Monday, October 31, 2022

Unboxing the Victory


NP Victory Box
My job presents endless temptations. When interviewing the guys from Planet Industrials a few years ago, they told us about their first RTR locomotive, and I was so tempted, I jumped on the pre-orders as soon as they opened. 

One of my favourite locos in the fleet is my ex-LMS Dock Tank. A big 0-6-0 with a short wheelbase, there's something very purposeful about it. In the industrial world, Kerr Stuart's "Victory" class has a very similar aesthetic. 

Anyway, the model arrived last week. I had thought about an unboxing video, but th workbench/studio area is a mess as I'm still fiddling with the Garden Rail Peckett. So it's photos, and no squealing comentary. 

Inside the very nice cardboard box, the loco lives in the usual plastic clamshell pack, although this one has added foam, presumably for improved survival in transit. There's also a sheet of prototype information, side plan and explanation of the contents of the details pack. 

The loco is wrapped in polythene. Seperate etched builders plates are includes plus a selection of sandboxes, toolboes and steps for customisation of your model. Basically, those bits we used to buy as spares to add to our RTR years ago. 

Given a dose of 9V battery power, the loco moves very smoothly - I'll give it a proper run one day, but at least I know it works. Mind you, the NP team have checked every model before shipping, so there are no worries on that front. 
Narrow Planet Victory

When faced with the list of liveries on offer, I plumped for the lined grey. It's different to anything else I own, and since I don't have a layout lined up for it, picking the most attractive, makes sense. The model looks and feels quality, and I'm very happy with my choice.

Narrow Planet Victory

One day, there will be some weathering, and a crew, but for the moment I'll just enjoy looking. 

You can see the full range on the Narrow Planet website.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Trevor Cousens - RIP


Trevor Cousens

I can't remember when I first met Trevor, probably at a L&WMRS exhibition many years ago when he'll have been sat behind a huge pile of etched brass loco kits. It was certainly a long while ago, so his sudden death last week came as a shock.

More to the point, I don't remember how it came to be that I started building a few kits for him. The first was a 7mm scale Barclay where my job was to assemble the kit so it could appear on the stand, and write some snagging notes so the etches could be improved. 

I was a bit nervous taking this first model to Trevor, but he was delighted and I soon found myself with as much work as I wanted. The deal was always the same - he supplied the complete kit and I'd get paid the value of this. If the model was to be painted, there was a small premium. This wasn't going to make me rich, but it was a fun sideline. 

Along the way there were some interesting projects.

Swanscombe Front

Such as a conversion of a Mercian Barclay kit to the Swanscome Barclay for its owner. 


There was also a G1 Midland coach and a couple of G1 Ruston diesels. Who knew I'd be building in such a large scale! Back then my GR editorship was a long way from the horizon. 

The big kit was of course, the 7mm industrial Garratt

 Dirty Blue Garratt

We spent a weekend at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry at the Garratt aniversary weekend. I'd built one for Trevor, and a second for a church (I think). There's one half built for me (maturing for a very long time) and another that was supposed to be built for someone else who has disapeared. Sorting that out is on the to-do list, although with no contact details, I'm not sure how. 

Trevor produced such a vast range of kits in all sorts of scale, it would be a major task to list them all. He was a good freind to all sorts of scale societies, willing to produce models to help them out in fairly small runs. 

Before this, I know he was involved with several model shops, but sadly can't remember many of the details. 

The last time I saw Trevor was at Guildex. We chatted about a 16mm kit test build I had on the shelf, and agreed we'd chat further in November. Sadly, this is now not to be. 

Many of the kits I built can be found on my old gallery page. 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Hoversprite

This is mad. So of course, I love it. And want to build a model. 

It must have been pretty noisy in there though!

Friday, October 28, 2022

Off to the GBMRS this weekend


Today, I will be mostly packing up my car with models to show at the Great British Model Railway Show this weekend. At the time of writing, I have no real idea what I'll be taking, but it will be a mixed bag of HM, BRM and HCC projects. 

I'll scatter these on a table, and sit behind it talking to people for a couple of days. Do come along, I'm sure it will be a good weekend. 

