Monday, May 17, 2021


Severn Valley Railway Diesel Bash

As the country continues to move slowly out of lockdown we’re starting so see a few more events on our heritage railways. We’re not yet back to full blown galas in the traditional sense, where we can jump on and off trains to our heart’s content but things do seem to be heading in the right direction. On Saturday I ventured up to Kidderminster to take part in what the Severn Valley Railway, recognising the limitations imposed by current restrictions, had dubbed the Spring Diesel Bash.

47773 ready for the 'off' at Kidderminster.

Severn Valley events have always been among the very best in terms of organisation and variety of motive power. This weekend’s scaled down ‘bash’ had four trains operating, each with a theme for its motive power. Thus, if you booked early enough, you had the choice of riding up and down the railway all day behind either Class 50s, diesel hydraulics, Sulzer or English Electric powered locos. All trains had two additional return trips to Bewdley thrown in during the layovers at Kidderminster, giving the opportunity for a run behind the Class 14 and the Class 17 ‘Clayton, newly out shopped in BR blue.

               Class 14 D9551 leads Class 17 'Clayton' D8568 away on one of the short trips to Bewdley.

I booked for Train 3 with Sulzer power, comprising of the resident 33108 (a few miles behind a Crompton being my main reason for the choice) and Tyseley’s 47773 which has recently been through some contract maintenance on the SVR. The Duff looked great in its new coat of two-tone green. The Crompton is looking a little more ‘authentic’ in its faded BR blue but sounded absolutely great when under power.


33108 prepares to leave Bridgnorth on the last leg of the the days' three round trips. the white cab surrounds at this end of the Crompton recalls the days from the early 1980s when several Eastleigh 33/1s displayed this feature.

Well done SVR, a really enjoyable day. Hopefully we’ll soon be able to indulge in a traditional gala with packed carriages and the mad dash to swap trains at intermediate stations.

           Surely one of the of the most stylish diesel locomotives ever? Hopefully I might get to experience                               D1015 Western Champion out on the main line again before too long.

Not what it appears to be. Despite the 500014 number and Warspite name this is 50007 Hercules, one of three Class 50 Alliance locomotives in operation for the Diesel Bash.

Monday, April 26, 2021


Back on the train

Life regained a little more normality this weekend. Last week my youngest son asked when we could go on steam train again so, with various railway now opening up, I suggested that we book a couple of seats on our local Mid-Hants Railway for the Sunday afternoon. What an absolute pleasure it was to be rolling through the English countryside behind a steam locomotive again after so many months in lockdown.

                                    Eastleigh's finest. The NRM's 30925 Cheltenham runs round at Ropley.

Like other lines the Mid-Hants is offering a somewhat different service from normal, with pre-booking of allocated seats on specific trains. Although this is much more restricted than what one would normally get for a full-line return (in reality a day-rover that can be used to travel and get on/off as much as one pleases) the railway has gone to some trouble to offer  the best deal it can in the current circumstances.

The two-train service offers trains starting from both ends of the line. We started our journey at Alresford and ran non-stop to Alton (that in itself was a first for me). After running round, the train returns to Ropley where a forty-minute lay over gives visitors time to have a look round the loco yard and buy refreshments etc. During this time the locomotive again runs round and the onward journey sees another run uphill to Medstead & Four Marks before the returning to Alresford. All in all a really enjoyable three hours and excellent value at £16.00 for an adult ticket.


Ivatt Class 2-6-2T 41312 passes with the second train service at Ropley.

The simple pleasure of train travel is one that I have never tired of but, given the months of lockdown, yesterday’s little trip was, perhaps, even more enjoyable than normal. Given the length of time without a steam ’fix’ I would have been more than happy with any locomotive hauling our train but the fact that we had Schools class 30925 Cheltenham making easy work of our five coach train really added to the occasion.


Interloper (1). Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust Peckett 0-4-0ST Kilmersden is now resident on the Mid-Hants.

Interploper (2). 64xx Pannier tank 6435, normally resident at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, seen on shed at Ropley. The locomotive is a special guest for the railway's forthcoming Spring Steam Gala. 

Thank you Mid-Hants Railway, I hope a full normal service can be resumed soon.

Friday, April 9, 2021


Flashback Friday

Remembering the Plastic Pigs


                                 2420 in familiar surroundings at London Waterloo on 13th September 1992.

This week we learned that South Western Railway have taken the decision to withdraw their allocation of Class 442 EMUs. It seems the thirty year old units (despite being the subject of an extensive, and expensive, ongoing refurb and upgrade) have reached the end of the road thanks in part to the reduced demand for passenger travel caused by Covid 19. See story at

I won’t try to tell the history of the ‘Plastic Pigs’ here, there are far better online resources for that at and for example. 

The news has made me dig out a couple of  images of the class from what was arguably their heyday in the early 1990s.

