Category Archives: Professional Modelmaker

Where does the time go?

Hello, remember me? I know. It’s been a long time, but I don’t always have time to keep the blog updated. When I worked at a desk, pushing pixels about all day, then it was easier. Now, I’m pushing bits of metal and plastic about at a workbench, and I rarely sit at the desk even to deal with my email!

So, what’s been happening since my last post? Quite a bit, really. I’ve almost completed two commissions, spent a weekend at a big model railway exhibition up in the Midlands—and came back home with three new commissions to add to the pile—and spent a bit of time sorting the house out.

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On the modelling front, I’ve been doing some personal stuff to do with my ongoing—lifetime? It seems like it!—Battle of Britain project. Airfix has been helping out in this 75th anniversary year by producing some useful vehicle kits (and a slew of new aircraft kits) in the correct scale, one of them being the towed oil bowser here. The tractor is from Flightpath, and was a fiddly but ultimately satisfying cast and etched kit of a Fordson tractor. I now notice Flightpath has introduced the bowser as well, complete with the tractor.

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A couple of kits that have been lurking around the bench for several years also saw some progress. The Albion refueller on the left is typical RAF airfield fodder from the early Second World War; the Crossley breakdown and workshop lorry is less so, but still makes a nice model. The difference between 1/72nd and 1/76th scales becomes apparent here, as the Crossley is the latter, which makes it slightly under scale compared to the Albion.

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Meanwhile, the L&YR Aspinall saddle tank was lettered up, by client request. I delivered it in this shiny form at Telford earlier this month, at the Gauge 0 Guild convention. I looked away and when I looked back it had been weathered by my fellow weekend demonstrator, who goes by the name “Dodgy” Manton. I ought to have taken a picture! A fine job he did, as well.

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This beast is a GWR 5200 Class 2-8-0T, which has been passed to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This is as far as my client got, so I really don’t have a lot to do to complete it.

(Famous last words…)

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At the other end of the GWR spectrum, another broad gauge 6-wheeler has rolled out of the works. It needs a little weathering, but is otherwise complete. My next build for this client is something a little larger, so watch this space.

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Another commission nearing completion is this WD 2-8-0. It’s a big old model, and is just waiting for me to pluck up the courage to make it look dirty. This type of loco was pretty famous for being anything but clean when in service, so I need to break out the weathering and get it looking used.

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Finally, a fairly ropey photo of an ex-GWR Crocodile G trolley wagon, which I built up from a kit I’ve had in the personal stash for several years. I realised I needed some completed models I could show when demonstrating at exhibitions, preferably ones which were going to hang around for a while and not be passed on to their proper owners as soon as they are finished! I have several wagon and coach models I plan to try and complete for showing off purposes, and pragmatically I have opted to build them to 0 Gauge fine scale rather than ScaleSeven, in case someone makes me an offer to buy.

As I have two almost complete builds now, I am considering which models come next in the pecking order. Currently on the bench is an early diesel loco, and I ought to consider beginning construction of three coaches that have also appeared. As I type, I have something like a year’s work, which is satisfying and scary at the same time.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in 7mm scale (0 gauge) models. I try to keep the showcase section of my web site updated regularly, and my Facebook page is also worth a peep if you are into that sort of thing.

Meanwhile…

Various workbench builds are moving slowly towards completion. The latest is a Just Like The Real Thing Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 0-6-0 saddle tank, built out of the box without any special Heather Kay extras as an exercise in updating the instructions.

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It’s too shiny, but that will be down to a potential new owner to sort out, hence the lack of company markings or loco number.

Time flies

Is it really a month since my last post? That’s what happens, I suppose, when you get busy.

By busy, I mean I have work stacking up. Client commissions enough to see me through this year and well into the first quarter of 2016. That kind of busy. I really don’t know how I will do it, but do it I must.

Latest over the bench has been a quick build, relatively speaking, of a 7mm scale BR Mk1 four-wheeled CCT. These vehicles were used for the conveyance of cars, parcels, you name it. Anything that needed to be carried at express speeds. The model depicts a typical CCT in the 1970s—though you will note no lettering or weathering: the client will complete the build, so it’s been finished ex-works.

JLTRT BR Mk1 CCT (1 of 2) JLTRT BR Mk1 CCT (2 of 2)

 

It was an interesting build, being relatively simple. With help from friends, I worked out what the brake rigging was supposed to look like, and sourced custom laser-cut glazing to improve the appearance. I think it turned out well.

