Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gopher Models Victorian Railways B Class

Sorry to those of you who have been looking for a post over the last couple of weeks – it has been that time of the school term when marking and the resulting reporting take over for a a little while and not much railway work happens owing to paying work being the priority.

All hasn’t been lost however with this lovely addition to the Australian locomotive fleet arriving direct from the manufacturer (after purchase I hasten to add – it isn’t a freebie for review – it’s mine!) via the Neb Noswal Express a couple of weeks ago. 


It is one of “those” locos – interesting, been around for years – in this case, the prototype for mine was the first mainline diesel electric for the Victorian Railways and delivered to same way back in 1952.  Having been selected for a rebuild and new engine back in the 1980s the frames and bogies are still going strong, now as A60 rather than B60.

For those who are unfamiliar with the prototype may I suggest a visit here or a bit of a trawl around the internet.

Because mine is direct from Phil, I got a few hand me down bits and pieces – the collection of transfers for example didn’t include all the ones I need as there had been some with misprints – as we have been mates for over ten years and I don’t mind.  I’ll get the missing 3 in due course (all for number boards – somewhere along the lines the printer only put in one of each number on the first print, despite there needing  to be 4), so mine isn’t exactly a representative example of the production run.  Having said that, the model itself is and rather than worrying about reviewing the bits I added (nameplates, side number plates etc.) I’ll deal with just the model.


Running wise, it was very smooth straight out of the box.  It is supposed to be a match for the other Gopher Models (at this stage I’ve a pair of 48s, a pair of 44s, a pair of S and a GM12 to compare it with) and while it doesn’t quite match yet, I am sure with running in it will be much closer – at this stage B60 is about 1 inch slower around my layout, St Alban’s Abbey and this is a 5m x 1.1m oval so quite lengthy than the S class and 44s which will be running together.  As B60 won’t be needing to run with anything I am not too worried but my 44s work very nicely together (post on them to come) and once I have chipped them for DCC operation, I expect the consisting on the Brisbane Limited model I hope to build up will be spot on.

The model itself is finished in the later version of the Victorian Railways Blue and Gold scheme first made famous on the Spirit of Progress streamliner and is associated S Class 4-6-2 Pacifics prior to World War II.  In this case, the difference to its original livery is the yellow at the top of the doors – a practice which disappeared sometime in the 1960s I believe.  I haven’t been able to find out exactly when B60 got its doors so treated.  Those who want an earlier B will have to be delicate with a paint brush.  I believe the Blue matches the Steam Era paint VR Diesel Blue but how close the factory in China got it, I can’t say. 


As far as printing goes most of the pad printing is very crisp.  I found some bleed points on the side of the body near the grills, but since I don’t ever remember seeing one clean here, weathering to suit the normal late 70s early 80s grime from my childhood will solve this problem.  To be honest it isn’t noticeable at normal distances and it was only with the benefit of my modelling glasses and deliberately looking for “faults” that I could find it.  Everything else is what we are coming to expect from Phil and his Gopher stable – just a shame Ixion didn’t take off for the British Modeller but that is another story!

At this stage the B is only available in VR Blue/Gold and a special livery done for a Streamliners weekend in Goulburn.  Phil has a number of unpainted models, one of which has been done for Ben in the VicRail Tangerine T-Cup livery from the early 1980s.  It looks as vile as I remember but Phil has done a nice job in the painting of it.  I understand if demand is sufficient to warrant a second run, the V/Line scheme which replaced the Blue & Gold and Tangerine liveries.  Even later liveries, such as SSR and WCR will probably remain special paints jobs by Phil but since the SSR 44 was done as RTR the B may manage to be done for those looking for the set.

If you’d like one – or one of the other Australian RTR diesels Phil has done – go to and follow the links.  I’ve not been paid for this review.  Phil doesn’t even know I’ve done it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

South East Queensland Area Group Meeting – 10 March 2018

We had our third get together for 2018 last Saturday with 7 members in attendance.  I didn’t get around to taking photos which is a shame as David G had brought along quite a lot of his stud of locos for a running session, many of which he has had weathered professionally.  A quite impressive collection.