Great British Model Railway Show website.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Tea and cake with the Heart of England Narrow Gauge Modellers


Cake and loco

An e-mail arrived a couple of weeks ago from the Heart of England Narrow Gauge Modellers. I have a freind who is a member and this means I'm on the mailing list. They were holding an event in Rugby, and a couple of large scale test tracks were promised. 

With the Merlin Mayflower still not properly tested, I asked if I could come along and was welcomed with open arms. 

Test tracks

The tracks weren't quite what I was expecting, being heavy-duty plastic track laid on benches, but I decided to give it a go anyway. After all, there was tea, and some really excellent cake, and people seemed excited by some live steam action. 

Sadly, the 45mm curves were just a bit too tight for the loco, so I quickly abandonded the idea. However, this didn't stop me enjoying the rest of the event. 

Finland loco

While the tracks were in the centre, around the rest of the scout hut, were other layouts. It was all really relaxed and chatty. The sort of event I love, but hardly ever find time to drop in to. I suspect many modellers would be a bit sniffy about it - this isn't an exhibition, but a meeting of mates. They would be wrong to do so. 

My favourite loco is the Finland prototype that looks a lot like a shed on wheels. I've asked for an article for GR on this as it's very much my sort of ugly prototype. Simple build too as it's based on a Phil Sharples chassis with less than challenging bodywork!

009 layout

Dating from 1978, this 009 layout is fun too. Trains wind their way up the hill to collect rocks from the conveyer, then descend and dump them in a barge. Simple, small (3 by 2 feet) and yet fun. The owner and I had a long chat about the lack of "play value" in modern model railways. 

Crane tank

The only disapointment for me, was that my visit was very limited. I'd volunteered to go and help with some flat-pack furniture later in the day, 45 minutes in the other direction, so had to escape after an hour. This was a great shame as I was really enjoying myself. A proper relaxed day just chatting about model railways with really friendly people. 

If you want to know more, details of the group can be found here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition 2022


With a long break from exhibiting, and being shut away in their workshops, it's nice to see a rush of new models appearing at the MMEE this year. 

Competition classes, which have been a bit thin in the past, were bursting with models of the highest quality. How the judges were supposed to seperate the 5-inch gauge locomotives, I have no idea. Both a GWR and MR single stood out to me with their elegant lines, but I think I'd have gone for the Dock tank as it's a prototype I like. In the event, a Schools Class won.

Plenty of boats on show too, but not very much in the garden railway scales. I found enough for a GR "Seen at the show" page, but it wasn't easy. The lack of live steam layouts (did I imagine 16mm and G1 test tracks in the past?) meant it was a static show apart from the collection of traction engines outside. 

Still, a good event and busy. Nice Brie and Cranberry burger too. 

Photos from the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition on Flickr. 

 Brie and Cranberry burger with steam lorry

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Cars at the Spa 2022

Karmann Beetle

I've been very busy over the last few weeks, with precious little time for my own modelling, but I have been out and about a bit, so there are lots of photos to show you instead. 

We kick off, with "Cars in the Spa", the annual classic car meet in the centre of Leamington Spa. Well, at the bottom of the town on the Pump Room gardens. The good people of Leamington would be up in arms if someone suggested doing it on the main street. We can't even have pedestrianisation. 

Anyway, a fine display of horseless carriages was to be seen, and I've taken photos of some of the more interesting. This didn't include a really ugly modern Rolls Royce, brought along to prove money can't buy taste presumably. 

The green Karmann Beetle on the other hand. Now that is very nice. 

Cars in the Spa album on Flickr.

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Dumpy Book of Railways of the World


The Dumpy book of Railways of the World
Needing something to rest a camera on during a photo shoot at a show, I grabbed this for a quid. It looked interesting, and at 130mm by 105mm and 20mm thick, it was perfect for the job in hand. Don't be fooled, those lovely photos you see in magazines are sometimes the result of all sort of jiggery pokery to get the camera in position. 

I'd assumed this was a book aimed at kids. It's certainly looks like it. Open the cover however, and it's a lot more than that. 

It's actually a mine of information. Fancy an explanation of super-elevation? Page 22. 

