The Pretenders

My Father’s Day present was ‘The Pretenders’. No, not Chrissie Hynde and crew, but a book about the steam-outline internal combustion locomotives running on miniature railways.

I must admit I like steam locos and I like internal combustion locos, but I’ve never been a big fan of pretend steam locos powered by diesel or petrol engines.

However, this book has changed my mind. Dipping in and out of it I’ve found myself thinking ‘That’s nice, I’d like to model that’.

For example, who could resist this Hudswell Clarke Pacific.

Yes, I’m growing to like the the steam outline pretenders…


P.S. If you are interested the book is available here

(I’ve no connection to the book, the publishers nor Amazon)


The Modelling Bureau

I do most of my modelling in the garage, which is kinda cold in the winter. I saw an old writing desk on ebay and I thought it would make a great modelling bench. I brought it for £30. The writing surface / closing top was broken off so I had to repair the wood and replace one of the hinges but this was easy to do. It was a very dark brown colour so my daughter and I sanded it down and gave it a few coats of paint. Here it is. I’m rather pleased with it.

The drawers will be useful to store all the odds and ends that I’ve accumulated.

The front folds down to create a work surface. How many modellers can say they have a leather coated workbench 🙂 Best of all I can close it and the bits and pieces of whatever I’m working on will be hidden from view. My family approve!

I will use the pigeon holes to store things like styrene sheets.

In the middle are some small drawers…

.. which will be ideal for storing essential supplies for long modelling sessions !

It’s A Cover Up

Recently, someone asked “Why does your controller have a cover over one of the buttons?”. Well, there’s a story behind that.

I want my locos to run on DCC and DC layouts and I fitted them with DCC chips that will work with both (Digitrax DZ126 for those who are interested). But I didn’t have a controller. I wanted something simple and I didn’t want to spend a fortune, so I opted for a Bachmann EZ Command  controller which was £58 from Hattons. Perfect.

Being new to DCC, when the controller arrived I actually read the instructions. Twice. They are very clear and easy to understand. Press a button from 1 to 9 to address a loco, select forward or reverse and turn the dial. Simple.

If you want to run DC you can use button 10. This sends DC to the track. The instructions clearly state you should not use this with N gauge locos as the current will burn out the motors.

I connected the controller to my oval test track and gave it a go. Did the loco run using the default DCC address for loco chips, number 3? Yes, it did. It worked first go. Could I change the loco chip to another address, say number 1? I tried. Did the loco run with number 3, no. Did it work with number 1, yes. Success! Could I reprogram the locos direction (forward / reverse)? Yes.

With everything working well I was becoming quite excited, rather like a kid in a toy shop.

I kept playing. What happens if I try running the loco on DC? I pressed button 10 and turned the dial… there was a ‘Pfutt’ sound… the smell of smoke filled the air… and the loco didn’t move anymore. Ah!

Now, I knew that would happen. I’d read the instructions (twice), but I did it anyway.

Luckily the chassis was a Kato 103 and it was not too expensive to replace.

To avoid the risk of burning out more motors I’ve covered button 10 with a homemade cover made from plasticard and I’ve araldited it in place.

Rather elegant, don’t you think? No. Well, at least I can’t burn out any more motors.

‘First’ at Narrow Gauge South 2018

Congratulations to the Wessex Narrow Gauge Modellers for organising Narrow Gauge South, it was excellent. The organisers took two big decisions. Firstly, to move to a new venue and secondly to create a bigger exhibition with 34 layouts and 26 traders and societies. For me, both decisions paid off handsomely. The exhibition was top quality and the venue was super.

I was exhibiting ‘First’ and I had a very enjoyable day playing trains and talking to everyone. Many people introduced themselves: visitors who liked the layout, people who read this blog and members of the NGRM forum. Thanks, for saying ‘Hello’. It was a pleasure to meet you and talk with you all.

I tried a new way of presenting the layout. I put it on top of the transport box to raise the viewing height. I think this made the layout easier to see and people could view the stock in the cassettes at the same time. Plus, I didn’t have to bend down to operate and I left the exhibition without an aching back!

The organisation of the exhibition was excellent. The organising team were friendly, helpful and very efficient. Special thanks to the four guys who carried everything from the car into the exhibition hall for us, Will for operating the layout to allow me to get lunch and to Tim Couling for his excellent communication from beginning to end.

During my break I brough an 09 locomotive kit, a couple of 7mm scale figures and 8 metres of yellow electrical cable. More about those later……

I can’t wait for the next Narrow Gauge South in 2020.

Beyond Rivet Counting

I’ve never tried to get my models to be 100% accurate. However, I’ve decided this will change.

From now on I am going to model every rivet on the prototype.

Additionally, I will model the rivets so that you can see which rivets were put in by a right handed riveter, and which were put in by a left handed riveter.

It is easy to spot the left handed rivet in the photograph (above) so such rivet details should be obvious on a model too.

From now on what I want the exact prototypical number of left handed and right handed rivets on my models.

I encourage every modeller to do the same.


This blog was originally published on 1st April 2018, April Fool’s Day, a day when people in many European countries play practical jokes and spread hoaxes. Would you have been fooled ?

Visiting Old Haunts

When I lived in Essex one of my regular haunts was the Oxfam bookshop in Saffron Walden.

Yesterday I went back. Browsing through the shelves I found this copy of the Encycolpaedia of Narrow Gauge Railways by Thomas Middlemass. It’s got lots of information about NG lines that I know very little about, for example, English tramways with gauges of around 3′ and Irish narrow gauge lines. This book will be a great way of learning more.

Also, it contains many photos that I’ve never seen before. Look at this lovely image of the Welshpool and Llanfair in the GWR era.

My Birthday List

It was my birthday recently and my pressie was a pair of wire strippers and a selection of 7mm scale accessories from Skytrex.

The Skytrex assessories include: tote bags, pallets, pipe loads and wheelie bins. All perfect for a modern period layout.

My 12 year old daughter chose the wire strippers. She’s used different types at school and she found these are the best. I’m rather proud that my daughter has an opinion on this and they do work very well. Good choice!