Track building, an essay in brass.

Although the current trend in track building is the use of plastic chairs on plastic or plywood timbers, there are still other ways to build your track. As much as I like the plastic chairs from Exactoscale and C+L finescale, they are bordering on the expensive side especially when 100’s+ are required, that’s not to say they aren’t worth it as they are exquisitely moulded. It’s just that for your average Dad, it’s getting harder to justify. Also there is a discussion with regards to the checkrails chairs in P4, that under a certain turnout radius the checkrails may not act accordingly in relation to gauge widening. So with both those issues in mind, I cast my memory back to reading about Masokits brass half etched chairs for running track and turnouts.

Michael Clark’s Masokits range of brass etched chairs require copper clad timbers to solder to. These were acquired from Wizard models and a long with a few packs of the etch brass chairs certainly is a step in the right direction for both cost to myself and allows exact control over the building of tight radius turnouts.

Today was spent cutting up copper turnout timbers and fitting them to a copy of my Templot plan on my workbench board. Simply cut with a pair of side cutters they made light work of the cladding and I had a full set of timbers within an hour. Shown here awaiting fixing to the templates with double sided tape.

Now I’m all set to start folding the etched chairs and get soldering.


Stock building underway

Having made life more difficult by modelling the 1920’s, with the majority of reference photos and details dating to mostly the 50’s & 60’s. Without finding details about which wagon company or companies the Railway used, not to mention the engineering talent and facilities that were available at The Wallows (the engineering works and sheds) there was a chance that some wagons were built on site, like some of the locomotives. Finding suitable stock off the shelf is very limited.

There is a reference to The Midland Railway wagon and carriage works, about a hopper wagon with a similar design built for export to Australia. Which is visible in a photo taken at a land sale wharf, which sadly I can’t post.

So to establish a base of wagons for the layout to get things underway I’ve chosen both the 5 & 7 plank Gloucester 1907 15′ po wagons. Simple but well detailed kits from Cambrian kits.

The buffers have been replaced with Lanarkshire Model white metal buffers for wooden underframed early po wagons. The coupling hooks will also be Lanarkshire models white metal which although originally designed to be cosmetic are more than strong enough for actual coupling use, especially given my rakes would be between 5-7 wagons max.

P4 wheels are from Alan Gibson and although I’ve built the brakes from the kit, they will be retro fitted with Masokits and Bill Bedford brakes and levers a long with all future builds. I always try and build atleast one to the original instructions.

The chassis is the base for the 5 plank and the 7 plank is just awaiting couplings and brakes retro fitting.

These Cambrian kits will be in a reasonable good condition given the 1907 design heritage. For the more older wagons there’s a large variation of types available to model but will mostly require scratchbuilding.

The railway used many plank variations including 1,3,4,5,6 &7 plank wagons. The railway did have many dumb buffered wagons. As seen in this photo, which will require scratchbuilding.

Dated early 20th Century, this is Abbiss coal merchant’s landsale wharf. The third wagon from the right is a 4 plank dumb buffered wagon. There’s a few variations in the rake too, near the back appears to be atleast 1 slope sided hopper.

The following is an extract from the Dudley archive which accompanies the photo:

Mr Joe Abbiss, who owned the coal merchants whose company name is on the lorry, is the gentleman standing in the lorry. The man on the left holding the horses, is believed to be a Major Westwood. The “E D” on the sides of the trucks indicate that the colliery belonged to the Earl of Dudley. The description “Landsale wharf” in the Black Country, usually means a railway siding at which coal is unloaded for sale to merchants or consumers. Coal is usually loaded from the train to lorries by hand. (Courtesy of Mr. J. Abbiss).

Courtesy of Dudley Archives and the Black country History website

The Earl of Dudley’s Railway.

Here’s a little introduction to the fascinating railway that is now all gone but not without leaving it’s mark on history.
The Earl of Dudley’s Railway was an independent mineral and industrial railway, which at one point stretched for some 40 miles across the south west of the black country. The railway has a very long heritage and a little place in history. However with the last steam engine withdrawn from service in 1963, very little remains of the once important railway.
Perhaps though with one lasting connection to the present day, is that the railway once serviced the Round Oak steelworks, with much of the internal railway still left at the site once being a part of the Earls Railway.