Cab layout of a steam locomotive? Page 34

Loading gauge diagram for Queensland Railways? Page 31, next to a set of Indian loading gauges. 

There's a lot of history in here too, along with some nice line drawings of all sort of rolling stock and locomotives. The cover promised "over 750 illustrations" and I see no reason to doubt them. 

The test includes chapters on "The Problems of Electrification", two chapters on gas turbine locos, passenger and freight rolling stock, a very detailed explanation of the inner workings of a steam loco complete with diagrams of the safety valve and mechanical lubricator. 

All, good, solid stuff. Publish this today in a larger format, and adult enthisiasts would lap it up. It just seems odd that this quality of info is put into a little book, apparenlty aimed at kids. Sadly, nowhere on the 286 pages is there a date of publication, but I'd assume it comes from the days when kids wore their school uniform all the time including caps!

Sunday, October 23, 2022



It's taken 16 years, but this is the 6000th post on Phil's Workbench! Thank you everyone who continue to read this stuff every day. Sometimes I need to write it just to motivate me. Other times, the blog just gives me an excuse to buy cheap junk from second-hand stalls to bring to you. Not that I need much of an excuse. 

At some point, I hope to do some modelling!

Anyway, I think I deserve some cake...

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Saturday Film Club: London in the 1930s

I'm not normally a fan of colourised film, but this one has been coloured, stabalised and a who lot of other ized things, plus it's had a convincing soundtrack added. The result is fascinating, especially the section at Waterloo station five minutes in. 

What we are looking at, is people going about their normal lives almost a hundred years ago. None of them could have foretold that we people in the future, would be able to look at them on our 'phones anywhere in the world.

Friday, October 21, 2022

The mystery R733 coaches

Tri-ang Hornby R733 coaches

Picked up on a second-hand stall for four quid each, these Tri-ang/Hornby coaches are a bit of a mystery. 

Described as "Swedish" coaches, they we supplied in the RS2 clockwork locomotive pack between 1969 and 71. The 1970 catalogue has a very impressive photo of the contents of the set. 

As far as I can tell, the have the catalogue number R733. That's from several sources - but if you search for this, the results are often the 6-wheel Palethorpes sausage van. Was the number re-used? Were the coaches available seperately? 

R733 coach

I'm assuming that the "Swedish" name attached to the model relates to a prototype, but I can't find a relevant photo, nor am I an expert on that countries rolling stock. There are some Austrian coaches, also found on the Welshpool railway that look very similar though.

These are, to my eyes, attractive models and I've seen them for sale in the past. There used to be piles of the plastic bodies too. I know there is one in a cupboard somewhere I repainted. Why were there so many spare bodies, and where have they all gone? 

The chassis is a bit odd. It looks a lot like a Pacer, long before the bus/train hybrids were ever thought of. 

My pair have slightly different chassis. One brown and one black. The black one is missing the centre "door" on the ends. Why tool for two variants on a freelance coach? 

Repainted, and possibly with a new chassis, this would make a nice set on a freelance branchline model, pulled by a small loco in a Colonel Stephens style. 

Finally, I have a found a video review of the train set. 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Finished goods shed


Peco NB-6 Goods shed

There we go. A few evenings work, and I have an N gauge goods shed. The build has been deliberatly slow to let paint and glue dry rather than trying to work with parts still softly attached to each other, or still tacky. That, and I've used this as a way to make me do something over a few days instead of vegetating in front of the TV. An undemanding project is perfect for that, especially one where you can only spend an hour or so before having to set it aside to dry. A sense of satisfaction easily obtained. 

You'll notice that I have ignored the rather garish colour scheme from the box photo in preference to a series of muted tones that I fell suit the model better. At present, it's unweathered, apart from a dose of talcum powder on the roof to provide a bit of life in the otherwise grey slates. 

Glazing is from Deluxe Materials Glue'n'glaze. Easier than trying to do the job with plastic. 

Peco NB-6 Goods shed

Part fit is good, although a little filler might help on a couple of corners and th roof ridge. I just applied loads of solvent and shoved them together. My efforts on the road-side canopy aren't great either, although they look better in real life. 

