Modelling News Blog

News on new model releases, reviews of exhibitions and other happenings in the model railway world.

Graham Farish 2016 Programme

Class 319Photo by John Armitstead

Bachmann have announced the 2016 programme of new models for the Graham Farish range. It’s again a year of consolidation, with many models originally announced two or three years ago still to appear, though today’s announcement does give progress on these; some, like the GWR “Castle” are not fat off. I suspect the age when we three or four major new models every year may be behind us now.

The one big announcement is the class 319 EMU, something I don’t think anybody saw coming. It’s an interesting choice. Built as a dual-voltage train for the initial opening of Thameslink, they’re the one type of multiple unit seen on both the third-rail DC network south of the Thames and the overhead AC network north of London. They’re now being displaced from their original duties by a newer generation of trains and redeployed in other parts of the country. So far they’ve seen use in the north-west of England, and will see service in other routes as electrification spreads.

Aside from that, the rest is all reliveries and reissues. The Mk1 coaches in the red, white and blue Network South East livery are very welcome. The Mk1 BG in Royal Mail Red is useful as well to match the existing TPO stock. The major new loco livery is the class 70 in the colourful Colas livery.

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Revolution Trains News

321Revolution Trains, the crowdfunding-based model railway brand run by Ben Ando and Mike Hale. have concluded the expressions of interest phase of their two most recent projects. The good news is that the class 321 EMU will almost certainly be going ahead.

Class 320/321/456 project: the levels of interest in this project are very promising and we are 99% certain that the project can begin design.  The only area that we are still finalising is the cost for the units – until we have a confirmed price we will not open orders. As soon as we have a price we will open orders for the 320/321 with a deposit option and with incentives for people who back us early.

The level of interest shown rather contradicts the conventional wisdom thar nobody is interested in electric mutiple units. Sadly there was not the same level of enthusiasm for their other proposal

Unfortunately the results of the 21/29 project were not so promising with neither the class 21 or class 29 getting sufficient support to justify production as things stand. To be frank both locos were significantly below production minimums. Even in the situation where we only produced one of the classes (and customers had agreed to swap their interest to that class (it would have been a class 29 as it was approximately 50% more popular than a 21) we would still have been significantly below the minimum production run.

That’s something of a surprise, since the prototype’s stamping ground, the Scottish Highlands, with its spectacular scenery and relatively short trains is a popular subject for modellers, and there are plenty of complementary models are already available.

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Mermaid Ballast Wagon Kickstarter

Mermaid Kickstarter

County Rolling Stock are running a Kickstarter for a Mermaid Ballast Wagon in N Gauge. This will be a ready-to-run model, to be manufactured as a special commision by Dapol.

Crowdfunding started in the niche music scene, and has spread across many creative hobbies including the gaming world. Revolution Trains, ironically born out of a Kickstarter campaign that fell tantalisingly short of its very ambitious target has popularised crowdfunding in the British N gauge scene.

They and others could potentially transform how models are commissioned and sold. It’s a logical extension of the special commisions by major retailers and the N Gauge Society, except that rather than businesses and societies taking the financial risk, it’s up to the customers to prove the demand is there by pledging their money.

I wonder if Marillion realised what they were starting when they launched their pre-order campaign for “Anoraknophobia” some 15 years ago. And as I write this, I’m listening to “Essence” by Panic Room, another album funded by a successful kickstarter.

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N Elevation – The Vertical Fiddle Yard

Nelevation Train Lift

Nelevation demonstrated their high-tech train lift system at the N Gauge Show in Leamington this weekend. It’s a very clever idea, a vertical traverser that doubles up as a display cabinet. The footprint is far smaller that a conventional fiddle yard with associated pointwork.

It’s designed for N-gauge, though the concept ought to work for proportionately shorter trains in larger scales.  The website quotes a length of 1400mm, which isn’t quite long enough for a 2+8 HST,  though talking to the designers on Saturday I got me the impression that it may be available in muliple lengths.

A the moment it’s not yet commercially available, though when it does go into production the likely price will probably run into four figures. Which seems a lot until you look at the likely value of the trains you will put in it.

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N Gauge Minories, anyone?

Blue Mk1 Suburban(Photo from Hattons)

Graham Farish’s BR Blue Mk1 suburban is now in the shops. It’s the sort of model that suggests a Minories-style inner-city terminus using the recently retooled class 31s and the forthcoming DJM Baby Deltic as motive power.