Its little place in history (and the NRM) was assured in 1829 several months before the Rainhill trials, when large crowds gathered in the Pensnett area of the railway (at this time known as the Shutt End Railway) for trials of the locomotive Agenoria, which was seen pulling up to 20 mineral wagons, weighing over 130 tons, managing a speed of between 3 and 7 mph. Interestingly the builder Foster Rastrick, of Foster Rastrick and co, Stourbridge, was after this trial run of Agenoria invited to be a judge at the Rainhill trials. Agenoria can now be seen in the great hall at the NRM, minus her tender, but well preserved.

In the very early part of the 17th century it was discovered that the land in the black country was rich in minerals, Coal, Limestone, ironstone and clay were in abundance, however a ridge some 800′ above sea level ran through the area, while to the North and East of the ridge the minerals were pushed to the surface and easily collected, the terrain to the South and West was more hostile, and it was for this reason that ultimately brought the railway in to being, alongside the many canals in the area. The owner of the land to the South and West of the line was the Ward family, who had succeeded the title and ownership of the Dudley estate in the late 18th century.
As the railway developed in the mid to later half of the 19th century, the railway purchased tender locomotives from Manning Wardle, which worked the line for many years, before the railways own workshops rebuilt them in to small 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 locomotives, these worked up until the turn of the century when further purchases were made trialling different makes of small tank engines, with locomotives from Avonside and Peckett being used on the line, but when a few Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 st were introduced to the railway they soon became the mainstay of the line up to until their withdrawal in the 1960’s. Barclay 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 saddle tanks were in abundance on the lines. Very few survived in to preservation, as most were cut up at the works and the scrap used in the furnaces at Round Oak.
The Earl of Dudley’s Railway was a very complex and interesting system, with vast workshops on site at ‘The Wallows’, a 90 deg crossing of the GWR mainline at Round Oak, connection to multiple coal mines, canal basins, landsale wharves, which for instance took the railway almost in to the town centre of Dudley, the railway has a long history and hopefully by modelling this little railway I can convey some of that importance and history.
If anyone would like to learn more I canhighly recommend the book The Earl ofDudley’s Railways, by Ned Williams.


MRJ Cameo layout competition

As eluded to in my last post, I’ve entered a design to the MRJ/Wild Swan and Titfield Thunderbolt bookshop Cameo layout competition that was announced last year.

The competition is being held to not only promote the Iain Rice Creating Cameo Layouts book but also to bring finescale in small spaces to a broader audience and tempt modellers to try finescale modelling.

Iain’s book is highly recommended and owning a copy was a requirement for entry. So here’s mine.

So what have I entered?

Dudley’s Coal

It’s a small P4 Cameo and is set in the early 1920’s in Black country, the layout is based on the railways of the Earl of Dudley. The Earl’s railway (also known as the Pensnett railway) was a comprehensive mineral railway system in the South Western corner of the Black country in the West Midlands.
My cameo entry is designed to represent one of the railways many Landsale Wharves, where the local coal was offloaded to businesses and the general public.

The layout design is a simple fan of 3 sidings, with a kick back spur/headshunt. It actually draws inspiration from an Ian Futers design. The idea behind the design is for a minimalist scene with a few structures, for dealing with the sale of the coal, and a little Autumnal landscaping.

As well as this blog the build is being documented on The Western Thunder forum too as a requirement for entry. Dudley’s Coal can be found here.


Severnside Models Weighbridge

After entering the MRJ Cameo layout competition, more to follow, I picked up a Severnside models weighbridge kit. A very nicely etched road vehicle weighbridge kit in brass.

As suggested by the company the kit was built using CA glue, although you can very easily solder the building together, which may be easier, attaching some of the parts that require the usual three hands to hold everything.

A magnifying glass/stand is required, as the kit has an etched door-handle and mount and even with 30-something eyes I needed help locating the etch.

All the etching is very crisp, and the next stage is a priming coat, to see what needs a little tidying up.


Severnside models

I know common wisdom is to use an etch primer, but I’ve been reading on a few US modelling streams about a new airbrush friendly primer, called Stynylrez from Badger. It can be airbrushed straight from the bottle and comes in a range of colours.

A little experimenting should be fun.


Merry Christmas


Have a Merry Christmas holiday and wonderful New Year everyone! Happy modelling.