Meanwhile, the Austerity 2-8-0 build is ongoing, and I am also doing an “out of the box” build of a loco kit to help with reworking the instructions. Of course, I haven’t mentioned the increasing pile of kits that are clamouring for my attention. I’d best be off and stop wasting my time on the internet!

While I’m here…

Austin

This little Austin 8hp saloon passed across the workbench as a brief excursion into something different.

Regular readers will know of my predilection for things 1940, and that I have been slowly building up various models to represent the aircraft of the Royal Air Force and Luftwaffe that took part in the Battle of Britain. The chosen scale has been 1/72nd, for space and consistency reasons and, while nothing concrete has happened yet, there are many plans for dioramas to display various aircraft. Dioramas need props, and I’m always on the lookout for suitable vehicles and buildings to help me.

This car kit was the right scale, and hails from the Czech Republic. I’ve built it to represent a civilian car of the period, rather than the military model it was intended to be. The whitewash marks and the hooded headlamp on the nearside are correct for the summer of 1940. I expect this model to be owned by an RAF pilot, parked near the dispersal area ready to speed him and his chums to a local town for some much-needed alcohol-based relaxation after a heavy day’s fighting.

The Austin 8hp “Four Lite” saloon was launched on the buying public in 1939, only to be virtually stifled by the outbreak of the second world war. Many were purchased by the War Office, and pressed into military service with the British Army as staff cars. Quite a few were taken to France in 1939, only to be abandoned during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. There are photos that show the German Army found these little cars useful, too, and many were used throughout the war. Production resumed after the war ended, until new models were developed in the late 1940s.

Something Different

My web site does claim I am able to take on commissions to build almost anything, and I have had the chance to prove that just recently!

Diesel Fuel Storage and Delivery Point Diesel Fuel Storage and Delivery Point

 

The storage tank is pretty much built as the kit designer intended, although I’ve modified the containment bund from brick to concrete. The delivery point only uses the various pipe and pump castings, with the base and shelter scratchbuilt to suit the client’s requirements.

An enjoyable diversion from my usual fare.

 

Latest Completed Commission

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

 

The latest commission to leave the workshop is this pair of six-wheelers. To date, these constitute the oldest rolling stock I have had the pleasure of modelling. While the kits are relatively modern—the passenger coach kit is dated to 1985!—the real vehicles would have been in service in the late 1880s, on secondary and branch line services of the Great Western Railway.

Also of interest, in that geeky model railway kind of way, is these are models of broad gauge rolling stock. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, renowned engineer of the Great Western Railway and many other engineering triumphs of the Victorian era, insisted that his railway would eschew the “cart gauge” used by the Northern engineers such as George Stephenson in favour of a track gauge of 7ft 0-1/4in, to give smoother running. So-called standard gauge, still used to this day in the UK and around the world, is 4ft 8-1/2in.

The broad gauge was in use on much of the GWR system, including absorbed lines. The so-called “Gauge War” was effectively lost to the standard gauge in the early 1860s, and the GWR began to lay standard gauge lines and build standard gauge locos and stock. The last broad gauge train ran in May 1892. All the broad gauge stock and locomotives were dumped in a field outside Swindon—the engineering hub of the railway—to be either broken up for scrap or possibly rebuilt to the narrower gauge.

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

This luggage van was built in the 1870s. While it has a guard’s compartment and lookouts, it is not a true brake van as later vehicles were, with no means for the guard to apply the vacuum brake from his compartment. Like many coaches of the period, it retains features from the earlier days of railway travel. Oil lamps for lighting, and a “dog box” at the far end where passengers’ canine companions could travel without mucking up the passenger accommodation. Originally built with only a hand braking system, many coaches were updated with automatic vacuum brakes during their service lives. This model, and companion coach, is built to a scale of 7mm to the foot, and has been painted to represent the van as it would have been towards the end of its life.

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

This third class passenger coach is one of the more unusual aspects of the later broad gauge railway. Realising that eventually the broad gauge would end, and indeed with much of the network already being built to the standard gauge, or at least dual gauge, the GWR embarked on building coaches with standard gauge bodies but on broad gauge underframes. When the end of the broad gauge arrived, the plan was to take the coaches into the works and swap the bodies to narrow underframes, thereby prolonging their service life. Again, oil lamps light the compartments, though many coaches were later converted to gas lighting, and the automatic vacuum braking was added at some point during their service.

