Sunday 7 April 2024


Ever since attending last year's Welshpool Gala and spending an inordinate amount staring at it in the loop, I have been wondering how to make a model of Diema. At the time I took a good number of photographs just in case I should ever find myself in a position to model it.

In the last Llanfair Journal there was a picture of their works train headed by Diema. The train itself consists of two modified Bowaters Pulp wagons, two RNAD box vans and a Zillertal coach (to be replaced once the Mess Coach has been rebuilt). As it happens I already had my own design for the Bowaters Pulp wagons printed. There are also two RNAD vans in the stash and I have 4 Zillertal coaches so I just need the engine. This is an ideal train for my new roundy roundy (I really must decide on a name) layout.

The biggest problem is a drawing of the engine - it doesn't exist. I asked the team at Welshpool and they don't have a copy either. They did say I could go and measure it but it's a 5 hour drive each way for me. By chance, a good friend, Steve Mann, said he was going for a day trip to Welshpool and foolishly agreed to take some key measurements which would allow me to extrapolate the rest from photos. He excelled himself and now I have most of what I need.

The power unit chosen is from Narrow Japan and came within a week of ordering it. It's a very dinky unit and they do a range of wheelbases and wheel diameters so I expect I will be back for more. I calculated the wheelbase from the centres of the bearings on the photos and the wheel diameter is a best calculation based on the rail height to the centre of the bearings. After that I chose the closest match.

Over the past few days I have designed the body in CAD and have done some basic sizing prints just to get the fundamental dimensions right.

I find myself missing two dimensions:

  1. top of rail to top of footplate
  2. top of rail to bottom of chassis side frame

so those are guesswork for now. It was inevitable that perspective on photos is making some of the calculations harder. The body is sitting a little low but that will be fixed in the next print. For now I will work on what looks right and measure them at the Gala later this year when I am again taking Melin Dolrhyd.

Lastly, here is the basic loco posed next to The Earl to give a sense of size. It is not a tiny diesel!

Tuesday 6 February 2024

New Year Update

It's been a busy few weeks on the railway front. First it was the SWOONs open day on the Saturday where I had my sales stand for STModels and then it was the annual committee meeting on the Sunday for the 009 Society which, in my role as 009 News Editor, I attend. The following weekend was the regular Wiltshire 009 Group meeting. Then it was the 2 day Southampton show where I was exhibiting Melin Dolrhyd as well as having the STModels sales stand. Last weekend it was the Alton show where I helped operate Garreg Wen for Matt Kean.

All set up and ready for customers at Southampton

STmodels continues to grow and I have done 3 commissions in the past month. The first was for some tank wheels, the second was for some Vale of Rheidol lattice fencing and lastly a request for Southern Railways 8 Wire Concrete fence posts. The last two are available to be bought on STModels.

Southern Railways 8 Wire Concrete posts

The layout with no name has also progressed. It now has the track down, it's wired up and a small amount of scenery has been created. The points are planned to be operated by wire in tube and that has been installed but doesn't show up in the photo. 

Adding the backscene former

The track plan is roughly what was on the initial sketches on the notice board. In the end the actual positioning of the points was dictated by my stock. The points are positioned such that I can have a Bachmann Baldwin and one WD bogie in the headshunt whilst also having 3 WD bogies in the loop and being able to run round them. The section of track between the loop and the running line is long enough to hold a Baldwin without fouling the running line.

The most recent job has been to add the backscene former. This was created with a piece of timber across the back, down the sides and along the bottom to which a piece of 5mm ply was glued. It's added some much needed rigidity to the board. 

The trouble is that it has given me a headache I hadn't envisaged. The layout was planned as something to take to shows that was simple, more easily transportable and more light hearted than Melin Dolrhyd. Keeping it simple was the mantra. The problem is that with it in the railway room against the wall I can't easily reach the point switches. The electrical section switches don't matter as they will always be on. I can just reach the point switches but have a habit of knocking trains off the track. I know I will want to 'play' with the layout and use it to test stock running through the points so it really needs to be useable in the railway room.

