Friday, 29 July 2016

Summer comes soonest in the South....

We all know this famous image, the young child looking up at the engine driver aboard the latest in Southern Railway technology bound for somewhere on the South Coast for the annual holiday. Summer may have come soonest in the south for this young holidaymaker but it certainly didn't come soonest for Southern railway modellers.

For years Southern modellers laboured with poor quality ready to run models or constant kit building to recreate the Southern region in OO. I myself turned my back on modelling the Southern in the 1930s when I found the only King Arthur I could buy ready to run was a poor quality Sir Dinadan and an equally dated M7. There were chinks of light from Bachmann's N class and Lord Nelson along with the recently revamped Terrier tank. Finding good rolling stock was equally difficult. The project was quickly abandoned.

However, the tables began to turn and quality models started to appear. Hornby have given us a plethora of new toolings over the years. Merchant Navys, West Countrys (both rebuilt and un-rebuilt) King Arthurs, Q1s, M7s (with matching Push Pull set!), S15s, T9s, S15s, Black Motors as well as 2-BILs, 2-HALs, The Brighton Belle, a range of Pullman coaches, Maunsell Coaches and parcel vans. Then in the last few weeks, an Adams Radial tank (also produced by Oxford, both to excellent standards), class 71 electrics and just in wonderful LSWR (Maunsell rebuild) non-corridor stock. That's just from Hornby!

Meanwhile, Bachmann have been no slouches in this rise. In recent times we have seen the excellent C class and E4 tank engines introduced, along with a selection of EMUs. They have also dangled the exciting prospect of H2 atlantics and SECR birdcage coaching stock in front of us, but as is often the case with Bachmann, they plan to make us wait! Bachmann also offer a fine selection of goods wagons including the excellent PLV and Pill box brake vans.

We even have PECO and Heljan giving us Southern narrow gauge stock in the form of Lynton and Barnstaple locos, coaches and wagons! (keep an eye on our project layout for more on that one)

So there we have it, model railways very own Cinderella story. Summer might not have come soonest but it certainly has been very much worth the wait. We can now recreate equally well Southern mainline scenes out of Waterloo or head down to the withered arm for those long lost Devon and Cornish lines. For the preserved modeller we can now populate our layouts based on the likes of Bluebell (be prepared to shell out though if you want 592 in SECR livery), Swanage, Isle of Wight and more.

Southern locos and rolling stock are some of the best selling lines we have here, whether it's because Southern modellers have been starved of quality for so long or whether it's because the quality is so high I'm not sure.

So, what's next? Where is the next Cinderella story for Railway Modelling? What about the North East? Will the arrival of Hornby's Q6 see a range of models for that part of the world develop? Or what about north of the border? Now we are seeing a lot of pre-grouping locos produced is it time for a Caledonian, Highland or North British machine to grace the ready to run market?

Hope this is providing food for thought. Keep enjoying your modelling. Tony :)

Friday, 15 July 2016

Launching Project Woody Bay.

Deep in the heart of North Devon and miles from Woody Bay lies Woody Bay station

Launching another new feature of the blog, project Woody Bay. It has long been an ambition of mine to recreate this station in model form and with Heljan producing the iconic Manning Wardle 2-6-2T, PECO producing some of the coaches and wagons and Bachmann reproducing the station building itself there's no excuses left really!

This will be an occasional blog which focuses on all the aspects needed to build this model, so expect to see blogs on:
  • Baseboard construction
  • Track planning and laying
  • Scenery
  • Electrics
  • Locos and rolling stock
But we are going to kick off with where all layouts should kick off and that is at the research stage.  Beginning with a brief history of the railway.

Several schemes had been proposed to reach the hilly areas of North Devon but in 1895 a proposal to build a narrow gauge railway from Barnstaple Town station to Lynton was passed and the line completed in Spring 1898 with the official opening taking place on May 11th. The scheme's most influential backer was Sir George Newnes, a well known publisher who seemed to have a less than perfect reputation with the local population. Regardless of this it was Lady Newnes who officially opened the railway. 

For a short time it prospered but in truth the railway seldom returned any decent profits and as early as 1921 it's demise was being forecast. When we look along the route it is obvious to see why Lynton station, 20 miles from Barnstaple was a long and steep journey. With the unfortunate drawback of the station being high above the town so as not to spoil the views from several prominent residents homes.