The prototype Mk1 suburban coaches were short-lived and should probably never have been built. Designed as like-for-like replacements for life-expired pre-nationalisation non-corridor stock, the short-distance services on which they were used rapidly went over to DMUs soon after they were built, and without toilets they were unsuitable for longer-distance services. Most of them had their bodies stripped off so the underframes could be used as Carflats.

There was one exception. Peak-time services on the City Widened line between Kings Cross and Moorgate had to negotiate the notorious Hotel Curve in a tunnel beneath part of the station. Clearances were two tight for 64′ coaches, which meant none of the high-density suburban DMU designs would fit, and the low-density 57′ DMUs didn’t have the capacity.  So a small fleet of 57′ Mk1 suburbans lasted until the Great Northern electrification in 1977 when the Hotel Curve closed. They were the only Mk1 suburbans to survive long enough to receive BR blue livery.

A cramped partially-underground inner-city terminus based around that theme would make a tempting model. But someone other than me can build it.

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DEMU Showcase

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

A few photos from 21st Anniversary DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent from a couple of weeks ago. DEMU stands for “Diesel and Electric Modellers United”, an organisation dedicated to modelling British prototypes after the steam age, formed at a time when steam-age modelling was considered the default. Here’s the spectacular viaduct at one end of the 2mm finescale Fencehouses, set in County Durham in the 1960s.

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

I’m probably in a minority here, but “Diesels in the Dutchy”, based on St.Blazey in Cornwall in the late 1980s doesn’t quite do it for me. It captures the look of the place very well, including details like the stone blocks of the tramway that preceded the railway. But as someone very familar with the prototype in the era modelled, there’s an element of verisimillitude missing for me; the simplified trackplan means it doesn’t operate like the prototype, turning it into a working diorama rather than a reproduction of a real working railway.

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

Graeme Hedges’ Stoney Lane is a perennial exhibition favourite, a N-gauge slice of south London with all the buildings scratchbult from card and based on real buildings from the area. Graeme claims to have had a pint in each of full-sized versions of the layout’s multiple pubs.

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

The term “Modern Image” coined by the late Cyril Freezer after the end of the steam in 1968 needs to retired. Layouts like Wibdenshaw, set in early 70s West Yorkshire demonstrate why. It’s a time as far removed from the present as the end of steam was from the 1923 Grouping, and the railway of the early 70s was in many ways the steam-age railway with diesel locomotives at the head of the trains. Loose-coupled trains of short-wheelbase wagons or parcels trains made up of heterogeneous pre-nationalisation vans are a world away from the railway of 2015.

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

DEMU doesn’t do chocolate-box branch-line scenes from the inter-war years. Instead it’s lovingly modelled representations of 1980s urban decay. Farkham even features half-sunken shopping trolleys in the canal.

DEMU Showcase at Burton-on-Trent

And finally, the show also feaures manufactures showing off their wares. Here’s some samples of the forthcoming Graham Farish Mk2a coauches in Network South East livery, looking very smart. They’re in the later version of the NSE livery as used on the Waterloo-Exeter line, which was the explanation I was giving for the absence of any first class vehicle; the Mk2a FKs painted in NSE were in the earlier version of the livery with the lighter blue, used on Thames valley services out of Paddington.

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To Boldly Go Where No Locomotive Has Gone Before

Announced today by Rapido Trains.

Rapido is excited to announce that a limited run of just 40 HO scale “LRC Shuttlecraft” DC/DCC-ready locomotives are being offered for bid in our on line silent auction in support of the Canadian Lung Association’s efforts to eliminate COPD.

Now you can bid on one of 40 exclusive, never-to-be-offered-again LRC shuttlecraft. Only one shuttlecraft allowed per person.

Starting bids are $199.95 for these once-in-a-lifetime units. Bid as high as you can because only the top 40 bidders will get their HO scale LRC shuttlecraft!

Bidding ends midnight June 1st – all winning bids will be contacted by email and will have seven (7) days to arrange payment. We accept bids worldwide. Shipping costs will be charged separately.

100% of all successful bids received will be donated to the Canadian Lung Association in memory of Leonard Nimoy.*

Full details on the Rapido Shuttlecraft oage.

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Dapol Falcons

Dapol Falcon

Latest new toys for the train set are some newly-released “Falcon” ballast wagons from Dapol. They’re excellent well-detailed models of what has now become a very common sight on the full-sized railway, and at a price that makes them very good value for money.

