Spring Time in the Black Country

One of the signature locos of the Black Country Blues (BCB) fleet is 47335.  A TOPS numbered loco in two-tone green with full yellow ends livery sets the time and as a (then) Bescot allocated loco, it sets the place fairly well too.  With the initial rush to get the stock for the layout exhibition ready it entered service with a quick EM conversion (the existing Bachmann wheels pulled out to EM), a renumbering and a bit of weathering.  Unfortunately, it has proved to be a little unreliable, partly due to the wheels fouling on the brake gear and partly due to the known issue with some Bachmann bogies causing them to rock on the centre axle.  For a while now the plan has been to use some Penbits sprung bogies to resolve these issues.  I started to fold and solder the bogie subframes over a year ago and got as far as preparing the bearing carriers that allow the axles to move over any track irregularities.  Like so many of my projects though, it stalled while I did something else.  When I picked it up shortly after BCB’s appearance at Wigan in October, this was where I was up to:


Cautiously following the excellent instructions provided, the next step was to assemble the bolsters which connect the subframes to the chassis (and contain the secondary suspension).

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So far, so good; at this stage nothing irreversible had been done to the loco, but to move it on, the drivetrains from the Bachmann bogies needed some modification, so I had to decide whether to proceed (and in doing so, give myself a deadline to have it ready the layout’s next exhibition appearance).  Here goes nothing…


I’m guessing that invalidates the manufacturer’s warranty!  More modifications followed, and a small task that I found dis-proportionally time consuming, to open up the brass bearing that clip into the plastic bogie housing to allow the axles to travel.


I got there eventually, allowing the bogies to be test assembled.


They stayed like this for a while as I got distracted by some wagons, but next on the to do list was to add the springs.  Each bogie has eight springs, four primary springs that act on the bearing carriers in the subframe and four secondary springs that connect the bolster to the subframe.



I had some difficulties with the primary springs and am planning to replace the two individual springs with one continuous spring on either side of the bogie – just waiting on some suitable wire to arrive.

Just over a month to go before the loco is required in service; no pressure then…

The Mill Motive Power

Jason has been working on some additional locos for The Mill, firstly a Judith Edge 88DS.  As can be seen, it is all but complete now apart from glazing, painting and adding weight.

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Jason continues: “It is actually the third Judith Edge kit I have built, the first being started over five years ago and then put on the back burner when I discovered that they weren’t built until after my modelling period. However, recently I have dug it out and moved forward to the point where the end is in sight and who knows, maybe we can have an early 70’s mad half hour at the end of shows. It’s a Thomas Hill Vanguard and if anyone is in doubt about how long it has been sat on the ‘to complete’ pile, it appears in one of the first posts on my Bacup thread!


And finally, a loco which is unlikely to see much use on The Mill, an L&Y Class 23. I have owned a second hand OO Works one for a number of years now but it ran like a crippled tortoise. At the 2015 Expo EM North, I managed to pick up a George Norton kit of one for £20, only to later discover that the boiler was missing. Now I could have got a new boiler from London Road but chose instead to build up the chassis and mate it with the RTR body. This has involved shortening the chassis, adding compensation (not catered for in the kit) and adapting the High Level method for the brakes so that they are removable. It has turned into a rather enjoyable but sometimes frustrating labour of love but is getting there now.”
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Half an hour at Foundry Lane

A few photos of 20073 shunting the sidings at Foundry Lane, here we see it arriving with a brake van, there being no inbound traffic on this afternoon’s trip working

After dropping the brake van in the sidings, the loco headed off to the steel terminal, propelling a bogie bolster which had arrived on the morning trip and returning with some empty wagons which had been unloaded during the morning

The brake van is collected and added to the back of the wagons.  The loco then ran round, ready for the return working

The trip working then left, heading back towards the mainline

We grab one last photo before she disappears under the bridge and into the gloom beyond

The next exhibition appearance for the layout is Expo EM North on 15th and 16th September at the new venue of George H Carnall Leisure Centre, M41 7FJ.

First-sprung COV AB

For a while now I’ve been accumulating some of those nice Bachmann air braked wagons.  At some point in the future I might even build a layout on which to run them, but for now they are gathering dust.

With my planned move to P4, I thought it would be a good idea to have a go at springing one of these just to get a feel for how the Bill Bedford spring units work and maybe add a few other detail improvements too.  The Bachmann axleguard units are screwed in place, so are easily removed leaving a clear flat floor to mount the replacement units on.  The spring units folded up easily, I changed the spring wire provided for some 0.3mm phoshor bronze wire.  The Brassmasters axle spacing gauge came in handy for getting everything corrective aligned.  The wheels (these are Gibson EM ones) were fitted with brake discs by S Kits (from Nairnshire Modelling Supplies).  The bearings are left overs from Chivers MDV kits.

The buffers were also replaced using sprung 18″ Oleo buffers from 51L, which I fitted at our modelling night last week.

