From 2017 and into 2018

2017 has, in many ways been an absolutely shocking year for me personally.

There have been some wonderful highlights – my mental children see to that! Modelling wise, getting the cover of Model Railway Journal 253 was huge highlight. Having my work featured in MRJ was a life’s ambition achieved.

My mental health has, at times, been very poor. I’ve spent much of the year on light duties at work on the back of it which has brought its own challenges, however since earlier this month I’m virtually back to normal at work!

Modelling helps – therapists and mental health workers have found with me that it’s very beneficial. A therapy in itself – well, I’m going to take that and run with it! It has kept me going – an hour’s modelling can be a great way to refresh and switch off from the world.

One thing various things have shown me is that whilst some who you expect to help and support you do anything but help and support there are those who will go above and beyond to help and support me. These latter ones are worth their weight in gold – this very much includes my conspirator on the West Halton project. They’re the ones who can pick me up and keep me going when I might otherwise give up. And don’t underestimate the use of “give up” as it’s not me being dramatic but very serious. Those who have supported me probably have no idea how much their help and support has meant.

It’s Not All Been Bad!

So it’s not all been bad – yeah, there have been some really shitty days this year but there have been some good ones too.

The Little People

Days out with family have produced lovely moments – my two little people help a huge amount without ever knowing it. Days like the one at Cleethorpes in summer, above, are very special. One advantage of clinical depression is how much you really appreciate the good days.

Railway-wise there have been some cracking days too. A really enjoyable day was the rail tour around Scunthorpe Steelworks. Three brake vans full of rail industry staff spending the best part of six hours covering as much of Scunthorpe Steelworks’ railway as humanly possible!

The ‘Passengers’ for the tour round Scunthorpe Steelworks! Photo courtesy of Ivan Stewart.

Another lovely, and unexpected in my case, day/evening was the Knottingley Open Day. An event for a very worthy cause and the evening photography was a genuinely lovely and relaxed evening.

Knottingley Depot Open – James and Thomas with 56303, October 2017.

There were other days too – exhibitions, heritage lines, museums and a not just a few days volunteering at the National Railway Museum but the last thing you want is a week by week account of them all. It would sound too much like those round-robin letters some smug families insist on putting in their Christmas cards

And so to things which I hope will come on in leaps and bounds in 2018…

The Railway Room

The Railway Room – in the beginning.

The actual room and work space is at the heart of West Halton.  It’s now about 95% finished. A huge, huge amount of credit has to go to my Father in Law, Steve, who has done a huge amount of work to help get it to the present state, which you can see from the above photo.

For years it has simply been a waste of a room. We can’t fit our cars in it – a 1960s garage won’t take a modern car easily. The Ford Pumas might have fitted but my car certainly won’t and even a (new) Mini would be a struggle to get in – opening the doors wide enough to get a feral two year old girl in and out would be, shall we say, interesting? So, as with many garages, it simply became a store room tacked onto the side of the house. We filled a skip with unwanted items from the garage. It had become full of crap – no other word for it! That’s how most garages are I think – certainly if you look around the village, those who actually put cars on their garages are the exception.

With improved security in the form of new doors all round, fully insulated and fitted out with full electrics it’s slowly becoming a perfectly habitable room. And a skip’s worth of rubbish and clutter showed how little of the stuff stored within we actually needed.

First on the 2018 list is to get the room completely finished!


Well, without baseboards we’re not going to have much of a layout. A friend has offered to build these when we’re ready which is fantastic! There was something about being his “weathering bitch” in return though!


There are a couple of key buildings for the layout I would like to actually start this year. The first is the control tower for controlling the access to and from Alkborough Steelworks at the exchange sidings at West Halton itself. The ones at Appleby-Frodingham are very ‘functional’ in appearance.

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

It’s not surprising that West Halton’s signal box is a particular part of the project to which I really looking forward. Signal boxes are real signature items and can, to the informed observer, really place a model in a certain part of the country. I’ve spent most of my career in signal boxes and they are like the heart and soul of the areas they over see and the small, local cabins are places where the signalmen, local P-Way, S&T and (in the case of a box overseeing a yard like here) shunters and train crew too. It’s  very much the focal point of the layout.

Normanby Park North Signal Box, 1983. Photographer unknown – if anyone knows the source I would love to be put in touch.


People are very much part of the project – hopefully as the layout progresses, it’ll also fulfil a social function too. Not as in furthering society of making the world a better place, but at least provide a good excuse for get togethers!

So I hope 2018 will be a good one.

Merry Christmas!

Class 37s at Barnetby – in the snow, it’s a little bit festive!