We welcomed back Anthony from his three year posting to Sydney with the Army – he swapped in for Ben who the Army saw fit to post to Puckapunyal at the end of last year.  Anthony showed us some of the building progress he has made for his North Wales line.  Hopefully we will get organised enough for a visit once he is fully back operational.

David H had brought his DCC programing set up and sorted my NCE controller which was playing up – turned out it was the cable rather than the controller.  A bit of playing around with DCC locos resulted.

Discussions on Hollie’s and my new layout were fruitful – I’d put some Kato track one to see if the geometry was workable and it seems it will be ok.  I’m hopeful that we shall have significant progress by next month – fortunately I’ve two weeks holidays coming up straight after Easter so the signs are good, management permitting.

As always, if you are around South East Queensland on the Second Saturday you are more than welcome to come along and join us.  Just drop me a line.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Class 128 Parcels Railcar revisited

Once upon a time – or perhaps “A long time ago…” is a better start! – I regaled readers with the tale of my sorting one of these here.  As it turned out, I never did get around to sorting the transfers and what not for the 2015 modelling competition and with the 2017 running late and being held in a couple of weeks, I thought I had better do something about it – if for no other reason than to provide a second or third place.


So what’s changed?  Well I got some transfers for the Parcels service to put on it, put the handrails in (Spirit Design out here has a nifty tool for handrails – unfortunately the owner of said nifty tool has now moved 1000kms south so I might have to get my own), glazed it with Krystal Klear and weathered it all over. 

Depending on the lighting and the angle you can still see the print lines but all in all I am quite pleased with it – just have to sort a DCC chip for it and get around to building the 1975-1982 themed layout for it to run on.  But another UFO FO’d so that’s a result.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vessels for “Hollie Wharf” – Part I

Long term readers will possibly remember back in 2016 I was given a shunting puzzle layout by one of our on again, off again LAG members (currently heading back on again which is a bonus!) and my daughter, keen as a bean to return to the Toowoomba show after her debut as an operator in 2015 was given nominal ownership and as a result it was christened Hollie Wharf.

It has been to two Toowoomba shows – 2016 and 2017 – and may go again this year depending on whether or not the planned replacement “Celyn Glanfa” is ready in time (you can look up the Welsh if your keen – and if you are Welsh and don’t like Google Translator's answer, please get in touch with a better one!) although there is the complication that the magic smoke seems to have escaped somewhere late on the last day of the show last year (which is one of the many reasons I am glad Ken is back into British N for a bit as he has offered to trouble shoot his home made circuitry).

Now, being a wharf Hollie and I both felt it was important to have a vessel or two to have at the dockside.  Again, long term readers may remember (and you can certainly hunt back to 2016) that there was some detailing bits done with my Aldi 3D printer.  One of these bits was to make a start on converting an Ertl push along Bulstrode the Barge from the Thomas the Tank Engine collection into something more like a costal steamer.

I have fortunately obtained a second one from the Bay of E for not a lot and, this time, have managed to remember to take more pictures of the process.  The modification is by no means complete but I thought a Part I would be useful – if for no other reason than to make me get a move on so Part II gets done!

Below is what I started with.  It comes apart easily by removing a few screws from underneath



The component bits.  I chucked the wheelhouse as it is over scale.  I also chucked the bit with the wheels in it as being no use to any plans I have nor could I see how it would be useful in the future.  Hope I don’t regret that.


Having dismantled everything the hull section looks like this.  Not particularly useful if you want a waterline model but I have a bench sander and, having fitted it with a worn fine grade belt, I took it down to the waterline pretty quickly and easily.


The deck insert was next – before on the left, after on the right.


I removed the bollards (dunno what else you’d call them) from the bow and stern, cut a hole where the cargo hold is and trimmed down the lugs which had secured it all together.


So I now have a hull ready for building onto.  At this stage, this vessel, tentatively named Ruby, is going to be a sister vessel to the one we already have, the Amity.  Both carrying coal around the coast from wherever Hollie Wharf is.

Now to sort out the 3D printer and find the print files for the new bollards!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Mermaids repainted

Last week I wrote about the two DJM mermaids I received from Hatton’s and indicated they’d be joining the UFO pile to be back liveried into black from Civil Engineer’s Dutch.  Well as it happens, I got onto it much sooner than I thought particularly when I found that removing the bodies for painting wasn’t that much of a hassle – a few minutes careful prising with a steel ruler and voila.

