Tag Archives: model building

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.


The first step


I was talking with a kit manufacturer the other day. I was after a missing component, but we fell to chatting about life, the universe and kit building. During our conversation, the manufacturer told me I was a worrier.

The idea had never struck me before, but he is right. I worry a lot, not just about the models I find myself building, but let’s concentrate on the modelling.

I am currently part of the way through a commissioned build. It’s an etched metal railway coach kit. It is a carefully-designed kit, with many, sometimes very tiny, parts. You can see some of those very tiny parts in the picture above. The kit range has a reputation for being amongst the best there are, and I felt a degree of trepidation about taking it on. It would be bad enough if I was building for myself, but building for a client—even one I have worked for before—was enough for me to worry.

I worried about breaking something, or getting it wrong. One false step early on might have repercussions further in the build, perhaps at a point where it would be impossible to rectify. I worried about doing the kit, and my client, justice. I worried about what the manufacturer might say (we have some ‘previous’, you might say). I worried about actually beginning the build.

I busied myself with research, finding as much information as I could. I tried to find many ways of putting off the moment when I would have to cut the first component from the etch fret. Eventually, however, I had to take that first step.

It was fine. Of course there were moments when I thought it was all going wrong, and there were one or two close shaves. It’s inevitable that problems arise along the way. But that’s part of my job. If I like to call myself a professional modelmaker, then I have to be able to deal with this stuff.


The model’s underframe, now mostly complete and painted, is not quite as the manufacturer intended. At the client’ request, there are modifications to the brake gear, extra details on the frames and the buffer beams, and different bogies to those the manufacturer intended. I’ve added to and modified some parts, and scratch built others, all in the pursuit of “getting it right”. The journey has been enormously entertaining, tempered by moments of frustration. I have learned a good deal about the real thing, as I have battled to represent it in miniature. I have learned a lot about this particular range of kits, too.

I have to begin work on the coach body soon, but having completed the underframe I find myself prevaricating once more. I know, however, that as soon as I take that first step, it will probably turn out okay in the end.

On the home straight

The Mark 1 coach build is nearing completion. As I type the sides have been given a top coat of varnish to seal the transfers in place and protect them and the paintwork from handling.

Placing the transfers has taken me a couple of days to complete. The chosen livery has two colours, and the demarcation between them has fine black and gold lining. The way the colours split means two parallel rows of lining on each side, so eight sets of lining to do in total for this build.

I used waterslide transfers from a company called Fox Transfers. If you’ve ever built an Airfix kit, you’ll know what I mean by “waterslide”. You trim out the transfer you want and immerse it in water for some seconds, and then it slides from the backing paper into place on the model. The caveat with Fox’s product is it really does like warm water, and the problem then becomes how to keep water at a suitable temperature over an extended period. My solution involves an aluminium baking tray and a tea light!

The lining transfers take time, because you can’t simply immerse an entire length and expect to slide it off in place. Tangles and tears are guaranteed, so the method I use is to trim the lining down to manageable lengths, no more than about 40mm, and place them carefully along the coach side. It takes longer, needs a deal of patience (and a powerful magnifying lamp in my case), but the results speak for themselves. This technique also works across door and panel joins, rather than trying to push the transfer down into the gaps.

Once the lining was done, it was time for the running numbers. Again, Fox Transfers came into their own. I used a fine brush to guide each individual number into place, before gently dabbing excess water away with a cotton bud.


Thoughts are now turning to weathering the models. My client requested a “slightly tired” finish, so I’ve been studying as many photos as I can lay my hands on to get a feel for how mainline coaching stock weathered in service. This is also an excuse for legitimately lounging about with a hot mug of tea, perusing lots of books!



The publication of choice is currently Martyn Welch’s The Art of Weathering, published by Wild Swan. An excellent primer in the various techniques and tools required to achieve a realistic finish to scale models.

Currently, I am considering weathering the sides before I finally assemble the models. I can do the same for the roofs, ends and underframes. Once assembled, a unifying dusting can be applied if required.

I hope to document the process, so watch out for further posts.

I am a professional model-maker. I make models of all kinds, at all scales, and to all requirements. I currently have three more 7mm scale coaches and a 7mm scale locomotive in the queue for my workbench. Have a look at what I do over at my web site. You can also find me on Facebook: search for Heather Kay Modelmaker.

Raising the Standard

The LNWR motor train build was getting on my nerves a bit. It was taking too long to get little things done, and though I’d reached a stage where both coaches were more or less at the same point things were getting bogged down. Having got primer on the bodies, and with another build begging for my attention, I felt it was a good time to put things back in the box to refresh my palette, as it were.

Another reason for packing things away and starting on something else is I have a deadline for the new build. It’s a “finish it for me” build, after the client acquired a pair of part-built coach kits from a well-known online auction site. His original thought was they’d make a nice quick build, but he soon realised he wasn’t really going to be able to complete the models as quickly as he first thought. The models are wanted as a Christmas gift.

JLTRT Mk1 rebuild 2 (1 of 3)

I’ve been cleaning up the body sides, correcting errors, filling moulding flaws and so on. They’re in the paint shop now, letting the first coats of primer harden. I hope I may be able to get the first coat of the livery colour on later today. While things dry, I’ve been cleaning up some of the interior parts.