The only sensible thing to do is to change the point operation so that it can be operated from the front as well as the back. If I want to extend the mechanical operation in some way then I will have to break up that lovely curved front of the layout, that is if I could work out how to do it!

In the end I have to go back to point motors but I have decided to try servos - this layout was aimed at trying new things, after all. I am currently looking at an Arduino to drive the servos. I had already planned an Arduino Uno to operate a couple of working signals. All this means is I have to extend the system to handle the points as well.

In the stash I have an Arduino Mega, some Dingo servo mounts and some 9g servos. Time for a little experimentation!

Monday 16 October 2023

Another 3 months between posts!

Oh dear, the number of posts on this blog is definitely going down. Mind you, it is fair to say that a lot has happened in the last 3 months.

We finally moved house in August. We now live in Port Solent, which is a marina complex on the South Coast (well it would be on the coast, wouldn't it) and we are loving it. Here's the view 2 minutes from the house. On a summer's day it is glorious and the sunsets are something else. A kayak is on the buy list for next summer.

I did start my business, STModels, and went to the 009 Open Day in Pewsey and also to the Welshpool Gala where I sold a few items and got the name out there a little. It will never be a big source of income but it was fun and I hope to fill a gap in the market for those who still like to build their own rolling stock. 

As I already mentioned, I took Melin Dolrhyd to the Welshpool Gala, this time with Matt as my second operator. It was an extremely enjoyable few days and I hope to attend next year. Looking ahead, I have confirmed bookings for Melin Dolrhyd for the Southampton show in January and SW Herts show in May. Hopefully there will be more. I am also hoping to take my STModels trade stand to the 009 member's day in Ilton in January.

So what to personal modelling. A new house means a new modelling room. I have taken one of two rooms in the loft conversion for the railway room. There was another option in the house but this room has the best light and does have an 11 foot straight wall. Here's an early days picture as everything was being unpacked (come to think of it, it isn't much tidier 2 months later!).

Of course, nothing works out as expected. I have two bookcases and could only fit one under the eaves so that has reduced the 11ft run. I had expected to keep Melin Dolrhyd up here somewhere but the final stairs to the loft conversion are narrow and I cannot realistically get the main board up them so that has to find a home somewhere else in the house. I really like cameo layouts but they can be bulky and so need more storage and manoeuvring space.

In terms of actual modelling I have 2 areas of focus going forwards. The first is engines. Another good friend, Andy, has built my two Golden Arrow chassis for the Welshpool Beyer Peacocks, they now need finishing ahead of the next show. I also have a Sir Drefaldwyn, and another Sierra Leone locomotive to build. Joan also needs a rebuild and detailing. There may be another Welshpool preservation engine in the stash that I have forgotten but that's enough to be going on with! 

The second area of focus is a new layout. Here's where the big problem lies. What do I do next? I had planned an Ashover based layout. I have a long term plan to do a Bowaters based layout and I am keen to do another Welshpool layout. The problem is that the motivation isn't there at this time to start something that uses multiple boards and handbuilt track and has a high degree of authenticity. Modelling something realistic takes time, a lot of it and I am just not enthused by the idea.

I recently went to the Hayling Light Railway 20th Gala and they had a small model railway exhibition where I saw an 009 layout that was a small roundy roundy layout which offered the potential to be a single board layout that can be chucked in the back of the car and taken to shows. It won't run most of my stock but it will run my Baldwins which were ready for Ashover and I do have a surprising number of 009 Society kits of RNAD vans and Hudson Toastrack coaches that can be quickly built and used. 

It's going to be a complete anathema to what I would normally do but has the advantage of being able to be done relatively quickly. The rough plan is going to be something like this which will allow a train to run round whilst some shunting takes place.

It's not realistic, how could it be with those curves on either side, but it will offer the opportunity to try a few things, play trains, and generally not take modelling too seriously over the winter. 

I need to get on with it. I no longer have a garage and all woodwork needs to be done in the car port which will only get colder so timber was bought and cut this last week and a start has been made. Even though it is supposed to be a quick layout on a 4' by 2' board, I still couldn't bring myself to have a straight front!

I have no idea for a name so answers on a postcard please!