To update the model, the biggest change would be some more delicate drainpipes as the supplied versions are a bit chunky. The main doors could be opened and an interior modelled.

At 90mm long, 75mm wide and 45mm tall, this would make a nice feature on any branch line. Were there a ready to use version, it would cost around £30 - three times the price of this kit new. OK, you need to invest a few hours relaxed modelling, but I enjoyed this bit so it's no cost.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Airport control tower

Bicester control tower

Pulling into the car park at the Bicester Heritage Centre for the G1MRA 75th birthday celebrations, and dodging a Tiger Moth that was being pushed across the road, was, "That's a very modelable control tower". 

There's a definite hint of the Airfix version about it, even though it looks completely different. 

The heritage centre is based on a preserved airfield - you can read the full story on their website. It's still operational, there were gliders being towed skyward as I watched.

Bicester control tower

Obvioulsy this isn't going to be much use to railway modellers, but if you fancied a corner of airfield on your layout, you could do worse than take a proper look at Bicester. As well as the control tower, there are some cracking hangers.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Modular construction


To keep painting simple, I'm building the goods shed as a series of module. The colours of the plastic provide a pretty good guide to the best way to split things up. 

One interesting feature - the base is moulded in grey, complete with walls. Th brick moudings, anoyingly in streatcher bond, are stuck on to this. Changing the material would be easy enough with some plastic card, I imagine a stone base would be very attractive.

Part fit is good. There's little or no flash, but some marks from the release pins used to shove the bits out of the mould will need a little attention. 

Another spot - the instructions sugged fitting the office windows from the inside, but the box photo clearly shows them fitted from the outside, complete with chunky frame so beloved of Airfix kits. I'll stick with the instructions here - it will look better.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Peco Goods Shed


Peco NB-6
I'm dreadful for looking at a kit for sale and immediatly wanting to have a go at it. Bursting cupboards will atttest to my eyes being bigger than my capacity for getting through projects. 

Quite why an N gauge good shed kit should appeal so much when spotted in the second-hand trough on Anoraks Anonymous stand at TINGS, I have no idea. I don't do much modelling in N, and have no prospect of a home for this model. However, I was paying by card and so there wasn't much restaint on the spend. 

Looking back through a few old magazines, I can't work out how old this model is. My best guess is that it appeared in the early 1980s, but this is a guess. Peco kits tend to live in the range for a very long period of time and collecting old catalogues from the Boys from Beer isn't one of my hobbies. 

Kit parts

Inside the box, an instruction sheet looks pleasently vintage. The drawings remind me of the sort foundin Edward Beal books, but this can't be from the 1950s, so I'm assuming the style has influenced the artist there. All the text looks to have had a typewriter in it's origins. It's also very, very small. Presumably N gauge modellers are thought to have better eyesight than most!

Parts are in self-coloured plastic, but I'll be painting the model. The design is "generic" so I'll just pick some I think look nice rather then fretting about a correct livery. After all, this is a fun, stick it together, project.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Iain Rice RIP


Much has already been written about the sad passing of Iain Rice, and I feel I ought to jot a few words down on the subject, as, just like many other modellers, his work inspired me. Maybe not the life-changing effects of some, but certainly life-improving. 

You might expect me to wax-lyrical about his layout design books, what with my love of little layouts, but in truth, while I enjoyed them a lot, they didn't really inspire me. 

No, it was his practical books and articles that really got me going. I've always said that Detailing and Improving Ready To Run Wagons is one of the best books ever written about model railways. The follow up on kits was just as interesting, and his Wild Swan published books on etched locos, chassis and most importantly, model building using Wills kits that will always have a place on my bookshelf. Plastic Structure Kits: Making the Most of the Wills Scenic Series was updated and re-released, and I went out and bought it again. It's a terrific read that will never date.

The thing is, Rice could write brillaintly. There were times when he really needed an editor to polish the results a little (the loco detailing follow-up to the wagon books for example) but he spoke to the modeller in terms that were not only understandable, but actually made you feel that you too could do what he was writing about. Not for Rice, any form of elitism. This was a man at a workbench who explained how he made things and made you want to do them too.

