Category Archives: Professional Modelmaker

L&YR Class 5 2-4-2T

The Aspinall Class 5 2-4-2T locomotives were introduced to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway from 1889. Built at the company’s Horwich works, the locos were used for passenger traffic, mainly commuter work, around the Manchester area for their entire working lives.

Various modifications and upgrades were done to the class over their lives. Boilers were improved, the bunkers extended for some lots, and some were fitted with apparatus that let them work as pull-and-push engines on trains. This was a system that let the driver operate the main controls remotely from a specially-designed cab at the end of the train, and avoided the need to run the loco round its train at terminus stations.

The Class 5s, reclassified as 2P when the L&Y was absorbed into the LMS in 1924, worked on until the 1950s. A few of the class survived into the 1960s, and one has been preserved in the National Collection and can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York.

The model was built as a commission. It is to a constant 1/43rd scale, 7mm to one foot, and features fully working inside motion within the frames. The basic kit was good, but needed some help in various areas. The finished model is shown in the LMS passenger livery that was used from about 1926 to 1945 or so.

If you’re a regular reader, you will know I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions to build railway subjects in the main. Once the current crop of loco builds are through the works, I shall be concentrating on passenger and non-passenger rolling stock, as I find building locos is a bit of a chore and doesn’t give the level of satisfaction a good coach build does.

Considering the future

I miss blogging regularly. I enjoyed the process of selecting images, writing the text, editing the thing, and hitting Publish. What went wrong?

Well, for one thing, this WordPress installation is on the blink. I should fix it, but I don’t know how and really don’t have the time or inclination. I keep hoping each update of the back office stuff will improve things, but it never does. It’s been so long now I’ve forgotten what is actually broken and how to fix it if I try to make it work again.

So, I tend not to bother. And the blog languishes for lack of content.

Another thing has been the state of my mental health. Since that ruddy “B” thing, with the huge amount of commissioned work I foolishly took on and can’t cope with, I’ve been on the way down quite severely. Some days over the past year or so I’ve found it hard to even function. The first step was to acknowledge I had a problem, and the next step was to roll with it and find coping mechanisms. I think it’s under control, but occasionally it catches me off guard. There’s no point my adding to the general screaming that’s going on, even if it makes me feel better for a while. The blog, therefore, remains mute.

As a way of helping the mental health, I killed my Facebook account (again) at the end of 2018. I really don’t miss it. No, really. You ought to try it.

I’ve been trying to deal with the modelling work backlog. I think it’s beginning to make more sense again. Not a lot has been completed, but I have a lot on its way through the workshop.

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

This brute did emerge, finally in 2018. The model represents the preserved GWR Collett 2251 Class loco No 3205, with one of the tenders it runs with in preservation, but as it ran when new in 1946. All clear? Thought not! After a painful gestation, the model was finally shipped to its new home in Australia. While I like the finished model, I am very glad to see it go.

There are still umpteen commission builds being worked on and pending. I’ve closed my order book for another year in the vain hope I might get on top of things eventually.

Meanwhile, I cheer myself up by building plastic aeroplanes.

This thing is the Fairey Rotodyne. The prototype flew in the late 1950s, and was all set to take the world by storm until various mergers ended up with the project being scrapped. The model is built from an Airfix 1/72nd scale kit, the original moulds for which date to 1959. It really doesn’t fit into my themed collection, but I built it to join into a group build on a modelling forum. It was a lot of fun at a time when I was feeling particularly low.

This bizarre little contraption is an Avro C.30 Rota, built in the UK under licence from Cierva. It’s an autogyro, which works by having a free-spinning rotor that isn’t powered by a motor. A small rotary engine at the front of the aircraft provided thrust, and the rotor could be spun up to provide lift for take-off. This 1/72nd scale model is from an RS Models kit, and represents the type used by the RAF for calibrating the RDF stations. Part of my ever-growing 1940 collection.