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The now removed bodies were spray rattle can black and left to dry for a day or so before transfers from the Model Master range which used to be available from the N Gauge Society (sheet 2633 which has options for Dogfish, Catfish and the Mermaids.  I used to to redo some Railhaul (I think) liveried Dogfish back to black years ago – I hope I can get some more as I have 11 Catfish etches to build). 

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So after about 5 minutes of dismantling, 5 of shaking the spray can then pointing and shooting, a day of waiting and an hour putting 10 transfers per wagon on, I have what I wanted – two black Mermaids to join the Grampus, Dogfish and Shark on the engineers possession train.

Friday, January 26, 2018

DJM Mermaids

So I thought I’d do a review of the most recent purchase to arrive from my “local” hobby store – Hatton’s of Liverpool.  I’d actually been going online to buy some short shank NEM couplers and was tempted by a pair of the DJM Mermaids.  They were in “Dutch” grey and yellow livery whereas I’d prefer black (which is much earlier in their life) but I figured it isn’t hard to paint something black and in any case I have some Modelmaster Transfers which will suit so another UFO joins the pile….

Anyway, as these are the first examples of some models from DJM that I’ve obtained I was curious to see what was different from the Dapol offerings which Dave Jones had overseen at his time there – and what hadn’t really changed much at all.

So first impression – the boxes were nice but not as sturdy as I am used to from Dapol.  No plastic boxes here.  More like Farish although I felt the window was a little small to allow a reasonable view of the model.  A bit like Ixion before him, Dave has gone for a slogan – theirs was “Own the Finest”  his is “ Setting Higher Standards”.   

As far as the model goes, it looks pretty good.  The necessity of the plastic moulding process and the nature of these wagons (being side tippers) does mean the representation of the support structure and the tipping bits are a bit over – if they were scale I am pretty sure there reject rate would be uneconomically high.   Turning the wagon over I was very impressed with the brake gear and what not – stuff which unless you have really bad track laying skills you won’t see but adds to the authenticity (and having spoken to a professional model maker it actually doesn’t add to the cost of the tooling – and adds only a little to the design CAD stage).

The ballast load is well modelled too – and easily removed for those wanting to run it empty or to replace with something more realistic (like actual crushed up ballast).  Having a pair they do look a little to alike (but again the cost of having more than one mould for this is not economic – and then you are still relying on luck to get two different loads although with the different running numbers it shouldn’t be that hard).

For me the biggest let down was the coupling spacing.  As is now the industry standard, NEM pockets are fitted but the choice of coupling length is, frankly, ridiculous.  I don’t know if DJM only do one size of coupler and I get the cost of a mould has to be covered but when the gap between the buffers measures at 9mm this is way too big.  Not setting higher standards at all.    Now I understand the Rapido coupler isn’t that great – but I think we can all acknowledge that for RTR British N we are stuck with it.  Farish provide a short shank NEM coupler (the item I was actually buying from Hatton’s when the siren song of the mermaid called to me) and fitting a pair of these brought the gap down to 4mm.  It is still too big – and I would expect at 4mm it will go around “trainset” curves (which I define as anything under 12 inches radius – my layout runs 15” on the hidden sections and much, much larger on the visible) so why DJM thinks a 9mm gap is setting higher standards boggles the imagination.    I would like to get mine down lower than 4mm but at this stage that’s where they are until after the repaint.

Overall 8/10 with the buffer gap accounting for all the lost of marks.  Once they are painted to match the Dogfish, Grampus and Shark they’ll make an interesting addition to my ballast train.

Pictures of the two gaps:


Saturday, January 20, 2018

DIY Transfers

One of the LAG members dabbles a bit in USA outline.  My original trainset, given to me at birth, is also American and I have, from time to time, dabbled a bit myself.  The collection isn’t particularly big and, owing to not knowing very much about the US at the time, the Roads which I had locos and stock for were more purchased on the basis of either it was cheap or I liked the look of it.  When I finally sat down a couple of years ago to consider what to do with it all, I found I had bits and pieces from 5 roads, three of which were orphans – or very tenuously connected to the others.

