Calcutta Sidings at Wigan Finescale Show

Wigan Finescale Show has always been one of those model railway shows that I hear great things about, but due to the distance I’ve never made the effort to go. So when I was invited by Phil Eames to operate on Calcutta Sidings it gave me a perfect excuse to experience the show.

Operating Calcutta requires eight operators to keep things moving and the public entertained. The group of operators are a friendly and welcoming bunch and the ever entertaining, Paul Wade of Tonbridge West Yard fame, was his normal mischievous self!

The layout was well received by the general public, although I did get asked a couple of silly questions.

“Is that Hornby track?”

Sadly, I didn’t get much chance to look around the show or take photos. The quality of the layouts that I did see was excellent, and I’d recommend the show to anyone thinking of going next year. I may even make the journey myself.

Time operating the layout always goes quickly and before I knew it, it was time to pack it all away. I only managed to snap a few photos!

Chillington Wharf, Wolverhampton

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog as I’ve been so busy with work and shows etc. That’s not to say Walsall in P4 isn’t progressing, and although I’m still very much in the planning and baseboard design stage, a vast array of rolling stock is starting to appear presentable. I just haven’t had the spare time to write about it.

For a break away from this, I’ve started a small ‘side project’ based on Chillington Wharf at Wolverhampton Steel Terminal. The era will be set in the early 90’s, as Walsall will share the stock, and that will save me time.

The baseboard, for the scenic section, measures just 60″ x 24″ and the viewing side will be from the 24″ end, as if you’re standing on the canal bridge tow path. This is where most photos seem to be taken from and this leaves the mainline as the ideal back scene.

Chillington Wharf in P4 Scale
Chillington Wharf at Wolverhampton Steel Terminal in P4 scale.

The main building will be modelled in a dilapidated state to reflect that redundant early 90’s feel, as it was only in light use and the site as a whole was very much unmaintained. The traversing crane, a Babcock & Wilcox Ltd 10-ton overhead crane, was again disused by the 90’s but forms an interesting structure for the layout.

I’d like to thank Dave Foley and Michael Thomas for their kind permission to publish their photos of the area.

Recreating my own car in 4mm

Visitors to my blog that know me personally will already know that my other passion is 80’s Fords, and that I own a 1984 Escort XR3i in Caspian Blue and a 1990 Fiesta XR2i.

Oxford Diecast have made the Mk3 XR3i in Red, Black, White and Silver to date so I thought I’d have a go at creating my car and adding some details that they missed in their production.

Probably the most obvious detail they’ve missed is the wing mirrors. I’ve created my own using Evergreen strip, cut to size and filed to shape, and located them in position by drilling a hole in the door sides.

Before fitting the wing mirrors, I stripped the factory paint by soaking it for a couple of hours in brake fluid and once washed and dried I coated the car body in white primer.

Paint stripped from Oxford Diecast XR3i

Diecast car painted in White Primer

The next thing was to mix some paint which would closely match Ford Caspian Blue and for this I mixed Humbrol numbers 52 and 27002.

Painted 1:76 Scale Mk3 Escort XR3i

After leaving to dry over night, I put the car back together just to see what it looked like. I was pleased with how it was taking shape so moved onto adding a few more details, especially to the interior. The inside of the car looked too plastic with it being black all over.

With the interior removed I sprayed it all over with white primer and once dry, I set to painting the interior details. The dash on the Mk3 Escort is a grey/brown colour and Railfreight Grey proved ideal.  The rear parcel shelf and seats were painted the same with the seat bolsters requiring a darker shade, in this case I used Roof Dirt.

Model XR3i Interior

Another thing that needed some adjustment was the size of the tyres and this is usually fairly normal for most Oxford Diecast cars. The axles were removed from the chassis and the profile of the tyres reduced by spinning the tyre on the axle in the mini drill. You do need to be carful not to generate too much heat in the tyre, so do it in short bursts!

The exhaust on the Oxford model is also missing. I’ve used a small round file to allow the tail pipe to be recessed into the rear valance. I used a 0.5mm brass tube located onto the valance with a small amount of super glue. The tail pipe was then painted chrome.

Last but not least was to paint the lights and indicators etc.

One final thing was the height of the suspension, it doesn’t look low enough for ‘hot hatch’. So the chassis was modified with a small file to raise the height of the axles.

At this point I thought it was a little ‘overkill’ for a car that’s going to play a relatively small part in the bigger picture, but overall I’m pretty pleased…

Finished Scale Model XR3i


Castle Cement PCA Wagons – Part 1

As I’ve been busy with commission work over the last few weeks, my spare time has been taken up with researching the Washwood Heath to Bescot, Castle Cement working. It isn’t very well documented on the internet, but trawling youtube did find one video taken in 1990. The train arrives at Bescot with 20 PCA wagons, all built to design code PC009A. There is currently no RTR or kit manufacturer producing this version of the PCA, so I thought I’d have a go at bashing one together using Hornby/Lima/Dapol PCA ‘Vee’ versions as suitable donors.