Another RS Models kit, this time of a Marcel Bloch MB-152. As part of my 1940 obsession I’ve been acquiring examples of planes flown by air forces other than Britain and Germany. I’m working slowly through my French collection, starting with the single-seat fighters that operated during the Battle of France between May and June 1940.

Morane-Saulnier MS.406C-1, a 1/72nd scale kit from Azur.

From HobbyBoss, this is a 1/72nd scale Dewoitine D.520C-1

Finally, this A Model 1/72nd kit is of a Curtiss Hawk H-75A-2. All the French planes here were flown by aces credited with shooting down multiple enemy aircraft during the Battle of France.

So, there you are. A quick update on life at Snaptophobic Towers. I might decide to update more often, I might not. I might decide to move the blog to another platform—again. I might not. Who can tell. Equally, it’s entirely on the cards that a physical move of location from the lower right hand corner of Blighty to somewhere a bit more near the top might happen—but don’t hold your breath.

Life must still go on

Despite the real world continuing to have a nervous breakdown, life here at Snaptophobic Towers must go on. After my little breakdown, I’ve been steadily getting back into the workbench swing, and have just completed a set of five 7mm scale coaches.

Although the build had its moments, I am very pleased with how these models turned out. The crimson and cream livery really suits these coaches. They represent British Railways standard coaches built in the early 1950s. A pair of BSK Brake Second Corridor coaches will top and tail a CK Composite Corridor and SK Second Corridor, with a BG Brake Guard which can be added as the mood suits.

The models are built from Easy-Build kits. Four had been partly built by the client, so I was tasked with completing them, with an additional kit added later. I’ve added a few details, but essentially the finished items are made from what came in the box.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in British railway subjects generally at 1/43rd scale (7mm to the foot). You can follow me on Twitter and—for now—Facebook, and I also have a web site that gets some love occasionally. I’m not currently seeking new commissions, but I am always happy to discuss potential work.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

Most of the commissioned models I’ve been involved with since I started this professional modelling game have been of a distinctly western aspect. I have three Great Western Railway and ex-GWR locos done and dusted and several more to come, two sets of coaches, and what can sometimes seem like an endless stream of broad gauge models. In between there have been one or two models of other railway companies, but this is my first “proper” one from the eastern side.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

This came to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This means my client had made a start on building the kit, but for some reason or another had stumbled along the way resulting in the kit being returned to its box and placed on a shelf. I openly admit I have my own shelf containing many such kits, where perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew, or something was catastrophically wrong with the thing so it was all but unbuildable. A price was agreed, and the box plus supporting research material was duly handed over.

The J6 Class was an updated version of an earlier loco, dating from the 1900s. Originally designed as a mixed traffic type for the Great Northern Railway, the second series of the locos, known as the 536 series after the assigned running number of the first one to be built, eventually ran to 95 examples. They changed little over their lives, the most notable changes being in the tenders to which they were coupled. The last examples were scrapped in the early 1960s.

The commission was to build a loco with a number my client had actually “spotted” in his youth. As it turned out, that particular loco couldn’t be built from the kit, as it had a different tender, but we ended up with 64253—also spotted back in the day. The real loco was based at Hornsey shed in north London in the late 1950s, so that’s how the model has been completed.

It’s important, sometimes, to know your limitations. Mine tend to be complex paintwork and complex mechanical things. In this case the paintwork was easy—plain black—but the client asked if it might be possible to fit a set of fully working inside motion. That, as some might say, is beyond my pay grade, so I commissioned a friend and excellent modeller to build the loco chassis for me. 64253 has a lovely set of Stephenson’s motion installed, and rather splendid it looks, too, waggling about under the boiler.

The rest of the kit, marketed under the Gladiator Models label and designed by Fourtrack Models, went together fairly well. It was originally designed for a smaller scale, and the photo tools for the etched parts suffered a little from the enlargement process to 7mm to the foot scale. Most etched holes, such as those for handrail knobs and parts of the braking system, suffered from being slightly over size. The boiler had been rolled into a cylinder by the manufacturer, but unfortunately had been done inside out and had to be flattened and re-rolled! I had to make some replacement parts from scratch due to poor fitting. Overall, though, nothing too taxing.

