let’s hope REM will once again be the spiritual successor to the original ModelRAIL!

Real Life – Cumbria

River Mite at Dalegarth Station.

As James was saying, real life has been taking priority. With ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ spending the weekend on a dance instructor’s course, I headed over to Cumbria with my little people to keep out of the way. We had a lovely time too!

I absolutely love the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, and this seems to have passed to Thomas too. A 15″ gauge line, but with the feel of a ‘real’ railway – for small children, the size is just perfect! And few places have a genuine magical quality but the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway really does.

There’s also a very tenuous link to the whole West Halton project – the Ravenglass & Eskdale was built originally, in its 3′ gauge form, to transport iron ore to the mainline at Ravenglass, the area being rich in ore deposits and at one time had quite a concentration of iron and steel making.

A lovely weekend, even the sun shone over the Cumbrian hills.

Back to normal now though.

‘The Little People’

Real Life… Slow Progress

The one thing, that slow’s the pace of this project down is life it’s self!

Both myself and James are shift workers and they do take the toll on what can and what cannot be done and time that you have to do things can be really really limited. Especially when you have to other things with your wife and family or my case with my partner. For me it’s been a particularly busy year so far with me and my partner Anna buying a new build house. So we have had all the rigmarole of dealing with the builders. Having people come and value the current place we live survey’s visiting the solicitors getting certificates renewed and replaced at times the list of thing’s to do has been endless… It was only yesterday that we have  been given a moving date of the 2nd week in October! As for Mr Wells with two Children in tow and working shifts and trying not to be constantly tired I very surprised that he actually manages to produce what he does especially given what he produces is of high quality almost as fine as the finest art that a Dutch Master would produce.

That said we have had a few long discussions over the last few months and weeks. (Don’t worry the project is still going strong but at a slow pace!) We had some discussions on some of the trains that we want to model on the layout. Yes it will mostly be steel traffic in various forms. That said we want to throw a couple of little extra trains in that you did see all the time. Back in 1992 tho I doubt many people took that much notice of them unlike they do today. So the 1st thing we want to recreate is this:


The idea came to me when I was just looking through the 53a Models archive on flicker and Mr Turner had gone to Selby Street in Hull to capture a crew training run with a class 60 as they was about to be introduced on the flow of stone from Rylstone to Hull Dairycoates. Whilst waiting for the said crew training run 47972 came blasting out Hull with this working from the RTC. He did very well to capture 2 loco hauled trains at this location at the same time as its normally units only! We like how weathered the 47 is and the assortment of stock. These trains now unlike then have some sort of cult following now that 37 of some sort is bolted to the front of them. When the power was class 47 I feel these trains was somewhat overlooked.

The second Idea we had to model now that the base model is ready to run is this:


Not the worlds best photograph of it I know. 950001 Again I think I saw this unit more than I saw a loco hauled test trains! We want to model the 150 as it was this picture was taken at Crewe Gresty Lane in 1988 (Photographer Unknown). In 1992 I still think the unit had its light shade of blue as photographs of it circa 1994 show the light blue to be a dark shade of blue. That is unless you guy’s know different than if you do then please tell us as we want it to be correct or correct as we can get it. We think this as well as the RTC loco hauled set are just a nice and different break from the norm and they are trains that just used to rock up with out any knowledge unless you was in the know. Unlike now thanks to things like Real Time Trains where every man and his dog now know what is going to be running!


It’s a van! Yes it is and they are widely available from Bachman. West Halton will have  quite a few vans on it. As we are going to suggest one the flows from the Steel finishing plant was stainless or tin plated traffic and these left the site in various types of van. VAA, VDA, VBA, VCA, VGA and other Cargowaggon type vans. However, With this van for me its not about what the body of the van looks like its about the underneath! The van a former VDA now coded ZRA and in departmental stock when photographed. Has the experimental FAT 19 suspension or Taperlight suspension. This to me is brilliant as not all the vans will have the same under-frame arrangement they will be unique. A member of DEMU has already had a go at producing the suspension through 3D printing and it has been a success and now I am just waiting for the next run to be done and so that some of West Halton fleet of vans can get this treatment.

Livery Render

A new name in producing models came into fruition last year CavAlex Models. With the 1st product the PGA hopper already being brought to market and selling well the boys have turned to other projects to do. The BBA in my book is long overdue, the Cambrian Kit is a good kit but a little chunky in places not quite as fine as it could be in places but that said it is still a bloody good kit and I for one will not be binning mine off when this model hits the shops. I be buying these to run alongside my Cambrian BBA’s. I won’t lie I am excited by this project just for the fact that it is so long overdue and that in a way it sticks two fingers up to Dapol who announced that they would be doing a BBA in 2008! Also I had he pleasure of meeting the two men behind the project and through work. I took to them to a Yard to allow them to photograph a lot of BBA wagons within a inch of the lives for this project. So I am looking forward to these along with my Cambrian models moving trains of slab metal and blooms made from bits of plastercard!

020400 HullKingGeorgeDock 005 copy copy

This project is a very long long way away… This will be for West Halton is finished and we have a go at modelling something on the right side of the Humber. The tank in this picture by Tony Buckton is a little bit too modern but it captures the TTA well. Coming from Hull and living besides the line to the Docks. The staple traffic on the branch for many many years was the Acid traffic coming out of BP Chemicals plant at Saltend. I was amazed to see a gent of the DEMU Forum who goes by the name of Rodders. Had produced one of these TTA tanks in 4mm by using a lot of plastic strip and ends from A1 models and a Hornby TTA tank barrel. The tank to be frank looked frikkin awsome! That then started my research and I have started to find that these tanks are bit like class 47s they are all unique when it comes whats under the tank barrel and running gear wise!! like I say this project will be a long long way off… We have finish a small section of North Lincolnshire in 1992 1st…

Please bear with us as the old saying goes Rome was not built in a day and bloody shift work ruins modelling time. As the nights draw in we are aiming to start making more progress.