He was also an excellent artist. Pencil sketches abound in all the books, adding both information and decoration to the pages. I wish I could draw that well, it's a skill that he made look easy, but isn't. 

Rice had the advantage of being the right person at the right time in our hobby. Look back to the first issue of MRJ and he builds an 02 diesel. The model incorporates a flexi-chassis, which he admitted is a bit of a bodge, but it's a bodge that works and others could follow. Nowadays, the mainstream mags would be willing to cover this (assuming we ignore the forthcoming RTR model) and MRJ wouldn't countenance the slightly scruffy, but very achievable results. 

He is very much (in my mind) associated with the prime of finescale railway modelling. Etching was coming in big time, but we could still use a bit of bent wire and some slightly "impressionistic" approaches. 

MORILL, or at least the early period of that magazine was also a Rice product. Much missed, in truth, a lot of the content is now irrelevant to the modern modeller, but I always loved it and still have a complete set. Ignoring the usefulness of the content, it's still a very enjoyable read. Rice was a man very firmly in the hobby. He built layouts and took them on the exhibition circuit. You felt that you could be Iain Rice by reading his words. That is a skill. 

I only met Iain a couple of times, and never really to talk to. Sadly, both were when Parkinsons had started to take its toll on him. I'd like to have enjoyed a chat about small layouts and modelling in general. The hobby has lost an important figure, but we are lucky we can still read his contributions. The ancient Egyptians considered you didn't really die until everyone had forgotten you. I think we will remember Iain Rice for a very long time to come.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Upson Down tramway

Time for a short video I recorded a few weeks ago covering a little tramway layout that looks great moving, but is impossible to photograph as all the scenery gets in the way!

Friday, October 14, 2022

Rivarossi Virginia & Truckee locomotive

Rivarossi 4-4-0 locomotive

This is a locomotive I know very little about, and had never felt the desire to own. Not until it was offered for a fiver at the G1 birthday event from a chap looking to clear his stand at the end of the day who didn't want to take it home. For that sort of money, I snapped it up to add to my HO scale American fleet. OK, it doesn't really fit in with a short line, but it was a fiver

A little digging on the web suggests this model could date from the 1970s, but apart from that, the information is scarce. Those flanges say old, as does the interesting tender mounted motor. 

Driving through a shaft to the gearbox in the loco, I assume this limits the tight curves the model can traverse. I found some suggestions that it can be replaced with a moden can motor, which would made sense. 

Does it work? Not very well initially, but after scraping quite a lot of muck from the wheels, things improved a lot. Appropriatly, this model picks up using the Amercian system - all the wheels on one side of the tender, and all the wheels (including the pony) on the other side of the loco. On this model, that's a lot of wheels, so it should handle dirty spots of track well enough. 

Anyway, another one for the collection (I know, I don't need any more toy trains) for the moment. It goes to show, if you are in the right place at the right time, there are bargains to be had. Now, I must go and watch a Western, in the name of research. Yee-Ha!

Rivarossi 4-4-0 locomotive

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Garden Rail November 2022


Garden Rail November 2022

No space for a 009 layout at home? Richard Bratby's solution - move up a scale and take the layout outside. A small, paved, city yard might not be the obvious location, but he's built a line with a sense that trains travel from place to place rather than just run in circles.
We've plenty of tipping going on this month with a working tipper wagon build, and an operating stone unloading facility. Our live steam Peckett build continues with the loco running on air, at least after the Editor learns a few things about lubrication.
All this, plus a bumper Product News with all the latest releases for large-scale modellers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: London cranes

London Cranes

 Spotted in Greenwich a couple of weeks ago, I am surprised just how many large dockside cranes are still to be found. OK, they are "stuffed and mounted" as quayside decoration, but still interesting to see.

London Cranes

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Brittle Plastikard


Digging out some brick Plastikard for a project a couple of weeks ago, I noticed it didn't behave as normal. Cutting it wasn't smooth, and when bent, it shattered. Horrible stuff to try and use. Fortunatly, I managed to cobble to gether enough good stuff for the model, but it was tight. 

At the G1 birthday event, I was pleased to see Hobby Holidays, and proceeded to re-stock my supplies. Explaining the problem to the proprieter, I bent a sheet, and it shattered in the same way! Fortunatly, he accepted this was faulty and I bought a pile of normal sheets. 

