Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Health And Safety

To make sure you don't get bored reading about my attempts to build a 12 ton coal wagon I thought I'd post a photo I took at Middleton Railway during their 200 Years of Steam Gala.

Now given this was attached to a static exhibit, I think only the last warning actually applies. Had the engine been in steam then the most important warning was missing: assume everything in the cab is burning hot!

Priming The Wagon

Having assembled the Parkside Dundas kit of a 7 plank, 12 ton open coal wagon (see this post) the next step was to prepare it for painting by weighting the wagon and priming the surface.

Whilst I don't want the wagon to be so heavy that it can't be pulled or pushed along the track it does need to be heavy enough to ensure that it stays on the rails. The plastic kit is very light and when pushed around my layout (I was using the Pug to push it) it would derail at every set of points. Essentially the bumps in the track cause it to lift clear of the rails and when gravity takes over, more often than not it doesn't return cleanly. When I was younger lightweight models were made heavier with big chunks of lead -- my model of Flying Scotsman has a big chunk in the tender. Unfortunately lead isn't really good for you and so the powers that be have made it difficult to buy. Fortunately there is an alternative that is actually easier to use.

One of the problems with using lead to weight a model was finding somewhere to put it. As I haven't yet decided if I want to model the wagon as full or empty I don't want to put a weight inside it. This means any weight has to be added underneath where there isn't really much space. The modern/safe alternative to lead is Liquid Gravity (I can't find a sensible page from the manufacturer so I'm using the page from my local model shop where I actually bought some). Essentially Liquid Gravity is lots of very small yet heavy metal balls that easily flow and fill small areas and holes which you seal in place using superglue. Given the layout of the underneath of the wagon it was easy to add quite a bit of weight without affecting the appearance.

Once weighted down the next step was to use primer to ready the model for painting.

As you can probably tell from the photos I'm using an aerosol can of Humbrol grey primer for this job. Having never tried to spray paint anything before I'm actually quite happy with the result. It took almost no time, compared with doing it with a paintbrush, and it's a much more even coat than painting would have produced. The only downside being that I forgot to mask off the brass holes for the wheels so these will need cleaning up before the model will run smoothly but that shouldn't be too much of an issue (I hope).

The next step will be to paint the wagon.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pugs: Small Yet Perfectly Formed

Now clearly if I can refer to a pug as perfectly formed I'm not talking about the weird looking breed of dog! In Scotland the term pug was used to refer to any small shunting locomotive, but in England when used to describe a steam engine it usually refers to a class of 0-4-0ST originally built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR).

These small shunting locomotives were designed by John Aspinall to work in confined areas, such as docks, where larger engines were unable to cope with the tight curves etc. The first of the class appeared in 1891 and 57 were eventually built with the last batch entering service in 1910. The last Pug was withdrawn from service in 1964. This time range runs right through the period I'd been thinking about modelling (see this previous post) and so seemed like an ideal engine to acquire.

So I hunted around and managed to pick up Hornby's most recent model (R3024) from eBay (new, boxed and at a significantly reduced price). This model has appeared in both LMS and BR liveries over the years with numerous cab numbers (the model itself has a weird history in that the tooling for it was originally developed by Airfix, was then sold to Dapol and is now produced by Hornby). This specific model represents BR number 51240 which was one of 20 built in 1910 and originally ran as L&YR number 8. It was numbered 11240 under LMS ownership and was eventually withdrawn in April of 1957 (all this information comes from the brilliant book Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Locomotives by Barry C. Lane).

It's a wonderful model, that really is small compared to anything else I own -- it's just 8.5cm long, about the same length as the 12 ton coal waggon I'm building. In fact it's so small that unfortunately the motor can be seen in the cab as Hornby were unable to fit it within the boiler like they do with most of their models. Still, I really like it and I can imagine building a goods yard or dock side area into a layout just to have a good reason to run it frequently.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

12 Tons of Coal

While you can build a model railway using just off the shelf ready-to-run locomotives and rolling stock, there are plenty of kits available that allow you to expand your railway in interesting ways. As I mentioned in a previous post, depending on the time period I choose to model I might have to at least re-paint some ready-to-run models even if I don't have to resort to building kits.

My previous experience of building kits was with Airfix aeroplanes as a child. While the models usually went together alright the painting and finishing usually left a lot to be desired. Given this I decided it was probably sensibly to buy a cheap kit to see if my skills had improved over the years before possibly moving on to building expensive locomotive kits.