Barnstaple Town offered a connection to the LSWR main line (now also closed) and from there the line climbed up into Exmoor. Via, Snapper Halt, Chelfham, Bratton Fleming, Blackmore Gate, Parracombe, Woody Bay and Caffyns Halt before finally reaching Lynton and Lynmouth. A problem many of these locations faced is they were destinations in name only and many miles from the actual villages they served, as we'll see when we look at

Woody Bay later on. The most impressive structure on the route was Chelfham Viaduct, which lays claim to be the largest narrow gauge structure in England. Fortunately the viaduct gained Grade II listed, unlike other L&B buildings and track bed it was not sold at auction and remained property of the Southern Railway, later British Railways and latterly Railtrack/Network Rail. For a line that closed in 1935 it's remarkable that all the stations survive.

It's easy to see why the Swiss chalet style stations like Woody Bay did survive as they made excellent homes, which is what all of the stations apart from Blackmoor Gate, which became a pub.
Woody Bay station probably has the largest claim to have been nowhere near it's destination as it's 3.5 miles to Woody Bay from the station. Plans for a connecting branch. Never materialised.

In 1923, as part of the grouping act, the railway became part of the Southern Railway. Initially the Southern seemed determined to turn the fortunes of the railway around, a new locomotive was constructed along with several new items of rolling stock. It wasn't to be however and the railway closed in September 1935.

This wasn't to be the end for Woody Bay or the Lynton and Barnstaple railway as the line now has a preserved section starting at Woody Bay and running currently for around a mile to Killington Lane but with grand plans to extend. The group also looks after Chelfham Station and Snapper Halt so there is plenty going on with the society. A society I was in fact a member of in the late 90s and where I could helped with initial site work at Woody Bay. Distance proved an issue though so I reluctantly had to give it up. Hopefully one day I shall return there to help once again.

More info on the railway at 

Hopefully the next time we look at the project layout we'll conclude the research with a visit to Woody Bay and have a look at the locomotives and rolling stock of the railway. I hope this blog has proved interesting and something different.

Keep enjoying your modelling guys. Tony :)


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

New Arrivals, Hornby AND Oxford, with Bachmann thrown in for good measure!

Last week we played Hornby v Oxford on their latest arrivals, this week we can look at new arrivals from both companies.

Hornby's 71 in "as preserved" livery

Kicking off with yet another new loco from Hornby! In the last month we have seen three new toolings from them. The Q6, the Adams Radial tank and now the 71.

I won't bore you too much with a history lesson, as many reviewers seem to do. The class was built at Doncaster between 1958 and 1960. The class saw use on the Southern region largely for freight work and trains like the Golden Arrow. By 1977 the class was withdrawn, replaced by 33s and 73s.
The model itself has been wonderfully reproduced. Paint finish, lining and transfers are beautifully applied.

Performance is super smooth and very quiet, a nice detail is being able to see the engine through the side window. A detail pack is included, which features a set of reporting numbers and front skirts should you choose to remove a coupling from one (or both) end. I haven't tried myself yet but one has been chip fitted here and I'm told space is incredibly tight in there and a small chip is the best solution, this seems to be a recurring problem of late. RRP for each model is £154.99, our price £135.

One thing I am very pleased about is the decision not to plaster NRM all over the box of the "as preserved" example as in previous cases I've found it leads to confusion with the Shildon 'high gloss' examples, which I personally think look awful!

 Meanwhile Oxford Rail have released the first of their latest range of goods wagons. First up we have the LNER cattle wagon, seen here in BR(E) guise. First impressions are that it's a very nicely produced wagon with nice details and lettering applied. However, I have been informed by a wagons expert that there are several errors in the model, which could spoil the hardcore enthusiasts enjoyment of them. Our price is £10.50.

Next up we have the North British 4 plank wagon, initially released in it's parent companies colours. This model is again a very good example and the same wagon expert who has several doubts of the cattle wagon has no criticism of note on this wagon. My main issue is the fact they have a very limited use in my opinion as I believe less than 5% of all those built survived to BR ownership in 1948 and that was probably as far as they got! Our price is £8.50.

Overall I think Oxford Rail have made a great job on both of these and they continue their tradition of producing good quality, affordable goods wagons for the steam era modeller.

Last up we have a Bachmann reissue to bring you but quite a significant one. The Inspection saloon makes a welcome return to the range. Three examples are offered, second runs of Maroon and Blue/Grey livery are a nice addition, however it has to be the appearance in EWS livery that has stirred the most interest. As always beautifully detailed and finished it offers something very different to the up to date modern image modeller. All three liveries are available from us, RRP £59.95, our price £50.95.