The client requested a clean satin black finish, as he wants to weather the model himself. We agreed that I should partially weather the loco and tender chassis and wheels in order to avoid having to disassemble things later. I also partially weathered the coal space in the tender before filling it with some coal.

The smokebox number and shed plates, and the Great Northern Railway works plates, were custom etched by Narrow Planet. The works plates are completely legible, and are correct for the loco’s original GNR number and build date. Some detail parts, and parts of the inside motion, were sourced from Laurie Griffin and Connoisseur Models.

All in all, building this smart little engine has been an interesting departure from my usual fare. I am quite pleased at how it turned out, and I hope it gives many years of good service to its new owner.

British Railways Diesel Electric Co-Co 10001 (redux)

The so-called LMS Twins, a pair of 1,600hp diesel electric locomotives that had been designed and built at the British Railways Locomotive Works at Derby in 1947–48, were proper prototypes. They were both right at the leading edge of railway design of the time, and needed to be thoroughly tested. By 1953, both locos had been updated and modified, and were moved to the Southern Region for more testing. They were joined by their larger cousins, 10201, 10202 and 10203, designed by the former CME of the Southern Railway, OVS Bulleid.

By the end of the 1950s, diesel traction was entering the BR fleet in numbers, and the prototype diesels were moved back to Derby make it easier for maintenance. Relegated to secondary duties, and painted in less flamboyant liveries, all five prototypes were eventually withdrawn and scrapped. 10001 lingered at Derby until 1966. Sadly, none of these locos was considered worthy of adding the national collection. There is an organisation trying to build a recreation 10000, the pioneer loco from 1947.

This commission build was to make a representation of 10001 as it appeared in 1953. Various updates and modifications were made to the Just Like The Real Thing kit, such as revised roof grilles and the air horn brackets this loco featured until 1954. The client requested a light weathering, so I’ve aimed for grubby but cared for. The bogies showed the grime a lot, being finished in an aluminium silver paint, so I’ve concentrated dirt round there.

This is my second 10001 build. The previous one represented the loco in its as-built 1948 condition.

Another model completed

GWR pannier tank locomotive rear three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive front three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive in profile

It was meant to be a relatively quick build, but as with most such things on my workbench it got a bit bogged down at times. The client requested the finish to have the late BR totem, weathering to represent a cared-for but working engine.

The model was built to a scale of 1/43rd (7mm to 1ft) from a Just Like The Real Thing mixed media kit, and is to finescale O Gauge standards. The number and shed plates are from Severn Mill Nameplates. The tools on the bunker are from Laurie Griffin Miniatures, the bucket from DJH Models. The cast crew figures are from various sources.

In case you hadn’t realised, I am a professional model maker, specialising in railway subjects. Although I’m happy to quote for new commissions, I have actually closed my order book until 2019, as I am in the happy position of having lots of work in hand. You can look at some of my work, and find out more about me, on my web site. I’m also on Twitter (@HKModelmaker) and Facebook.

British Railways Co-Co 10001

I’ve always had a particular fondness for the pioneer British mainline diesels. Actually, let’s put it another way: I’ve always had a particular fondness for one-offs, oddities and prototypes. The latest commission to leave the workbench definitely falls into the latter category.

In 1946, the London, Midland & Scottish Railway—at the time the largest company in the world—was looking to the future. Britain’s railways had effectively been ground into the dust as everyone and everything focused on winning a world war. The board of the railway agreed to invest cash in a speculative test of two diesel electric locomotives. Designs were drawn up in the Derby Works drawing office, and a partnership formed with English Electric, whose experience would furnish the power plant, electrical and control equipment. While diesels were commonplace in the United States, and much of that country’s experience was called upon, a design was created that set the standard for UK mainline diesel locos for many decades to come.