Introduced from 1988 for use on the Southern Region’s Waterloo to Weymouth route which had recently seen the third rail extended west from Bournemouth. The new Class 442/5WES units were based on the BR Mk 3 carriage design and incorporated electrical equipment from the Class 432/4REP units which had provided the front tline motive power on this route since the end of steam in 1967. While they weren’t everybody’s cup of tea, replacing as they did the popular REPs and bringing to an end the practice of operating Weymouth bound trains with push-pull fitted Class 33/1s beyond Bournemouth, they gained popularity over the years that followed as they provided comfortable and efficient travel in modern, air-conditioned, surroundings.

2421 waist at Eastleigh on a London bound service on 28th February 1993.

Although built for the Waterloo-Weymouth route they also appeared on Portsmouth line workings as well, again proving a big contrast to the 4CIG and 4BEP units that normally operated fast services over the hilly route. It was on these services that I had the majority of my early experiences with the 442s. They provided a reliable service for BR’s Network South East sector until the onset of rail privatisation, after which they continued to work for South West Trains in the new era. Withdrawal from SWT services came as the 24 units were not compatible with the new generation of Siemans built  Class 444 and 450 units. Amazingly they went on to find a new lease of life on the Brighton line, operating the Gatwick Express Service for several years, before the plan to return some units to their old haunts on the Portsmouth Direct Line with the new South Western Railway franchise were announced. There was also a proposal to use some on a new open access service from Waterloo to Southampton.

It seems time has finally run out for the Plastic Pigs. Their non-standard equipment combined with the current down turn in passenger figures has finally sealed their fate. Perhaps it won’t be long before overcrowded trains on the routes from Waterloo will return and make those in authority regret this decision. Time will tell.

Monday, March 22, 2021


Ryedown Lane – Locomotives and stock part 3

Like a lot of modellers, I suppose my main interest has always been in locomotives. In the nearly two decades since I returned to the hobby seriously, I’ve built up a sizeable and varied collection of locomotives, mostly from kits, not all of which are ideally suited to an English narrow gauge light railway set in the 1930s. Carriages and wagons often take second place and I know one or two very talented modellers who will happily spend hundreds of hours building and fettling complex brass locomotive kits yet have little or no interest in building the accompanying rolling stock. Personally, I’ve found constructing the carriages and wagons used on Ryedown Lane at least as interesting as building the motive power.

The first carriages that I built in 009 were various Parkside Dundas (as it then was) four wheelers, including two or three of the Glyn Valley Tramway carriages. Nice as they are matched up with a Beyer Peacock tram engine, they weren’t what I had in mind for a light railway supposedly opened in the first couple of years of the twentieth century. I turned instead to the same manufacturer’s Vale of Rheidol bogie carriages, the prototypes of which were of course built for a genuine two foot gauge light railway.

                                                Vale of Rheidol carriage built very much as the maker intended.

Like the majority of Dundas kits, the basic carriage is a delight to build and looked good with the Vale  of Rheidol four-wheel brake van that I’d already built.  However, having built two of the kits as the makers intended, I decided that I really wanted to operate two car trains without a separate brake van, so looked at ways of bashing the kit to provide a brake compo. The matchboard sides of the prototype make the job of cutting and shutting relatively easy, especially if one also uses a mitre block. Using this method, I cut four compartments from a pair of carriage sides and spliced them to a pair of brake van sides, which gave a nicely proportioned brake carriage body of the same length as the chassis. Having constructed the two previous two carriages as all thirds I decided to provide at least some accommodation for the better off clientele of the Wessex Light Railway and installed a partition turning the new carriage into a brake compo.

               The brake compo bash, achieved by combining the V of R carriage with the four wheel brake van body                       on the bogie underframe.

The off cuts from the bogie carriage sides left enough material to match up with the ends, roof and underframe of the brake van kit to provide a rather neat four-wheel carriage.

                                 The four wheel carriage built from the carriage off cuts mounted on the brake                                                               van underframe. I quite fancy building some more of these .

This was an enjoyable kit bash. I’m far from being the first person to do this conversion and there are numerous different ways to cut the carriage and van sides to provide a plethora of different combinations. Currently I’m working on a permanent loft layout which incorporates an 009 section representing another part of the Wessex Light Railway and which will give me the space to operate longer trains so we may yet need to bash another brake carriage.

Monday, February 22, 2021

 A little bit of silliness ...

Followers of the NGRM Online forum  over the last year or so will be familiar with the series of 3D printed caricature 009 loco bodies designed by Dave Malton. Intended as a bit of fun, they caught on during the course of 2020 and the range gradually expanded to include a number of diesel 'prototypes'. 

The models are designed to fit the Kato 11-107 N gauge chassis and, as I've had one of those in the drawer for several years waiting for a suitable project in which to use it, I thought I'd join in with the fun. I was initially drawn to the the prototype Deltic and production Class 55 prints but towards the end of the year Dave announced that he had a Class 33 in the pipeline. I make no secret of the fact that the Cromptons were and are my favourite class of mainline diesel so it took me no time at all to order one from Shapeways as soon as they became available.

The one piece prints are excellent, requiring just a little cleaning up before painting. I opted for a BR blue (Precision Paints) with double arrows from the Railtec range (these are the smaller arrows from the 3mm scale set but standard 2mm scale ones  would do the job just as well), numbering is from a set of Fox generic letters and number that I normally use for 009 wagons.