That's all for this update, the launch of the project layout will come very soon I promise! If any of these items are of interest to any of you or any other queries please feel free to get in touch. Keep enjoying your modelling. Tony :)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Hornby v Oxford, you decide!

Hornby's long awaited Adams Radial has finally landed.

After a long wait the Hornby Adams Radial is finally with us, which gives the comparatively rare opportunity to compare two identical products. The Hornby Adams Radial and the Oxford Rail Adams Radial.

The new Hornby model certainly is impressive and has been well worth the wait. The models are reproduced in spectacular detail, but are they a worthy competitor to the earlier release by Oxford Rail?

Oxford Rail's offering depicted in LSWR green

It has to be said that both models are of a very high standard and either would make a very welcome addition to any modeller's collection. 

Performance: The Oxford model was notorious for it's inability to negotiate uneven track work, this issue was quickly remedied and the more recent models have performed without any trouble.

We have given the Hornby model a quick shakedown test this morning and it ran smoothly first time out with no signs of any such problems. It has to be said that the original Oxford model ran very smoothly round our test track too.

The Hornby model has more weight than the Oxford version which I imagine would also contribute to tractive effort although we haven't put either through a comprehensive test on this matter and the real locomotive was never known for a large tractive effort.

I'd say the Hornby model just edges it on this occasion though.

Chip fitting: When we received delivery of the Oxford model we found chip fitting a difficulty but can be done with a direct 8 pin chip from Gaugemaster. I feel that Oxford would have been better off going for a 6 pin socket rather than an 8 pin.

Having seen the higher coal load on the Hornby model I was sure it would take a chip a lot easier than the Oxford version I was however very disappointed. It turns out there is less space for the chip than the Oxford version and that the standard 8 pin direct will not fit. I intend to experiment with several smaller chips to see if the problem can be resolved.

Oxford have recently announced a sound fitted version of the model which I am quite eager to see as I can't imagine where such equipment is to be fitted.... A victory for Oxford on this one though.

Detail and finish: A very close run thing! Starting with the BR liveried versions. I think I prefer Hornby's lining and numbers over Oxford's but there is little to choose. Smoke box numbers, shed plates and BR crests are equally as good as each other.

The LSWR version is an interesting one as I think they are as good as one another but interestingly present themselves in two different shades of green, the Hornby one being lighter. Which is more correct is a matter for debate in my opinion. I think there is little to separate the two models on this one.

One problem the Oxford model does have is the fact that several examples have had loose buffers. One positive of the Hornby model is the fact that the finished model doesn't have the massive coal load pre-production models (or the model on the box picture) have.

Price: This is the big one, with an RRP of £119.99 (our price £110) for the Hornby model and £99.95 (our price £88) for the Oxford model there is quite a substantial gap in the prices. Had the Oxford model not came along I think we'd be referring to the Hornby version as reasonable value for money in the current market. However, the Oxford version does represent very good value for money.

In conclusion, I think both models are excellent and wouldn't be disappointed to have either in my collection but the Hornby model just has the edge on the Oxford model, the question is, is it worth an extra £20? I'll leave that decision up to you!

Keep enjoying your modelling guys. Tony :)

Friday, 1 July 2016

July Events

Just a couple of events to tell you all about for July.

DRS 68 at the SVR diesel gala, at least one of these should be on display at Gresty Road!
Courtesy of Joe Connell.

Barry Potter Fairs, Coventry Toy Fair, The Connexion Leisure Club, Leamington Road, Ryton-On-Dunsmore, Coventry, CV8 3FL. Sunday July 17th, 10:30-15:00. Adults: £3.00 Senior Citizens: £2.50 Children: £1.00. One of our local fairs we try to attend whenever other events don't clash. The fair offers 150 tables of new and used model railways as well as many other varieties of models and memorabilia. Well worth a look if you're in the area! Full details at:

DRS Charity Open Day 2016, DRS Gresty Bridge Depot, Gresty Road, Crewe, CW2 5AA. Saturday 23rd July, 10:00-16:00. Adults: £5.00 Under 16s: FREE. Tickets available in advance or on the day. We return to the excellent DRS open day which is held bi-annually at DRS' Crewe Depot. A great day out for all fans of modern traction boasting a wide selection of DRS owned vehicles and at £5 admission represents great value for money. Hopefully we will be trading inside the main shed building this year, final confirmation is still awaiting on that matter however. Full details at: 

That's all for this one, hope to see some of you at one of these events. More blogs coming soon which will relate to matters modelling again. Including the launch of the Tony's Trains At Barby Model Rail 'project layout' keep enjoying your modelling guys :) Tony.