Saturday 22 July 2023

New Venture - STModels

It's been 3 months since the last post. What have I been doing? The simple answer is very little modelling mainly brought on by other activities. 

I have two major activities currently ongoing. The first is moving house. We kicked this off in February and had hoped to have moved by now but it is still ongoing. Every room of the house has been gone through and unwanted/unused items have gone to other homes - that includes all the stuff I brought with me, just in case I need them, at the last move 9 years ago that I have not used - lesson to learn!

The second activity is I have been wanting to start my own business for quite a while and I now feel that my design skills are at the level where I can produce reliable parts that other people will find useful. To that end I can now announce that STModels is open for business. I am primarily focusing on the after detailing market but also have a range of general purpose items.

The biggest collection of items is for the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (WLLR), with the emphasis on helping the modeller complete the Worsley Works coaches and refurbish old Nine Lines wagon kits. For the coaches there are detailing kits that contain seats, vacuum cylinder, oil lamps and torpedo vents. There is also a roof in development as well as bogies to be able to make a complete coach. For the wagons, there are replacement solebars, brake levers, guards foot boards and brake shoes allowing the modeller to update as little or as much as they want. All these items are targeted at 4mm modelling. Obviously some of these items can be used for other railway lines.

The second biggest collection of items are general items such as milk churns, steel drums, barrels, pallets, etc. These items are available in several scales - 2mm (N), 2.5mm (TT:120), 3mm, 3.5mm (HO) and 4mm (OO). The nice thing about producing items in multiple scales is that if you want something smaller to go in the background to help force perspective or simply because space is tight then you can buy a smaller size right now.

Other ranges include items for the Vale of Rheidol and Leek and Manifold railways. Only the former is on the website as it takes time to prepare an item for production. If you have items that you want to see produced then please contact me through the website and I will see what can be achieved.

Not only can you buy online using Paypal, you can buy in person, in 2 weeks time on Sat 5th August, at the 009 Wiltshire Group Day (see where I will have a stand and I will aim to have as many items as possible available for you to see and purchase. I am also planning to take the stand to the Welshpool Gala (see on 1st to 3rd September.

Please bookmark the website and, if you are on Facebook, please like my Facebook page at which is where most announcements will take place. If it makes sense then I will add a mailing list in the future.

Let me know if you see anything wrong. I am still taking photographs and adding them to the site but decided now is the right time to go public. Wish me luck!

Saturday 8 April 2023

Refurbishing Old Wagons

I'm currently embarked on an exercise of getting some old Nine Lines Welshpool wagons ready for transfers and have also been looking closely at the detail and running qualities of my existing wagons. Several of my existing wagons do not run well. Van number 4 is a prime example. It used to sway sideways when running. Some of it was down to the wheels which were old and eccentric but some of it was down to bearing holes that were worn out.

The quick solution would be to drill (at a slight angle) and fit bearings but a close look at the underside of the wagon shows how crude is the original solebar and W Iron mould. I don't know if this has been improved now the range has been taken over by N-Drive Productions but I saw a challenge I wanted to meet. 

You can see the W Iron on the picture below. It's just a flat piece of moulding.

The solebars easily came off using some blunt nosed pliers and I was able to apply myself to designing a replacement solebar. The book "The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway" by Glyn Williams has some very good drawings that are hopefully reasonably accurate. They allowed me to create the following item.

It took a few versions but eventually I got an assembly I was happy with. The solebars are recessed to take the Dundas DP09 Bearings though the holes need drilling out. Getting resin to drain from horizontal holes is a real challenge! There's two versions, one with the brake lever bracket and one without.

Here's a picture of the van with the new solebars before painting.

The next stage was to design and print the brake lever and brake shoe. These wagons literally only had one brake shoe. Again, after a few versions I got to the right shape. Here is a picture of the van before painting the lever and shoe.

Finally, here is the finished version, all painted.

With the bearings and the latest Dundas/Mosskito wheels it runs a treat. Mind you, having looked at the photograph more closely I realise that I have forgotten the works and wagon plates but I designed and printed those a long time ago so it won't take long to resolve.