Finished in a striking black and silver livery, the first loco to emerge from the works was 10000. It’s sibling was held back to ensure the LMS could extract as much publicity for its new machines as possible—just as Britain’s railways were nationalised. 10000, in fact, was unveiled to the public and press in early December 1947. After a few test runs and jaunts for the press, the unfinished loco returned to Derby for completion and certain improvements. Meanwhile, in early 1948, 10001 appeared with slightly less fanfare.

Both locos continued to be updated and modified throughout their careers. They worked the Midland Region routes on a variety of trains, both singly and as a pair (termed working “in multiple”, where one driver could operate both units from a single cab). In the early 1950s, both locos were despatched to the Southern Region, where they were again tested on various trains. By the late 1950s, diesel traction was becoming more commonplace and eventually, being prototypes and non-standard, both locomotives were withdrawn. 10000 was scrapped in 1963, while 10001 lingered at the Derby works until 1966.

The model represents 10001 as it was delivered to British Railways in 1948. It has been built, to a scale of 7mm to the foot (1/43rd), using reference materials published by Wild Swan and a kit from Just Like The Real Thing. A cosmetic diesel engine has been installed, and the cabs have been detailed and painted as accurately as possible. Various other details have been added to make this model as true to the original as I could make it, though there have been some inevitable compromises made along the way. The model was commissioned by a client to match with his existing model of 10000. The latter model has also been remotored and given updated electronics, and both models have been tested together as a pair.

Oddly, I have another model of 10001 under construction. This time, it’s as the loco appeared in 1953, so there will be some subtle external differences, although still in the striking black and silver livery.

On a personal note, you will have noticed my blogging has been quiet of late. The state of the world, you’d think, would give me plenty to rant about. You would be correct, of course, but for the sake of my mental and physical health I am trying my best to keep the world at arm’s length. You should hear what I bellow at the television “news”, mind you! I also have had one or two issues with the WordPress installation, and I may need to think about extending my allocated server space. With plenty of other things on my plate, I’m afraid this blog has been rather neglected.

I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions for, in the main, 7mm scale model railway subjects. I have a full order book for the rest of 2017, and I’m already taking commissions for 2018. You can see some examples of my work on my web site, and if you like you can follow my antics on that Facebook thing.

That time again!

It’s September, so that means it’s Guildex, the annual shindig of the Gauge O Guild at Telford. This year is a big one, because the Guild is celebrating their 60th birthday. For the past couple of years I have been a guest demonstrator as part of the Just Like The Real team. This year, I’m attending as a paying punter, for various reasons.

I do enjoy demonstrating at exhibitions. (By “demonstrating” I mean showing how I do things, rather than waving placards and shouting slogans!) Best Beloved and I were very regular exhibitors at model railway shows for many years, but we stepped back a little from the limelight when we did 14 exhibitions in a year. That’s a lot of weekends, when you think about it. We found we didn’t have time to prepare and repair the models before the next show was on us, so we called it a day.

Since I’ve been trying to build the modelmaking business, I’ve been keen to attend as many shows as I can. Most often I’m as a paying customer, but it is nice to be asked to be an exhibitor—if only because the parking gets a bit easier!

So, this year, I’m a visitor. As a Guild member, I’ve got a ticket for a measly fiver that lets me and Best Beloved visit the show on both days. As a wandering entity, I will be able to talk to more people, see more of the show, and generally cover more ground than when I’m tied to a demonstration table. Well, that’s the plan.

A 1/43rd scale MMP kit, built with modifications to include electric train heating and air braking equipment.

JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended E127 1st/3rd composite coach.

It also means I can meet clients and hand over completed models, like the ones above, as well as discuss new commissions and collect more boxes!

We don’t generally do holidays, but we treat this annual expedition to Shropshire as a short break. We will stay on for a couple of days, and do some sight-seeing. It’s a nice part of the world, and worth visiting without the attraction of a model railway exhibition. Of course, it means I’m currently in the panic stage, worrying about booking into the hotel, finding parking at the exhibition venue, whether we’ve forgotten something and so on. I’ve made a check list, but I bet there’s something obvious I shall forget, probably because I didn’t put it on the list!