So my first real foray into railway modelling is a 7 plank, 12 ton coal wagon using a kit from Parkside Dundas. This design dates from 1923 and so doesn't quite cover the entire period I might wish to model, but it's a good starting point. As you can see so far my progress is okay. It still needs some cleaning up (including levelling the buffers a little looking at the photo) and then it needs weighting (it's so light if I try and push it around the track it jumps off at every set of points), some gaps filled with putty, priming, painting, transfers applying, and finally varnishing. In other words there is an awful long way to go yet so you can safely expect a few more posts as hopefully it turns into an acceptable model.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sweeping Up Before A Royal Visit

In the last post I mentioned that I already owned one OO gauge LNER locomotive and one LMS locomotive. You've already seen the LNER locomotive, Flying Scotsman, but I thought I'd show you the LMS locomotive. There are two reasons for showing you this model next; it's one of the few models, other than Flying Scotsman, that I know is actually mine, and it's the only one that required replacement parts to get running again.

When I asked my Dad to lift the trains out of their loft I wasn't sure if he would simply hand everything off to me but I did ask if he could at least find Flying Scotsman and the Duchess. Strangely I could have sworn that the model was of the Duchess of Hamilton, but it turned out that it's actually the Duchess of Abercorn (this just shows how long since I last had them running that I can't remember their names). This model has been well used for two reasons. Firstly it was the only model I had with working head lamps -- there is a bulb in the front and the light is carried to the lamps through clear plastic, and secondly as I also own a working mail train in LMS livery (it collects and delivers mail bags and will I'm sure be the subject of a future post).

The Duchesses (officially known as Coronation Class locomotives) were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives ever built for the UK rail network; according to Wikipedia The Duchess of Abercorn holds the record at 3333hp. Interestingly they were more powerful than the diesel locomotives that replaced them when steam was removed from the rail network in 1968. Unfortunately, even after lubrication and a little grease, my model of Duchess of Abercorn could hardly move herself along the track, and couldn't pull a single coach.

The Hornby model (number R305) is unfortunately one of a number of tender driven locomotives I own. For some reason they never seem to be as reliable as those with the engine mounted inside the boiler. As the head lamps were lighting up I knew power was being collected but she stubbornly refused to move properly. After comparing the motor to another tender drive locomotive I noticed that the copper disk was actually black. It turns out that the carbon brushes had worn almost completely down, and while the springs which hold them in place were ensuring an electrical connection the build of carbon on the motor was such that not enough power was available to drive the motor. Fortunately this was relatively easy to fix. I ordered replacement brushes (from the New Moddellers) at a total cost of £2.50 and cleaned the motor using a little bit of nail polish remover on a cotton wool bud. I don't think she is running as well as she used to (once I'd cleaned the motor disk I could see that it is badly scratched and probably needs replacing) but she can now pull a rake of coaches around the track without too many problems.

If you want to know more about the Duchesses then I can recommend reading The Duchesses by Andrew Roden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Which, When and What Colour?

As I mentioned in the first post on this blog, there is a railway line at the bottom of our garden. Twice an hour a train rumbles slowly past. Northbound, it first calls at Penistone station before heading onwards to Huddersfield. Southbound it heads for Barnsley before continuing on to Sheffield. Nowadays all the trains are operated by Northern Rail, but for a number of reasons I wanted to know which companies used to run steam trains along the line.

The railway first arrived in Penistone with the opening in 1845 of the Woodhead Line linking Manchester with Sheffield. This line was built by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. In 1850 the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway built a connection to Penistone from Huddersfield, although it wasn't until 1874 that and a new joint station was built.

Over the years these two railway companies changed their names a number of times as they expanded and merged with other railways, until 1948 when the railways were nationalised forming the single company of British Railways. As far as I can tell this means that at one time or another the following companies all ran steam locomotives along the line at the bottom of our garden.

  • Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne, and Manchester Railway (SA&MR)
  • Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway (MS&LR)
  • Yorkshire and Lancashire Railway (L&YR)
  • Great Central Railway (GCR)
  • London and North Western Railway (LNWR)
  • London, Midland and Scotland (LMS)
  • London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)
  • British Railways (BR)

So that's the which and when of the blog title but what about the colour? There are two reasons I'm interested in the liveries of the locomotives that would have passed the house. Firstly, although I haven't yet come to any firm decisions about the OO gauge layout I want to build, I do know that I'd like it to be accurate with regards to a specific time period. Knowing which companies locomotives were likely to be seen on the same stretch of track during a given time period would therefore be useful. Secondly our house doesn't have it's number displayed by the front door (there is an empty plaque so I assume the previous owner took theirs with them for some reason) and, given the location of the house, I'd like someday to have a number plaque showing a steam locomotive and it would be nice if that was accurate as well.