While I'm sure that the purists will throw their arms up in consternation, these are just intended as a bit of fun and certainly a number of my friends have joined in with the spirit of the concept, producing a variety of mini Class 37s, 47s, HSTs, Deltics etc. 

When exhibitions are able to restart, expect to see a few of these delightful little caricatures appearing on numerous 009 layouts in the crazy hour at the end of shows.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

 Ryedown Lane - Locomotives and stock, part 2

In a previous blog we looked at the original locomotives that operated on Ryedown Lane when first built. These still see regular use to this day but, like most modellers, I can't resist the urge to expand the fleet.

Two other locomotives built from white metal kits, that had seen operation on my previous layout, were also suitable candidates for use on a Colonel Stephens inspired light railway. I've long been fascinated by the early diesel locomotives constructed by Kerr Stuart & Co. As is well known the prototype had a short stint in use on both the Welsh Highland and the Ffestiniog in 1928/29 and is currently the subject of a volunteer led restoration on the modern F&WHR. My original model of this locomotive was built from the popular Meridian Models kit and mounted, as per the instructions, on a modified Minitrix chassis. It's a distinctive locomotive but the second hand chassis has never been a great runner, or at lest not until it has warmed up! In more recent times it's been joined by another example built from the etched kit made by A1 Models running on one of the ubiquitous Bachman Plymouth diesel switchers chassis, the so-called 'brick'.

The Kerr Stuart diesels. Earlier Meridian white metal on the left with the later A1 Models example in etched brass on the right.

Also built from a Meridian kit is this Protected Simplex. Numerous examples of the former War Department Light Railways petrol tractors saw service in a variety of locations in peacetime, including the Ffestiniog. My example was originally powered by an Arnold Koff chassis but in recent years this has been replaced by one of the inexpensive units made by Tomix of Japan.

                                                                'Tin Turtle' Protected Simplex.

There are a number of alternatives to the 'traditional' white metal kit for modellers working in 009 narrow gauge these days, including etched brass, resin and 3D printed materials. Examples of all of these now appear in the Wessex Light Railway's stud and we will share the story of some of these in future blogs. It's not the end of the white metal kit though and plenty remain on the market. The most recent locomotive of such origins is 'Alfred', another Kerr Stuart Skylark built from the excellent Chivers/Five 79 kit. This time the assembled body was fitted to one of the superb Minitrains chassis, in this case the outside frame 0-4-0. 'Alfred' has become another mainstay of operations on the layout.

                             Kerr Stuart Skylark 'Alfred' about to leave Ryedown Lane with a passenger train.

Friday, January 8, 2021


Flashback Friday -The Class 33s

For Christmas I received a copy of Simon Lilley's excellent book 'The Class 33s - A Sixty year History' Growing up on the Hampshire/Sussex border in the 1970s and 1980s Class 33s were a familiar sight. In fact, other than the Electro-Diesel Class 73s and the occasional visiting Class 47, they were for a long time the only locomotives that we saw among the constant procession of EMUs. It's been an enjoyable read and I've certainly found out a lot of things I didn't know about these familiar engines.

Looking at the well illustrated volume has been quite a nostalgic exercise, seeing many of my favorite individual class members and even reading about a few events at which I was present. In the mid 1980s I decided to try to photograph as many of the class as I could, only a handful having been withdrawn by that time. If memory serves, by the time of large scale withdrawals in the 1990s I'd photographed all but one or two of the 33/0s, all of the push-pull fitted 33/1s and was only short of two of the slim-Jim 33/2s.

Unfortunately, most of my photographic collection from the 1980s is not accessible to me in the current lockdown but I have had a sort through some images from the early 1990s including these two from late 1992:

A personal favourite was 33 008 'Eastleigh'. Named in 1980, in 1986 Eastleigh depot started a gradual process of restoring it's original and attractive green livery. This was retained until 1990 when it was repainted in the departmental grey/yellow 'Dutch' livery. Happily, Eastleigh were allowed to restore the green livery in 1992 and it is in this condition, with original D prefix numbers, that I saw it at Salisbury on 18th October that year.

A few weeks previously, on 13th September, I took this picture of 33 102 at Bournemouth Depot open day. This is far more typical of the way that I remember the class in day to day service.

Although cited for withdrawal in the 1990s, amazingly a few Cromptons soldiered on to work on the privatised railway network of the late 1990s. A small number are  still to be seen at work on mainline duties, including three with West Coast Railways.

Slim Jim 33 207 is seen at Yeovil Junction in July 2017 when involved with the working of the 'End of Southern Steam' railtour which it top 'n' tailed with 34046 Braunton. The Crompton worked the non-steam leg from Yeovil Junction to Weymouth via Yeovil Pen Mill. Hopefully it wasn't my last mainline run behind a Class 33.

  Severn Valley Railway Diesel Bash As the country continues to move slowly out of lockdown we’re starting so see a few more events on our h...