After touching in the paint on the buffers, fitting some brake pipes and a light weathering, here is the end result:

Technically it’s slightly too modern to put in an appearance on Foundry Lane, but I think it will find its way into the stock box for the next exhibition.

Today I have mostly been emitting smoke.

It was my genuine intention this morning to sit down and write a post about my forthcoming project, particularly given its location in ‘old’ Staffordshire but as usual time (or sun days in Old Gringo’s method of temporal measurement) has been snatched away from me under pressure of a deadline to turn some snaps around of John Holden’s superlative Liverpool Lime Street project.

I suppose there’s a tenuous link to Staffs in that both of the services depicted in this picture had or were about to pass along the WCML through our county. There’s a question; when did the West Coast Main Line nomenclature actually start to be used?

Patriot 5541 'Duke of Sutherland' heads up the cutting along 'the neck' with a mail service whilst 'semi' 6247 'City of Liverpool' coasts down into Lime Street.

Is it ‘finescale’ to photoshop effects into a picture of a model? Too nouveau stylee or just plain tasteless in that the smoke isn’t carefully crafted from gaseous emissions? I’m only kidding; I don’t really care as it gave some light relief compared to cleaning up images with 4,000 holes* in the overall roof.

* Tenuous Beatles link

Ruddles and chips!

The group held the first social get together last night at the Wetherspoon’s Picture House in Stafford where a convivial evening was had discussing many topics, some of which had connections to railways and modelling. It was generally agreed that it was a good choice with Ruddles bitter at £1.60 a pint and excellent chips to scoff. Another recruit to the group attended, Andy York of RMWeb fame who will bring another aspect to the group, oh and and lots of gossip!

The next workshop evening is to be a Wednesday evening, except I can’t remember whether it’s next week or the week after! Hopefully one of the other group members will remind me…?

First Workshop Night

The first workshop night of the group was held last night at Ches Bod’s and attended by 4 of the group. Tea and biscuits provided kept everyone happy and chatting and various projects were on the go. Bod (alias Mark) was working on a building for his new project, Wolverhampton Low Level in EM, John was busy sorting through all his reference material for the “Once upon a time in the West” layout that is under construction and Geoff was building a batch of iron ore hoppers for the same project. I dug out a couple of projects that haven’t seen the light of day for many a year, the one being detailing and EM conversion of an old Dapol LMS brake van, something I started about 15 years ago and never completed.

Everyone agreed it was a convivial atmosphere and all are looking forward to the next get together in a couple of weeks, planned as a natter over a pint in a suitable hostelry. Once the research has been carried out to establish the venue we will know where!

Vans finished

A little more work over the past couple of weeks has seen the unfitted LMS van and the BR Fruit van (as seen here) finally completed and removed from the “work in progress” pile and I’m quite pleased with the results (seen here posing in the winter sun):


No further progress on the other van, yet, though.

A trio of ex-LMS vans

I’m currently having a bit of a sort out and trying to clear a few unfinished projects from my workbench so I can focus on my new layout.  Two of these vans have been hanging around my workbench since before the dawn of time, the third is a more recent addition which was built just because I liked the prototype (and because it will fill a gap for unfitted van stock in the branch goods on New Haden).

They are, in no particular order, a Cambrian Kits LMS D1830 unfitted steel bodied van, a Parkside Dundas BR dia 1/230 fitted fruit van and a Ratio LMS van, tweaked to represent a BR dia 1/204 (or at least I think that is what I was doing with it).

The D1830 was built largely as intended, the the exception of buffers (some tasty castings from Lanarkshire Model Supplies) and brakes (having exhausted my stock of ABS 9′ unfitted brake gear these are from 51L – and very nice they are too).  As you can see below it has received its first weathering coat, although some variation in the colour and a perhaps a little light rusting remains to be added.  At this stage the poorly fitting roof  is still in need of attention.  Couplings are likely to be three link at one end and AJ at the other, so it can perform as a converter between locos and my other three link fitted stock on New Haden.

The diagram 1/230 fruit van has similar additions to its buffers and brake gear.  Unfortunately I can’t remember where the (sprung) buffers came from although they may be Gibson.  The brakes are from the Mainly Trains LMS AVB set in etched brass – a bit fiddly in my clumsy fingers, but well worth the effort.  This one really is finished except for lettering and weathering, so quite why it has remained in this state for over two years now is anybody’s guess – its even already got some varnish where the transfers need to go!

Finally and with the most work remaining (but dormant from almost as long) is the Ratio kit bash.  The underframe is Parkside and will receive the same etched brass brake bits as the Fruit did.  If memory serves correctly the (cast) buffers on this one came from Genesis Kits, the vacuum pipe from MJT and the axle boxes from 51L.  Not shown in the picture is an extra rivet strip added to the ends to match whichever prototype I was modelling at the time (I really must find that photo).

So there you have it; proof that I do, sometimes, do some modelling…………..