So I've put together the following timeline which shows how the two railway companies, which originally brought lines to Penistone, changed over the years. The colour represents the livery of the locos. Of course during later years most companies had a number of liveries (nearly all used black with some lining for freight locos), but I've only attempted to show the colour most strongly associated with each company.

I already own one LNER, one LMS, and three BR locomotives so in theory I should probably focus on those time periods. I do quite fancy having a go at modelling the L&YR and GCR period though. Unfortunately there aren't any ready-to-run locomotives available in L&YR livery and only one in GCR (an exclusive model of Butler Henderson produced for the National Railway Museum) so I'd have to do at least some re-painting. I might try and design a layout that would happily suit any period from 1897 onwards, allowing me to change the time period based on which locomotives I wanted to run. I'm not sure how feasible that is, but any suggestions would be welcome.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Caledonian Belle

When I made the decision to retrieve the train set from my parents loft (I should note that not every locomotive or piece of rolling stock is mine, although I'm currently giving them a home) I knew that I'd need at least some new track. Our old layout is still nailed to the board behind the wardrobe and I while I could convince/persuade my Dad to lift a few boxes down from the loft I didn't think he'd really want to spend hours unpinning track. Also after 15 or so years of not being used I have a feeling that the old track will need a really good clean before it's used.

As I don't yet have a permanent home for my layout, and I'm not sure what shape it will eventually take, the obvious solution seemed to be to buy the cheapest Hornby train set I could as this would give me some track, a controller, a new loco, and some rolling stock.

Having had a hunt around I settled on the Caledonian Belle set which I bought from Amazon at a ridiculously reduced price (the price on Amazon varies but I saved over £20 compared with Hornby's RRP). As the set only contains a very basic oval and I really wanted a siding as well I bought Track Pack A (again from Amazon, and with their crazy discounts I actually got both the set and track pack for less than the full price of the set alone).

So on the afternoon of Wednesday the 20th of June 2012 I took over the dinning table (actually a fake top we place on the dinning table so we can seat more than four people -- this gives me a working area of exactly 6 foot by four foot) and got ready to run my first model train in over 15 years. It was great! I'd forgotten just how relaxing watching a small model train go round and round a simple oval could be.

Interestingly when I eventually got around to unpacking the old locomotives I found that we already had a Caledonian 0-4-0ST locomotive (Hornby R.057) and carriage (Hornby R.219). Here you can see both the old and new models.

As you can see both the locomotive and carriage are painted in very different liveries. Having had a look at photos from the Caledonian Railway Association, I'd say that the older models (on the right) are a better representation. Not only is the locomotive more detailed (e.g. wire handrails and the coat of arms) and painted in the early light blue colour scheme, but the coach uses colours also seen in original photos and paintings. The newer coach, painted in blue, might better match the painting of the new locomotive in the darker blue livery (which also seems accurate) but it doesn't seem to match with any carriages used on the old Caledonian Railway. I'm guessing that, with a starter set aimed more at children getting into the hobby than adults with a historical interest, Hornby went for aesthetics over accuracy - I'm not very good at picking complimentary colours but even I find the old coach and locomotive combination a little jarring.

Friday, July 6, 2012

200 Years Of Steam

When I was growing up the closest place I could be taken to see steam engines in action was Middleton Railway (Google Maps recons it's a 3.5 mile, nine minute car drive from my parents house).

The railway opened in 1758 using horse drawn waggons to pull thousands of tons of coal a year from the Middleton Colliery into the heart of Leeds. In 1812 it moved from horse drawn waggons to became the first railway in the world to successfully use steam locomotives in a commercial environment. Middleton Railway also has a more recent history of firsts when, in 1960, it became the first completely volunteer operated society to run passenger services on a standard gauge railway. For a more detailed history see the societies own history page.