We’d like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas!

Hopefully you won’t be bothered by those annoying relatives too much nor have to suffer too many Shower Gel & Deodorant gifts sets or other similar presents!

And may the day bring you many train shaped gifts!

The Dragonby Pilot

The first of the pilot locos for West Halton, 08632 in BR blue.

One of the things which was a catalyst for the whole West Halton project was this photograph by Dr. Michael Rhodes. The location,  the run down nature of the line, the wagons, the brake van and, of course, the locomotives. Isn’t it a wonderful image? Thirty years since, the railway has changed forever.

An image taken from an article on the line from a rather old copy of RAIL Magazine – the operation in involving the local pilots is rather well illustrated here. Reproduced by kind permission of Dr Michael Rhodes.

It’s not that long since diesel shunters on trip workings were a common sight all over the country – a very traditional scene of a small loco on a short distance workings. The 8K77 trip from Knottingley was about the very last of its type. However with modern wagons, the class 08/09 takes a long time to produce sufficient air to get the brakes off. It makes it hard to justify the time for this and they are rather slow, even the class 09’s higher top speed of 27mph isn’t really able to keep up with other traffic.  However in the Scunthorpe area, especially on the old North Lindsey Light Railway, the lack of speed wasn’t really an issue!

08632 is seen at Scunthorpe Yard. Photo courtesy of John Turner.

The base for the first of a small fleet of class 08s is a Bachmann model, one of the very first releases. At the time of its release, it was quite an advance on what had gone before – its slow speed performance was far better then the Lima model and it was much more refined too. However it wasn’t without room for improvement.

The model in its unpainted form – the door overlays are easily seen, along with the new springs from Tim Horn and the replacement front step assembly.

The handrails were chunky, the bodyside doors lacked either the external hinges of the wooden doors or the ‘stepped’ nature the pressed steel doors and the front steps aren’t wide enough. None of these are difficult to rectify at all.

I modified the various cabinets to replicate those which 08632 carried – obviously with free choice of the base model this work could all be saved, but if you already have the model, it gives you complete freedom over which variants you choose to model.

Gareth Bayer wrote an excellent article on model the class 13 in 4mm in Rail Express a few years back – issue 93. I’m aware that I’m not modelling a class 13 here, however Gareth did include a useful set of template for the overlays to allow the steel bonnet doors to be convincingly modelled. Simply by adding overlays of Evergreen 5 thou polystyrene sheet to the doors, the model is hugely improved. The handrails need to be removed from the doors but they are rather chunky so replacement is worthwhile anyway. Gareth’s suggestion for actually attaching the overlays is very good too – instead of the obvious method of using plastic solvent he suggests using superglue. The advantage of this is that solvent could so easily melt such thin plastic, all you need to ensure is you get the overlay in the correct place as there’s no second chance! Once set, running a small amount of solvent around the edges of the panels ensures they will be fully secured. The method works superbly and the result is very good indeed.

Having replaced the grab irons/handles on the doors with 0,33mm wire, I also decided to replace the main horizontal handrail – it’s a bit tricky but it looks a lot better than the moulded plastic versions which Bachmann supply. It’s little things like this which really make a difference I feel.

I had originally modified the front cabinet on the right hand side as per Gareth’s article but I never got round to adding the louvres. Since I’m fundamentally lazy when RT Models added an exhauster box to their range, I elected to use this. Whilst not quite as sharp as modifying in Plastikard, the resin casting is rather nice and very straightforward to add.

The loco in primer – the RT Models exhauster box can be seen towards the front of the loco.

Replacement wheels and cranks came from GibsonUltrascale offer an excellent drop in conversion set, however there is a long weight for Ultrascale products as  they are all produced to order. The quality is very, very good though which justifies the price and the timescale. Gibson wheels are available by return post, which helps for someone impatient like me! I also prefer steel tyres for loco wheels where possible.

The replacement Alan Gibson wheels fitted with Brassmasters’ balance weights.

In addition to the new wheels I have used Brassmaster’s replacement rods – also included are etched balance weights. These have both the front and rears, whilst you could easily ‘get away’ with just adding the fronts to the wheels, I used both and then infilled between them with Milliput to bulk them out and make them appear like they’re integral with the wheels. In the gloom I doubt this will be obvious, but I know it’s there.

The front steps came from an unusual source, the remains of an early teenage Crownline conversion. It didn’t work too well, but I learnt a lot from it; I was probably a little over ambitious to be honest but I’ve always liked to push myself in this sort of thing.  However, fast forward about twenty years and the box of parts left provided the basis for the front steps. The cab steps were just a flat etch and not worth using really, so I’ll look at fabricating these from brass strip. PH Designs produce an etch for the steps, which may well be worth looking into for future model. The Crownline connection doesn’t end here as another class 08 will be based on a Kitmaster body and Crownline chassis! Purely because I can!