Engineering trains used to be the poor relation of revenue-earning freight,and were seldom modelled. Such trains were often made up from superannuated repurposed revenue-earning wagons running behind the oldest and most clapped-out locomotives in the fleet.

With the massive investment in an increasingly passenger-focussed railway, all that has changed.  Engineering trains represent a major part of the privatised freight companies’ businesses, and a more typical train today is made up of modern purpose-built wagons behind the newest and most reliable locomotives.

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Here’s a short train of the full-sized versions at Dawlish back in 2004

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Triang TT Class 31

Back in my teenage years I used to have a TT3 gauge layout. It was all dismantled when I went away to University, and when I returned to the world of model railways in my late twenties I switched to the more readily available N gauge. The track is all long gone, but most of the rolling stock, such as this class 31 diesel, survives.

TT3, three-quarters the size of the already extablished 00 gauge, was introduced by Triang in 1957. But sales never reached critical mass and production ceased by the late 60s, by which time the significantly smaller N gauge had appeared on the horizon. TT3 never completely died out, but has long become a specialised scale reliant on kits rather the 50 year old ready-to-run models. Even now you still regularly see TT layouts at exhibitions; there were two at the Eastleigh show last weekend.

It was a different case in the former East Germany, where TT became a popular scale in the days of Communism. Manufactured by Zeuke, who later became Berliner Bahn, and are now Tillig, it remains in production today. Just as in OO vs HO, British and German models shared a track gauge of 12mm, but have different scales, Britain’s 1:100 to Germany’s 1:120. The reason, as in the larger scales, is that it’s impossible to get a dimensionally accurate model of a British steam locomotive to go round corners, and having an underscale track gauge is the least bad compromise.

In recent years, other manufacturers have entered the 1:120 TT market, including Arnold, the long-established Gernan brand now owned by the British Hornby group.  Prompted by this, and by rumours that some of the original Triang tooling still exists, there’s been a long thread on RMWeb about the possibility of Hornby bringing back TT in some shape or form.

It’s not going to happen, and the realist in me knows it makes more sense for Hornby/Arnold to follow up their N Gauge Brighton Belle with more British N. Which is precisely what they’te now planning on doing.

But it’s always fun to speculate. If Hornby did venture into British TT, what should they make? And should it be 1:100 to match the old TT3, or 1:120 to be consistent with the continental models?

Were they to stick to the old 1:100 scale, I’d suggest models representing the same steam/diesel transition era as the old Triang range. The possible initial models might be the following:

  • Class 47 diesel
  • Standard class 5MT 4-6-0
  • Mk1 coaches, initially TSO, CK and BSK
  • 16t mineral, Vanfit, 5-plank Highfit and BR brake van

That’s essentially a cross-country secondary main line in a box. You could even sell the whole lot as a train set, perhaps with two of each wagon for a decent length train, along with a double-track oval. I chose the 47 as the most numerous diesel class, and the Standard Five because it ran on multiple regions.

Were they to choose 1:120, the fact that there already is a British outline ready-to-run locomotive in the shape of the class 66 diesel made by Hobbytrain suggests a very different approach. Instead of the mid 1960s, go for the present day. Start with a range of modern British loading gauge wagons that run on both sides of the channel; intermodal flats, Cargowaggons, Polybulks, steel carriers etc. If successful, then perhaps expand the range to include some British multiple units, perhaps a Voyager or 170.

But all this talk makes me want to get out my old TT3 stock and see how much of it still runs. I’ve considered both a small shunting layout using Peco HOm track (Designed for HO scale metre-gauge models), or just getting an oval of Tillig sectional track to use as a test circuit.

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Revolution Trains

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The Baby Pendolino Kichstarter project has now morphed into Revolution Trains. The Kickstarter project came tantalisingly close to meeting their £210,000 target, and even through it “failed”, it proved the proect would be commercially viable. So there will still be an N-gauge Pendolino, now financed by pre-orders.

They have been taking orders at the original Kickstarter prices, restricted to those who had already backed the project. Now they’re taking further orders at a slightly higher price for those who didn’t back the Kickstarter. The price for a “basic” DC 9-car train is now £300, which still represents good value for money. It’s also available as an extended 11-car set, or as a 5-car “fun size” version for those without space for the prototypical 9 or 11 car train, with all variants available in either DC or DCC with sound.

The Pendolino is only the start. The intention is to follow up with other models, using the same pre-order model.

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