To celebrate 200 years of steam locomotives working on the line, a few weekends ago they hosted a large steam gala, with all their operational steam engines in action as well as a number of visiting locomotives. It was the first time I'd visited the railway in at least twenty years so a lot had changed. Firstly, when I used to visit the ticket office and shop was a tiny little cabin at the edge of the car park, now it's housed inside a purpose built engine shed and museum which houses some of the locomotives I remember, although now as static exhibits awaiting overhaul. I'm intending to write about some of the locomotives in separate posts, but for this post I thought I'd show you the country's oldest operational steam locomotive: Furness Railway No. 20. It was built in 1863 by Sharp Stewart & Co. of Manchester making it 149 years old and still going strong (although it has had numerous bits replaced in that time). A perfect visitor for the 200 Years of Steam gala event.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cautionary Tale No. 4472 [Part V]

Given that my interest in steam trains started with the Flying Scotsman, I thought it was only right to have the first interesting post on this blog be a continuation of Cautionary Tale No. 4472 (you can read parts I-IV here, here, here, and here).

So having finally retrieved my trains from my parents loft I can now show you the model that started it all. I received this model as a Christmas present from my parents way back in 1982. Unfortunately, as you will know if you've read the previous parts of this tale, I was too ill (a bout of childhood asthma) to actually move off the chair and play with it.

Given that it's at least 15 years since I last ran any of my model trains I was amazed that after a few drops of oil and a little light greasing Flying Scotsman pulled away from the station. I'm not sure if it's able to go quite as fast as it once did, but that might be down to the controller I'm using (I'm not overly impressed by Hornby's new starter controller but I'll leave that for a future post). The important thing is that it's running well enough to be enjoyed.

Having now taken it apart to give it a long over due clean (something I don't think it's ever had) I can tell you that it's a Hornby R.855 model. According to Hornby Railways Collector Guide this model was last included in the catalogue in 1977, so I'm guessing that either it had been sat around in a model shop for a while or it was bought second-hand. The second-hand option is more likely as I know that's how we obtained a number of the other locomotives and also I can't ever remember there being a box with it. Either way it was a wonderful present. I can't imagine that many people have a childhood Christmas present that they still really enjoy playing with 30 years later!

Every Story Has A Beginning

I've been interested in steam trains for as long as I can remember. I've previously blogged about my association with Flying Scotsman (here, here, here, and here) which started with me getting a Hornby train set one Christmas that I was too ill to play with. From playing with a model train I quickly moved on to wanting to see steam engines in real life and family holidays would often include a trip to a preserved steam railway, and I even spent my birthday in 2004 behind Flying Scotsman. While this all may be interesting you may be wondering why, given it's been a life long interest, I'm suddenly starting a new blog on the subject.

Over the last few years a number of things have combined that have led to this new blog. Firstly after buying our house in 2009, I now find myself with a railway at the bottom of the garden; the Penistone Line between Huddersfield and Sheffield. It turns out that during the age of steam the area around Penistone had it's fair share of accidents and I've been slowly looking into them (not full on historical research, I don't have that much free time) including buying a number of old photos.

Last year for my birthday (can you spot a pattern here) I was treated to a driver experience session on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. This saw me drive The Earl on a full return journey along the wonderful railway (I've blogged about this in detail before as well, although there may well be more posts). Given the title of this blog I'm using a photo from that day as the background, where you can see me through the cab window. It was a fantastic afternoon, and something that I'd jump at the chance to do again.

A month or so ago my parents bought new bedroom furniture. This meant they sorted through all the stuff that had been stored in the wardrobes including the hundreds of slides my Dad took as I was growing up. There were a lot of duplicate photos and so I've gained a whole bunch of slides showing a wide variety of steam trains, both on mainline tours and preserved railways.

The final piece of the jigsaw brings us back full circle to a Hornby train set. I've finally taken all the trains, which were stored in my parents loft for the last 15 to 20 years, and set up a basic oval of track on the dinning table. I'm in the process of cleaning each locomotive and getting them to run again (they were well stored but they all need the gears greasing and the wheels cleaning). When I was a child the railway was laid out permanently on a large piece of chipboard which lived behind the wardrobe. Running trains meant sliding it out and then laying it on my bed. Given the gap behind the wardrobe this meant that the track had to be flat, no gradients, and there wasn't room for any fixed scenery (we did have some buildings that were placed on the layout when in use). Given this I've always fancied building a more complex model railway, so once I have everything clean and working I might turn my hand to some modelling -- probably starting with some small dioramas to check I'm actually capable!

So what can you expect from this blog. Well I envisage it being a mixture of historical posts, based on what I'm learning about Penistone as well as my Dad's slides, modern trips to preserved railways, and some modelling. Of course I'm sure some of the posts will be a mixture.