The beginnings of another of the pilot locos for West Halton. An ancient Kitmaster kit for a 350hp diesel shunter and a Crownline chassis.

There’ll be more on this in the future. Along with other pilot locos.

As for 08632, it’s very much on the home straight – all painting has been completed. However there are still many details to add. Since the wasp stripes are not the easiest things to reproduce I have left off all details in this area to ease the task. SO lamps and their associated electrical conduits will need to be added, along with the pipework for the radiator, lamp irons and the front grille. In this case I’m using a spare Hornby item as it’s much finer than the Bachmann original. I also have the fun task of sorting out the pipework beneath the cab – as you can see below this is quite noticeable and something which Bachmann didn’t attempt at all. Hornby did with their later 08 and did so beautifully.

Rear end detail of a typical class 08/09 locomotive.

I do like using the Bachmann version as a basis for the conversion as it can be had quite cheaply second hand. If you don’t mind putting the work in, a tired example can be had at exhibitions for about thirty quid sometimes! I got one at the Hull MRS show for just this much in November. If you model in 00 and aren’t replacing the wheels, you could have the whole project for under forty pounds. Even in P4 or EM you could keep it to around sixty which is great value!

Further Reading

Rail Model Digest Preview Issue – Old, Dirty & Slow – Going Over the Hump with the 08’s by Tim Shackleton
Model Railway Journal 124 – 08 Update by Tim Shackleton
Bachmann/Brassmasters/Shawplan Trinity 08

Industrial Grot

Shelfie2 by Paul Marshall-Potter. Photo courtesy of Paul.

It probably hasn’t gone unnoticed that I like drawing attention to the those modellers whose work inspires or fascinates me. Some of it has nothing to do with the era or area that West Halton covers so not everything will get an airing here but here is something which very much will.

Paul Marshall-Potter’s Shelfie2 which is a follow up to the original Shelfie. Both are small space (Shelfie being very much minimum space) but neither looks cramped nor lacks operational interest – my little boy had a little session with Shelfie a couple of years back at Warley and it has lead to him wanting a layout like it. Not a toy-like roundy-roundy but a proper model railway.

And Shelfie2 is looking very good too, but what I love about this shot is the grot on the ground. Filthy, old ballast and all sorts of crap and dirt which is just what think of when when it comes to industrial lines. Just how I remember my time working on industrial railways, in particular Scunthorpe Steelworks. It looks superb, doesn’t it?! More details here.

Do have a look at all of Paul’s Albion Yard blog if you can – it’s rather good.

The Ultimate Model of a Diesel?

Model Railway Journal No. 188

Nearly nine years ago Chris Pendlenton described his build of a beautiful model of a Deltic using a Bachmann model as a base with Brian Hanson’s then quite recent Deltic etches from the Shawplan Extreme Etchings range in Model Railway Journal, issues 188 and 189. I first saw the model on Brian’s stand at Scaleforum in 2008 and I was hugely impressed and inspired by it.

Chris Pendlenton’s superb Deltic

At the time this was ground breaking – springing had been mentioned on the net and website of the Central London Area Group of the Scalefour Society has covered it in depth but this was the first time it had been covered, to my knowledge, in a mainstream magazine for a mainline diesel locomotive. It’s another benchmark for me – a loco which looks and performs wonderfully.

The final photo is ‘borrowed’ from MRJ and to me shows just how good Chris Pendleton’s modelling is. He’s one modeller I greatly admire and just wish my modelling was half as good as his!

And clearly this has influenced my approach since – admittedly Chris is a more skilled engineer than I am (just read his articles to see what I mean). I’ve made much use of PenBits  bogies rather than relying on my own devices. But why not when we now have such amazing kit available?!

The Pendlenton influence – my Class 37/5, no. 37514 – a Bachmann model rebuilt with a whole host of Shawplan parts running on PenBits sprung bogies.

Too often in the hobby there seems to be a negative response to suggestions of doing things yourself and pushing your own modelling. Ignorant people use the term ‘rivet counter’ to dismiss those who strive for accuracy and authenticity – the very same people will dismiss Model Railway Journal as being elitist for no reason other than it’s content of those pushing the boundaries.

So instead of attacking those who do seek to improve their modelling with every model they build, building models to finer standards, pushing their existing skills whilst developing new ones, why don’t all as a whole embrace this as a wonderful and vibrant part of the hobby?