It was about this time that David mentioned he was going to do is own shortline and was essentially running his railroad as a hook and pull operation from the nearest Class 1 down a branch.  I had a bit of a read around the internet and found this was a pretty common method of playing trains in the US and figured it would enable me to justify most of what I had – all I had to do was assume the Class 3 Road I was operating had purchased the random locos from the Class 1 which had purchased them from the manufacturer.  This would enable a PRR K4 Pacific for instance to be running over next to a GN F7. 

A bit more thinking and I decided to upgrade to a Class 2 Road as this enabled me to have more miles and more money, justifying repainting the eclectic collection and so the Empire Railroad was born. 

All this back story is necessary I suppose to explain how I came to getting some decal paper and making my own transfers.  I needed to do something to make my own railroad livery!

I got my paper from eBay and an Australian supplier.  Heaps out there and much of a muchness for price.  I got a single clear A4 sheet to practice with.  As I can’t print white, any white lettering needs to go on a white paint swatch.  Similarly, I have found that unless I print in black, and at photo quality, I have to put colours onto a white background as they appear washed out.  It is still a trial and error process.

I have however had a couple of successes.  The Empire Railroad has three 2-8-0 steamers (Bachmann ex-Missouri Pacific) and these have had Empire put on the tender and 1977, 1980 and 1983 applied to the cab sides for the road numbers.  Because I did these myself, I wasn’t limited to what Fox or anyone else did for fonts and so they were done in BANK GOTHIC Lt with a bit of manipulation on spacing and so forth.  These were printed by firstly printing the desired shape and size on plain paper then cutting enough transfer paper from the sheet to cover, sticking it over with scotch tape and reprinting.  I painted a white square on the tender and slide the transfer on.  Once dry I painted around the transfer with matte black.  The same approach went on the cab side but this was a bit more lumpy with detail – US locos aren’t as neat and tidy as UK – and so I had to use microsol to get the transfer to lie flat.  One of the six number squares mucked up – must get around to sorting that.

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I also did three Microtrains cabooses – two started life as BN Green (so post 1970 which was much later than I decided on – I’ve decided 1950s for steam to still be hanging on in parts but broadly diesels hold sway) and one in PRR brown.  They were painted rattle can red from Bunnings – and then suitably adorned with the Empire logo and number 501, 502 and 503.  As these were black it was very simple.

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Finally, I mentioned last week I’d have a photo of the Simple Green for those who want to find it and give it a go – as I mentioned I got mine from Bunnings in Australia so I don’t know if it is available overseas but if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told to use Johnson’s Klear….  Turns out Simple Green is made in NZ so chances are they export it further than the West Island eh bro?


Friday, January 12, 2018

Atso-Cad LNER D120 Pigeon Van - a reprise of sorts

Just on four years ago I posted about building one of the resin kits which had been done as a limited run of these vans.  My comment then was that I hoped I would eventually get my own if it were added to Steve’s Shapeways shop.  Fortunately it has been (There is a link to the shop in the original post) and while the exchange rates and general costs haven’t been especially friendly, I took an opportunity late last year when Shapeways had a free shipping plus 10% discount sale on for designers to add one to my order.

Essentially it was much the same as the cast version – chassis and body but the buffers were printed on as was the brake gear to the chassis.  You also need with this one to supply wheels and couplings. 
I managed to break a buffer off by dropping it before I had done much and having spent a few minutes looking decided a brass replacement was going to be quicker so that’s what it got.  The print is pretty good and considering it is of a wooden paneled vehicle I didn’t find the lining an issue but if you wanted to rubbing the roof down between coats of paint would help.  Doing in the individual panels…. that would be tedious and fraught with danger I think.

The two parts were cleaned with Simply Green – I’ll put a pic of the bottle up next week – which I got from Bunnings.  I don’t know if it is available in the UK or elsewhere (although Bunnings and its snags are in the UK) but it worked a treat – best cleaner for FUD I’ve found.  Painting then followed with some rattle can primer and Humbrol crimson (also the rattle can – quicker than getting the airbrush out).  The roof is Grimy Black from Modelmaster.  The chassis was painted separately with a rattle of black.  