All in all, this has been an interesting commission for me. I have an interest in many aspects of railways, and I like to learn about the earlier history of what is probably the greatest invention of the Victorian age, but I’ve never actually wanted to make models of the period. With someone willing to pay me to build, I was always up for the challenge. Part of the fun, if you like, is the limited resources available to confirm details. The modeller is often left to their own devices, making educated guesses based on various known facts. There has been much head-scratching, a modicum of swearing, and a good deal of assistance involved in this build. The end results have turned out nicely, but there are features I wish I had done better. I’ll know next time: the client has ordered another three coaches, so there is ample opportunity for me to try and get it right next time!

During the build I have had copious help, freely given, from various modellers and historians of the GWR broad gauge era. Knowing I have more to come, I have accepted that the only sensible thing to do was to join the Broad Gauge Society. At least I can then access more information directly, rather than beg, borrow and plead!

With the workbench clear of Victorian oddities for a while, I am concentrating on the builds that had to be postponed in order to deliver this pair. Back to the mid-20th century for me!

Hardly any time to myself!

It’s good to be busy. I am still staggered by the amount of work that’s come my way in the past eighteen months or so. If there is a problem, it’s I barely find any time for myself any more!

BG Part 05 1

For a start, I’ve got several 7mm scale broad gauge coach models under way. This one is a passenger luggage van (PLV), and is nearing the point where I can begin to paint it. It was recently joined by a passenger coach, known as a “convertible” because it was a body designed for the narrower standard gauge but carried on a broad gauge underframe. When the big gauge swap took place, these coaches were brought into the works and the bodies swapped to the narrow underframes.

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It has reached the point where interior partitions and floor need to be fitted, and then it can also have the paintwork begun. While it’s in the paintshop I shall begin work on its underframe.

Last week, the client for this build sent me an email outlining his three year plan for building. I will be busy for a while yet!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the bench, a long-running saga with an etched brass Mk1 coach kit has taken a turn for the positive.

RMB Part 4 3

I got stuck with a problem fitting the roof. A workable solution has turned up, so I have begun work fitting out the interior. What’s not obvious here is the interior is a complete inner shell which fits inside the main bodywork. I’ve started to paint the inner shell, and most of the main fittings have been made up and painted. I just need to assemble the seating bays, and they can be primed and painted, ready to fit later.

RMB Part 4 1

Here’s the bar area of this coach—it’s coded as an RMB, Restaurant Miniature Buffet. The counter and bar dividers are posed here, while I work out whether I like the colour of the floor tiling.

As well as this pair of commissions, I have two 10001 diesel locos (for different clients!), a 2-8-0 Austerity steam loco, a lineside fuel depot… there are also commissions I have got that haven’t even made it to the workshop yet. I’ve had to work out a card index system to keep track of things, and some kind of schedule so that builds all make some progress rather than one being favoured to the detriment of the others.

It’s good to be busy.

I make models of things professionally. You can find out more at my web site, and find me on Facebook. I am always keen to take on new commissions, but bear in mind I am looking at the middle to end of 2015 for new works.

The latest to leave the workshop

Dean 4-wheelers (1 of 8)

You might recall I was working on a threesome of Slater’s GWR 4-wheeled coaches. I finally completed them, and they were delivered to the client a week ago.

Dean 4-wheelers (3 of 8)

This coach was probably the worst. It came to me as a badly-built and badly painted model. I had to disassemble it, and strip the paint, before I could begin to make it into something half decent. The model is a Diagram T34 Brake Third. All the models are completed in the late 1920s GWR coach livery.

Dean 4-wheelers (6 of 8)

This is a Diagram V5 Passenger Luggage Van, otherwise known as a full brake. It had been mostly completed by the previous owner, but needed a bit of dodgy paintwork stripping, and the roof detailing completed.

Dean 4-wheelers (8 of 8)

Finally, the one kit that hadn’t been started—a Diagram U4 First/Third Composite. These vehicles were originally built as First/Second class, converted into First/Third in 1907, and by the mid-1930s had been converted to all-Third. This one happened to be one of the last to be converted to all-Third—no, really, I checked—so we could get away with the First class compartments.

I have to say I grew rather fond of these models. As kits they went together pretty easily, and only needed one or two extras to make them into something special. I am pleased at the way the livery turned out. Although not the most complex livery the GWR ever used, it certainly got me to attempt some new methods to my skill set. There are things I would do better given the chance to do it again, but that’s all part of the process of learning. I like to think that every build teaches me something new, and stretches me to do better.

The bench is currently home to a timber plank, upon which I am building a multi-gauge test track. I have several GWR broad gauge models to build, and I need something to test them on! I am also trying to work out a sensible schedule that lets me make progress on the increasing pile of work that’s coming my way. It’s great to be busy!