This isn't a problem I've enounterted before - and I've used a lot of Platikard over the years. My guess is a rare bad batch, it wasn't old, or suffered exposure to sunlight. Hopefully, it's all fine now, but do check when buying. 

Monday, October 10, 2022

You know you are a railway modeller when...


Scrap polystyrene

I spent Saturday helping a friend move into a new house. My job involved assembling flat-pack furniture, one of my favourite things to do. Then there was a tip run followed by picture hanging.

What you see is the packing from an Argos, Habbitat, coat and shoe stand. My friend knows me well enough not to question my desire to take this stuff home with me rather then dropping it off at the tip. I looked at it and saw big sheets of 1cm thick polystyrene - all nice and square and perfect for scenery making. I'm not going to pass this stuff up. 

So, the unit was orderd at 1am, arrived at 8am (the same day!) and the packing was in my store, topping up a box that has been depleted recently, by 5:30pm. Pretty good result there. Much better than it ending up in landfill too. 

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Cheap model railways? I have found the solution


Hornby station building

Model railways too expensive? 

Is modern RTR festooned with bits you are terrified will fall off? 

Do you just want to run some trains? 

Well, I have a solution. Go for old models. I spent last Saturday as a guest of the Hornby Railway Collectors Association, and the prices this stuff goes for is amazing. And I mean amazing cheap. 

Six tidy, tinplate with clear windows coaches? £24. Or the price of one OO wagon. 

The thing is, there is a shrinking demand for old models, and more and more popping up for sale thanks to the owners passing away. 

Despite this, watching even tinplate trains trundle by is still a joy. You can even service the things with a minimal toolkit, something tough to do with modern models. 

Am I mad thinking like this?

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Isle of Man Railway 2021

Recently, I've been too busy to watch much of anything, especially YouTube, but you can't go wrong with some Isle of Man steam can you? Of course not.

Friday, October 07, 2022

R208 Shunters truck


Hornby might have produced a high-quality shunters truck a few years ago, but even though it's considerably better detailed, my heart belongs to this 1973 version.

For it's time, the model isn't bad, but the highlight for me is the shunting pole - that black plastic piece with a hook on one end and a spade on the other. As a device for operating tension-lock couplings, it works surprisingly well. At least the spade end does, I never have much luck with the hook. In a perfect world, the handle would be longer, but then it wouldn't fit in the box. 

Over 80,000 examples were made, so this isn't a rare collectable. Being complete with the pole adds value though, as many of these would be lost in play. Not a huge problem, as alternatives have always been available.

Thursday, October 06, 2022

Give me a sign! It's the November issue of BRM!

A mixed bag of Phil features in the November 2022 issue of BRM. 

Starting with the practical work, I'm showing different ways to add signs to model buildings. 

Once I started on this piece, it became apparent that there were loads of methods, but I've tried to provide both inspiration and instruction. This is a topic where you can't say "Do this, then do this." as the methods will need to be tailored to the model you are working on.

Last month, Howard and I visited Dapol, and for BRM TV, they sat me down and made me build a wagon. 

With all the manufacture carried out in-house, this was a rare opportunity to get hands on and see what it takes to produce RTR rolling stock. 

My camera has been out again, and we have a couple of layouts shot at Bristol show this year. 

Canada Street

Canada Street is a stunning EM gauge model that I've loved from the first moment I saw it years ago. Big concrete buildings, industrial locos, it's really my sort of thing. 


2mm finescsale Freshwater is the complete opposite, but every bit as engaging. Lots of detail, minimum space and a beautiful scene.

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Waterborne Wednesday: Money can't buy taste

Last week I showed you a very attractive super-yacht. This week, we look at what is moored in front of it.

Words fail me. I'm sure it is terribly luxurious  I'm sure, in a gold bathtaps sort of way, but my god, it's ugly. 

The back end isn't any better. 

However, behind it, is a much more interesting boat. 

Not a great photo as it's from my 'phone, but an interesting tug. Not a Bantam I think, and is that the hint of a front rudder for added manouverability I see?