I now have a range of parts for refurbishing my other wagons so I guess I need to get my skates on and update them all. The big question for me is whether there is a market out there for these types of refurbishment kits. 

Sunday 26 March 2023

More Wagon Details

My good friend, Matt, is embarking on an epic Leek & Manifold (L&M) tale. As is the way with these things, there is much planning and even more stock building. Along the way has been a few requests for bits and pieces such as axle boxes and springs for the coach bogies as well as seats for the coaches.

His attention has now moved onto the transporter wagons. Having built the transporter wagons he needs suitable standard gauge wagons to be transported and this is where another good friend, Simon, comes in. He has produced a beautiful North Staffs open wagon and, as is Simon's way, it's to P4 gauge (necessary in this case in order to fit the transporter wagon) and it runs perfectly - so perfectly that it rolls straight off the transporter wagon.

In real life the standard gauge wagons all had hand brakes but the L&M also provided an arrangement of a pair of chocks connected by a pair of rods. These appeared to be of a variety of designs but the reality is that they were probably hand made so differed considerably. I've produced two versions. The first has the side bar protruding horizontally

The second has the side bar protruding up at an angle in order to clear a fold up girder that existed on the transporter wagons as part of handling standard gauge milk tank wagons.

As always, the pictures of the period are unclear and dimensions have to be guessed at. The method of locking the assembly onto the transporter wagon appears to consist of some vertical pieces of metal that slot into the wagon frame but these have not been modelled for simplicity. Here's a cruelly large photo of one of the chocks in place.

All in all it took 3 test prints and then one final print of the numbers that Matt wanted. Each print run takes less than an hour so it's less than a day's work to produce something that can be repeated on demand.

Interestingly, I did try the abs-like resin for this but I found the long thin rods required much more support than the usual resin so I settled on using my normal low odour resin to avoid countless support pips having to be removed.


Wednesday 22 March 2023

Printing Wagon Details

Another piece of work over the last few weeks has been designing and printing some wagon details. 

I am finishing off some wagons pending transfers. In the process I am adding bearings to allow the stock to run more freely. This has sometimes necessitated cutting off the solebar to allow the bearings to be fitted and the solebars to go back on slightly further apart. This isn't an issue since 009 track is technically 1mm narrower than it should be for the Welshpool & Llanfair, so could be argued that it is putting the solebar back to the correct dimensions... 

The process of removing the solebar did result in damage to the brake lever and the brake shoe. Looking around at how to replace them, I did consider the easy way of buying them but couldn't be sure that any on the market were of the correct length. That led me to deciding to print them. 

Looking at the open wagon page in the Glyn Williams book revealed a couple of points I had previously missed. The first is that the brake lever doesn't lie flat against the solebar as I had been modelling them. It actually comes out at a fairly steep angle to the edge of the wagon. The second point I had missed is that the brake lever assembly is fixed to the wagon by a bracket that comes out from under the wagon and up the side of it.

It would make a complicated part but could it be printed?

This is what I was able to come up with. It has a thick spigot at the back of the ratchet assembly. this provides a good surface to glue the assembly onto the wagon. More importantly, it helps it hold a vertical shape.

The piece of the bracket that comes out from under the wagon is very fine and I had to put a fine cut out in the inside right angle to prevent resin pooling there that would prevent it sitting flat on the wagon. the part is far too fragile to cut or file.

The photo suffers from being blown up horribly but it's clear it can be printed and, once glued onto the wagon, is pretty strong.

I used a different resin for this print. Talking to someone demonstrating at the Southampton show recently, I learnt that he uses an abs-like resin for final prints as this is less brittle so more tolerant of  knocks. I decided this would be a good part on which to try such a resin as it is a very vulnerable part, likely to get damaged with handling. The real drawback to abs-like resin is that it is not available in a low odour form so really does smell.

I know I am taking 3D printing to the limit here. On a few of the levers it managed to print the gap in the ratchet part of the assembly, despite being only 0.4mm wide.

The ones for the vans will have to be done at some point but this has pointed the way to a plentiful source of replacements. Then there is the brake shoes...


Ever since attending last year's Welshpool Gala and spending an inordinate amount staring at it in the loop, I have been wondering how t...