More Collett Coaches

One of my earliest commissions, some years ago now, was to build three Collett coaches from Just Like The Real Thing kits. Who would believe another different client would commission three almost identical coaches a year or so later!

JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended E127 1st/3rd composite coach.
JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended E127 1st/3rd composite coach.

JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended C54 All Third coach.
JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended C54 All Third coach.

JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended D94 Brake Third coach.
JLTRT 7mm scale kit of a Collett 57ft Bow-ended D94 Brake Third coach.

These models are all to 1/43rd scale, 7mm to 1ft, and Finescale O Gauge. As they will run as a semi-permanent set, the client requested Kadee knuckle couplings between the vehicles, leaving the standard screw-link couplings at the outer ends. The livery is the first British Railways “blood and custard”, which was applied to gangwayed passenger stock from 1948 until 1956. Although virtually impossible to see, the interiors have been fitted out as authentically as possible, and the guard’s compartment is fully detailed as well.

In case you missed it—although it would be hard to do!—I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions to build chiefly UK-outline railway subjects to 7mm scale. You can see more about my work on my web site, follow me on Twitter (@HKModelmaker) and find my page on Facebook (search for @HeatherKModelmaker).

BR Mk1 RMB

The workshop has seen a few builds come to a conclusion—or near conclusion in one case—in the past couple of weeks. Sometimes I find commissioned work gets bogged down for various reasons, and oddly this seems to get worse the closer to completion a model gets. I can’t explain why, but it’s probably to do with lots of little bits and pieces, sub-assemblies and paint jobs all taking their time to come together.

Just completed, aside from one or two quality control issues that appeared after the appointment with the official photographer, is an etched brass kit of a Mk1 RMB (Restaurant Miniature Buffet). This has been a rather protracted build, due in part to ineptitude on my side, and it being a complex kit of several thousand components.

A 1/43rd scale MMP kit, built with modifications to include electric train heating and air braking equipment.

The model represents an RMB, dating from the early 1960s but still running in service in the early 1980s. The kit was adapted to show the modifications and upgrades made to the vehicles over the years. Modifications included strips down the sides of each door, designed to prevent corrosion, and the inclusion of air braking and electric train heating equipment in addition to the vacuum braking and steam heating.

A 1/43rd scale MMP kit, built with modifications to include electric train heating and air braking equipment.

The Diagram 99 Restaurant Miniature Buffet coach was built with Commonwealth bogies, weighed in at 38 tons, and could seat 44 passengers in two saloons either side of the bar area. The smaller saloon was designated as non-smoking from new. This particular vehicle was built at BR’s Wolverton Works in north Buckinghamshire in 1960 as part of Lot 30520, and it was originally allocated to the Scottish Region. The model is built to a scale of 1/43rd, 7mm to 1ft, and to ScaleSeven standards. A lot of research was needed to get the underframe details as accurate as possible, enhancing an already comprehensive kit.

A 1/43rd scale MMP kit, built with modifications to include electric train heating and air braking equipment.

This view shows some of the additional braking equipment fitted below the frames. The interior of the coach is also fully modelled—though, sadly, the client didn’t want scale representations of styrofoam cups, stale cheese sandwiches or concrete pork pies!

A 1/43rd scale MMP kit, built with modifications to include electric train heating and air braking equipment.

The buffer beam detailing was interesting and challenging, with the requirement to fit the extra air brake pipework and ETH sockets.

The kit’s designer knows the real thing intimately, and has managed to capture a lot of the subtle detailing of a Mk1 coach in his kit. It is probably safe to say this is about the most accurate Mk1 kit on the market today. As a build, it has been challenging, occasionally frustrating, but ultimately rewarding. There are parts I wish I could have done better, but that seems to always be the way with professional modelmaking.

I build railway models, mainly O Gauge (7mm scale), professionally. You can see more of my work, and read a little about what I do for a living, at my web site. I also have a Facebook page (@HeatherKModelmaker), and you can follow me on Twitter (search for @HKModelmaker).