In a galaxy far, far away…

In the olden days, before computer generated imagery was easy to do and so commonplace that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up any more, most special effects were accomplished using scale models. If you needed a battleship to blow up, you’d get the props people to make a large scale model, float it in a tank of water and blow it up. If you needed to stage a train crash on a limited budget, you’d call in the model makers and get creative with lighting. If you needed a spaceship, or a complete space fleet and a Death Star or two, who are you going to call?

The original Star Wars trilogy was typical of this. In fact, the special effects company that did the work was created specifically for the films—Industrial Light and Magic. They developed many innovative ways to use models for many feature films. I challenge to you spot one in the linked list you haven’t seen at least once!

I still love watching films and TV shows were real craft is used for special effects. I love the insane amount of detail that gets crammed into spaceships, often only to be seen for a split second—or blown to bits! I love the fact shortcuts are made by repurposing commercial plastic construction kit components, as well as ordinary household objects. I love trying to figure out how big models are, and how they’re made.

Take this detail shot, for example.

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This is from an Imgur site, sharing dozens of detail shots of Star Wars special effects models. As a railway modeller, it’s not hard to spot the use of a steam locomotive firebox backhead, complete with fire hole doors, gauges, lubricators and the regulator handle! In the right context, though, this makes a perfectly acceptable maintenance or access hatch on a spaceship.

Spend a few minutes wandering through the images in the site. You won’t be disappointed, and if you grew up with the original Star Wars films you can enjoy a pleasant trip down memory lane. You will be forgiven if the Star Wars theme plays in your head while looking!

Incidentally, it’s also worth a look at the imgur site of joinyouinthesun, who posted the Star Wars images.

Thanks to my friend Mark Casey for linking to these photos in a post over on X404.

Catching up

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Sorry about that, but I’ve been busy. Larking about updating blogs has been fairly low on the agenda. I have been updating the social media stuff, but this blog needs a little more time and thinking about.

So, what have I been up to?

NBL Type 2

Well, Just Like The Real Thing asked me if I’d like to demonstrate building their kits at one of the biggest O Gauge shows in the country. With all expenses paid, who could refuse an offer like that? At the same time, they were to reveal a new diesel loco kit, and I got to build the show stand version, which you can see above.

The weekend was quite successful. I think I picked up a couple of new clients—which was part of the exercise—and had a good old chat with friends old and new. I think we may do it again.

WD tender

I set about this tender, which matches an Austerity 2-8-0 which I have yet to begin. This build was an exercise in refreshing my head after some tussles with the coach kit lurking behind it. There are still unresolved issues with that build, but I think I can see a way forward.

BG van

Fun and games have also ensued with a GWR broad gauge passenger luggage van build. This is proper old school modelling, as it used to be back in the 1970s and 1980s. The basic body shell is provided by the Broad Gauge Society, but the underframe, suspension, door handles, couplings and plenty more, have to be sourced from various suppliers. The underframe has been built, dismantled and rebuilt several times, and I think I’m almost happy with it now. I’ve finally got the body parts soldered together, and some thoughts are forming about how to tackle the roof. The client is happy, and seems intent on sending some more kits my way—so I think it’s time I set up a dedicated broad gauge test track to make sure things are running nicely.

On a similar tack, and a similar vintage to the broad gauge vehicles, I was commissioned to “breathe my magic” on three Slater’s GWR 4-wheeled coaches. They had been acquired second-hand, and came in various stages of completion. One was unbuilt, one was mostly built, and one was, quite frankly, a basket case.

Deans (1 of 4)

Deans (2 of 4)

This is the unbuilt kit, or rather was the unbuilt kit. I’ve made up the underframe and begun the body work. It’s helped me understand how the kits go together so I can disassemble the basket case and make it properly.

Deans (4 of 4) Deans (3 of 4)

This is various parts of the basket case. I’ve stripped the model down, stripped some frankly appalling paint off the body, and retrieved most of the underframe components for cleaning up and repairing. The plan is to get all three models to more or less the same state of build so they can be painted as a batch.

That’s just some of the work I’ve been up to lately. I haven’t mentioned the diesel and electric locos being worked on, or the ready-to-run diesels waiting for the client to source detailing parts, or the steadily growing waiting list of commissions that should see me busy well into 2015!

In the meanwhile I’ve found time to revamp the web site, although it needs some work to make it play properly with mobile devices. You can keep up with me on Twitter (@snaptophobic) and Facebook (search for Heather Kay Modelmaker), and I am a regular poster on the Western Thunder forum.