Looking closely at all three brands, I decided that the Hornby one offers the best chassis in terms of detail. The chassis is also very rigid, so ideal for a P4 conversion with relatively little work.

With the body removed, I then cut the ends from the tank which revealed a lip on the end piece. This was then separated from the remainder of the tank body and measured with digital calipers. The idea was to use some PVC plumbing pipe for the new body centre, and after a trip to B&Q I purchased some suitable white pipe. After cutting the tube to size, and a small amount of work, the end caps fitted snugly and it was starting to look like something!

Cutting the wagon to reuse the tank ends
Cutting the wagon to reuse the tank ends

The only other thing I have done at this point is to cut a rectangular hole in the base of the tank to allow for the chassis weight to locate into the tank.

The end caps fit the 32mm plumbing pipe very well.
The end caps fit the 32mm plumbing pipe very well.

Plan of Action

After a lot of searching the internet and quite a few phone calls, I finally found a map printing company that was capable of printing an OS map to 1:76 scale. The map is printed onto several A0 sheets, which I wanted to join together to give an idea of the overall size, and where any necessary compromises would be. I contacted my local village hall, and for a small fee I was able to piece it all together.

Map showing Walsall Station from the centre of the layout.
Map showing Walsall Station from the centre of the layout.

It always amazes me how big the real world is, and to see such a small section of the world in scale on paper feels exciting.
My next step was to consider where the baseboard joins will be, and where the physical boundaries of the layout are. I’ve drawn the baseboard sections onto the map, taking into consideration where the turnouts are and making sure there are no baseboard joins in awkward places. Now, when the wood is cut, it should be clear where the contours of the layout are, and these can be cut to the appropriate shapes.

Map to scale showing Tasker Street and Corporation Street end of the layout.
Map to scale showing Tasker Street and Corporation Street end of the layout.

There are only two small compromises that have arisen. The two turnouts and the single slip in the centre of the layout will have to be moved about 4 inches towards Tasker Street, so that the turnouts are not close to the baseboard edge. The other is that the sidings at Tasker Street will exclude the furthest two sidings as it’s just not feasible to include them within a sensible baseboard size.

Overall, I am really pleased that there will only be two minor compromises and I can now look forward to starting the baseboards.

Walsall in Templot

Having used Templot in the past, I’ve always struggled to complete the simplest of track plans due to its complicated interface. I have since then spent hours ‘messing’, and reading online tutorials from the Templot website. Although I’m still no expert, all of a sudden it just clicked, and I was soon finishing the track plan of Walsall. It helps, I think, to forget everything you learned about computer software and start from scratch.
I used google earth, taking screen shots of the area, then patched them all together in Photoshop. Once I had a JPEG of the entire area of the planned layout, I worked out the scale and imported it into Templot.

Now extended to nearly 40ft long
Screen shots from Google Earth, joined in Photoshop.

I then added the track design on top of the background, including the single slip which was the most difficult to master. Walsall in P4, although a large sized layout, is thankfully simple as far as turnouts go. There are only a few points and one single slip in the 40ft track plan. This was another plus when deciding on where to model, as I didn’t want any overly complex point work to build.

Track design over background image in Templot.
Track design over the background image in Templot.

Most of the track work at Walsall station was relayed when the track plan was altered, at the time when the shopping centre was built in the 70’s. The newly laid track was all concrete sleeper, and a visit to the location will be needed to see where the concrete finishes and the wooden sleepers start, but that’s for the future!

Cliffe Vale to St. Blazey ‘Clayliner’

This week my thoughts have turned to train formations, and in particular, the 6V70 Cliffe Vale to St. Blazey china clay working. Research has found that after the closure of the Bescot Curve in March 1993, the service was forced to go north via Walsall from Bescot, before heading south via the sutton park line and Washwood Heath. This is perfect for the time period I’m modelling, and I can now make use of a handful of the new Bachmann Polybulks.
The variation of wagons in the rake would often vary, but usually consisted of Polybulks and Clay Tigers. In addition, a VGA van or Cargowaggon would be added where bagged clay needed to be transported.
Power was normally provided by a pair of 37’s, although as many as four have been photographed, or a class 47. I’m planning on using a pair of ViTrains 37/4’s for this project, as I’m new to P4, and they are an easier conversion to start with than the Bachmann variety. Both will be in Railfreight Distribution triple grey livery, and suitably weathered.

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