The couplers are NEM boxes as part of the print – as I run minimum 15” curves I opted for a pair of the short Farish ones and, unlike Ben’s, didn’t put the steam heat pipes on – guess it is summer for mine.  Glazing done with Krysal Klear.   Following the transfers Testors dulcote was applied and then glazing.  The glazing was done with Krysal Klear.  Transfers from the collection – the number was lucky as a set of coach numbers had the 5 digits in almost the right order – took the two from the front and put them at the back.  Wheels from the spares box – they fitted and rolled smoothly which was the criteria.  Not Peco but I don’t know whose they are.


Similarly to Ben’s, Tatlow’s book was consulted for a number (70209 to go with Ben’s 70199) and the whole lot finished within about 2 weeks of getting it.   A lightening fast time for me!


So a pretty quick and easy model of a prototype which would appear to have travelled fairly widely in the days when homing pigeon races were a frequent weekend event.

Lastly, thanks for the comments on last weeks post – I am pleased that some find my ramblings and bits and pieces of interest.  Hopefully you’ll also be inspired to give something a go.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Return

Like Lazarus rising, I have come back to this blog as a means to keep track of what I am doing modelling wise and, having also returned to the setup for modelling and photographing which I started with back in Longreach in 2010, I think it is going to be a lot easier to maintain the posting – always a key part of having a blog!

So what has been happening?  Well bits and pieces – 2017 was supposed to be the year of making a significant dent in the UFO pile and moving as many models as possible into the FO pile.  Alas what actually happened was I generally did bits and pieces but didn’t get anything finished.  Some of this was due to work commitments, other family (tidy up the modelling area and when modelling resumed start on a different one to the one previously being worked on).  Other reasons were the lack of bits to actually finish things.  The considerable changes of the N Gauge Society Shop has, at least for this overseas member, meant that much of what appealed in being a member has been lost – and frustratingly, the news dropped in the renewal Journal having coughed up for three years.  Ho hum. 

The other, and probably most significant issue, was my eyesight.  I was trying to solder some axle boxes on back in September 17 and realised I just could no longer focus where I used to be able to.  A trip to the optician resulted in the previous one set of glasses (for distance vision) becoming three – sunglasses for distance (they live in the car), tri-focal for distance, computer screens and a bit of modelling and dedicated modelling glasses.  The latter enable me to see my finger prints clearly on a glass at 9 inches and don’t let me see my hand at the end of my arm!  I took a model with me to the optician to show him what I was doing and he was very helpful.  The prescription enables me to read the calibration message for his equipment so money well spent.

So the modelling – most recently I have renumbered the pair of Farish Std 4 2-6-4Ts I received for Christmas.  80027 with early crest became 80037 – which for a few years early in is career was allocated to Watford Junction and may have been (although no definitive evidence has appeared) being used on the branch to St Alban’s Abbey.  The other went from being 80119 to 80103 – which had the unfortunate distinction of being the first of the 999 Standards to be condemned having suffered cracked frames in 1962 – a mere 2 years after 92220 came out of Swindon.

To renumber them I tried something new.  I got some Simply Green cleaner from my local Bunnings Hardware (incidentally Bunnings is in St Alban’s and would, if I were modelling the station today, manage to make it onto the corner of the layout!) as I had seen some posts on various forums as to its worth as a gentle paint and decal stripper.  A bit painted on the transfers and left for about a minute then a cocktail stick and the numbers removed quickly and easily with no damage to the paint underneath.  New numbers from Fox transfers and sides done.  I was able to do the smoke box door number plate on 80037 but 80103 needs the “wrong” right hand crest applied as the pictures I have of it after its only Heavy General overhaul show it having the wrong facing lion.  Order sent to Fox and hopefully it will be sorted fairly shortly. 

Std 4 and Ivatt renumber

While I was on the transfer roll, my inadvertent eBay purchase of a 46521 – inadvertent as I thought I had a black one, not a green so ended up with two the same – became 46512 which was also a Swindon built example finished in lined Brunswick Green.

So that’s it for this week.  I’ve a few more things to show so will be making the effort to post weekly for the next few to clear the backlog.