JLTRT Mk1 rebuild 2 (1 of 2)

Whatever adhesive the original builder used, it wasn’t the right one for the job. This pile of shards is the result of half an hour with various scrapers. The result of the scraping is a plastic tray with various bits I can now rebuild properly into an interior for a Mk1 (the “standard” of the title; what we now refer to as the Mk1 was originally referred to officially as the BR Standard Coach) BSK corridor brake third.

JLTRT Mk1 rebuild 2 (2 of 2)

Most of these parts will also be treated to some base coats of paint before I glue them together again. Taking on part-built or badly-built models like this and breathing my magic on them is all part of the service I provide.

As I type this report, another query has arrived by email asking me to quote for building a model diesel locomotive. I really don’t know how I will cope with the work, because I’m already considering projects that won’t really be started until next year! I am, frankly, amazed at how quickly things are building up, and this thrills and scares me in equal parts.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am now a professional modelmaker. I build scale models of many things, for a fee. You can find out more about my modelling work at my web site, and if you are afflicted with the Facebook, you can search for Heather Kay Modelmaker and “like” my page.

Nearly there



Two quick portraits of one of the GWR Collett triplets I’ve been working on this past couple of months. This particular coach is a  corridor composite (in other words it has first and third class accommodation) to diagram E127, and the real thing was built in 1925. It’s depicted in the livery it carried until it was withdrawn and scrapped in the early 1960s. This model has just been through final assembly, where the sides, ends and roof are fitted together.

This coach will join the D94 brake third and C54 all third coaches that form the three models of this commission. Currently, on my workbench, I’m fitting the glazing to the C54, while the D94 has been completed bar some small details and quality control issues. Very soon, I shall be able to do the proper photography session for these models, and then deliver them to my client. I think he’ll be very pleased with them—I know I am.

In case you may have forgotten, I am a professional model maker. You can find out more about what I do by visiting my web site, www.heatherkay.co.uk.



Little Railways Need Little People

I spent yesterday painting figurines for the three coaches on my workbench. The models are meant to represent the condition they were in in the middle 1950s, and the client helped choose some suitable figures. There are about a dozen characters altogether. Here’s a selection.

James Dean


Bear in mind this James Dean lookalike is about 40mm in height.


Yes, the paint is a bit rough in places, but the camera is a cruel taskmaster. Even working under a powerful magnifier, I couldn’t actually see some of these flaws. My other excuse—not that I need one—is the figures will be fitted inside a model railway coach, which doesn’t have any internal illumination. I think they’ll pass muster, even if my internal perfectionist complains.

I build models for people to make a living. Check out my web site where you can see more of the work I am doing, as well as past projects.

Work in progress

The modelling career got a bit of a boost last weekend. I visited a model railway exhibition and trade show, mainly to deliver a coach I had built for Just Like The Real Thing‘s exhibition stand, but also to gather a few necessaries for the current build on my workbench.

Chatting with friends and traders, it was an interesting day. What cheered me most was friends who were very encouraging about my new venture. I also had an encouraging chat with Laurie of JLTRT, which led me to think things are looking up.

D94 details 4

Here’s a detail shot of one of the current commissioned models, upside down and being worked on. I have three coaches like this to build, so I always like to build one almost to completion so I can work out the wrinkles and understand how the kit is designed. The remaining two coaches will be built as a pair, and once all three reach the same stage they get the painting and glazing done.

D94 details 2

I’m really enjoying this build, and I hope the client will be very happy with the finished models.

Don’t forget to check out my web site—www.heatherkay.co.uk— for information about my modelling services. I’ve just updated it with some new showcase images.

There it is!


Lurking amid the detritus of my workbench, and taking about as long to emerge from its cocoon as the real thing, is TSR-2 serial XR219. 

Did you know the real aircraft, if they had gone into production and squadron service with the RAF were to be called Eagle? TSR, incidentally, stands for Tactical Strike Reconnaisance, being the key roles for the aircraft in service.

From the workbench

British Rail Diesel Brake Tender.

A what?

In the late 1950s, as the 1955 Modernisation Plan began to take effect with new diesel traction coming into service, the new machines were found to be a little lacking in braking force. At the time, many freight trains did not have any form of automatic braking on the wagons, so the only way to control and stop a train was by the locomotive brakes and a handbrake in the brake van at the tail end.

Not surprisingly, there were a couple of incidents where a diesel was literally pushed along by its train, out of control simply because it hadn’t got braking force comparable with a steam loco. As a stop-gap measure, until continously braked freight trains were commonplace, withdrawn passenger coaches were converted into extra braking capacity for the diesels.

Dubbed Diesel Brake Tenders, the vehicles were made from cut-and-shut coach underframes of ex-LMS or LNER origins with something like 36 tons of scrap metal and concrete added. Attached to the diesel loco, either towed behind or propelled in front, and connected to the loco’s vacuum train brake, the extra four axles with braking helped control the heavy trains.

Brake tenders were generally unloved creatures. They began to arrive in traffic from about 1961, and were finally withdrawn from service and scrapped by the late 1980s. The example modelled is an amalgam of several tatty specimens photographed by Paul Bartlett in the 1970s and 1980s. The model was built for a client from a Just Like The Real Thing kit, with some additions and modifications, to S7 standards.