Saturday 12 December 2020

What Did You Do During Lockdown, Grandad?

 Our exhibition timetable was short of a lengthy rake of empty 21ton hoppers coming down the hill from Consett, so it became my lockdown project, building 12 LNER rivetted and 12 BR welded Parkside kits.

Acquiring the kits was a bit problematical with shops and factories being forced into closing down. But Peter's Spares managed to get the kits from Peco after their factory re-opened. Peter provided the Smiths 3 link couplings and Wizard models the steel buffer heads.

Kit building was pretty straightforward but it was essential to carefully remove flash and moulding pegs for the multi angled hoppers to fit correctly and to make clearance between brake gear and the EM wheels.

I built the kits in pairs so that the MEK could be doing its work on on part of one wagon whilst the same part on the other kit was being assembled. I found it important to fix buffer beams in place before side frames so that the assembly was square and axles would be at 90deg to the body. Drawhooks, shanks filed down and without springs were superglued in place as where the buffer heads. Three links were only fitted once the models were finished. 

Handrails were fitted in a campaign once all the wagons were built. At this stage the 3 sided hopper outlet chutes were given an extra side so that they could be filled with 'liquid lead', secured with diluted PVA. The box sections behind the buffer beams were similarly ballasted. The final weight of each wagon was around 30 grams.

What did we want them to look like?

Both above photos from the Armstrong Trust, by Verdun Wake.

Painting of the models started by washing with Shiny Sinks applied with a 1/2 inch brush then thoroughly rinsing with lots of water, dabbing with tissues, followed by careful, very careful use of a hair drier. Next was a coat of Autotek grey cellulose primer (an aerosol from Boyes) Underframes were airbrushed with Precision Dirty Black and the hoppers lightly airbrushed with Tamiya acrylic Light Sea Grey. The Autotek is ideal for new wagons but a bit dark for our faded ones.

Some of the rust effects were by airbrushed Precision 951 Dark Rust but most brush painted using oils.

I used a no 4 Flat Shader (ie square ended). For each colour, I put a blob of oil paint about baked bean size onto a throw away plastic carton top. The colours were Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Lamp Black and Cadmium Red. The technique was to mix and match to suit whatever age of rust I was trying to represent. It was important to brush out the brush until very little paint was on it them to apply by brushing or stippling to produce the streaks, spots and patches as desired. I did lots of practice runs on some grey plastic boxes I had. The advantage of minimal application means that the paint dries fairly quickly.

I must say that I have no compunction about using cellulose, acrylic, enamel and oil paints on the same model. But each coat must be completely dry before applying something different.

Modelmaster transfers were doctored then applied using diluted water based indoor varnish to float them into place and stick them down. The numbers are approximately correct but with so many prototype variants and only two model ones I used a little licence. The models were then given a light airbrushing of dirty black and then the 3 link couplings were fitted.

To finish the project off, I have built a Dave Bradwell underframe for an Airfix BR 20 ton brake van. Also I have re-handrailed a Hornby LMS brake van and converted it to EM. These are still to finish off. 

The only thing now is to see of they run alright. Tier 3 has kept us away from the layout!

Monday 2 September 2019

expoEM Autumn - Wakefield

South Pelaw is going to expoEM at Kettlethorpe High School, 

Standridge Lane, Sandal, Wakefield, WF2 7EL.

On Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September. 

Come along and see the layout in operation.

For more details of layouts and traders see

Here are a few photos of South Pelaw, taken by Tony Lambert.

When the new facilities at Tyne Dock and the hoppers for taking iron ore to Consett were first introduced and before the O1s and 9Fs arrived, the ore traffic was handled by ex NER Q7s, 5 of which were fitted with air pumps for operating the hopper doors.

Fairly soon, the Q7s were supplemented by five LNER O1s - Thompsons rebuilds of  ex ROD O4s

 Eventually ten 9Fs took the ore traffic and here a full train, with a 9F front and back, is passed by an empty train returning to Tyne Dock.

 The empty train gallops off to Tyne Dock and the end of the shift for the crew.

 Here we have a train load of coal leaving Stella Gill Yard with a load of pit props coming in.

Eventually the 9Fs on the ore trains were replaced by what would later be called class 24s.

Of coarse - it has all gone now. Few people realise what used to happen here. Come and see the model to revive a few memories.

Thursday 30 May 2019

We're In The Model Railway Journal

MRJ no 271 has South Pelaw as the lead article. We are honoured and delighted to be able to tell the story behind our project. There are far more details in the article than we could put on this blog so we recommend getting a copy.

Tony Lambert of the A19 Model Railway Club, took over a hundred photos for the article. Here are a few that were not used. 

A Q6 arrives with a coal train. It will have to split the rake into three lots of seven wagons to tackle the climb to Consett.

The banker is about to come on to a loaded iron ore train. Then the slog begins.

The scene at the approaches to Stella Gill yard.

Coal from the South Pelaw colliery is gingerly lowered down the gradient behind the signal cabin..

An oil train with fuel from the Jarrow terminal has taken the main line via Gateshead and Ouston Junction. The train already has a banker, another Q6, ready for the climb. The oil is for the new plate mill.

We've now been to three exhibitions and our next outing is to ExpoEM Autumn at a new venue in Wakefield on 7th and 8th September.

Sunday 17 March 2019

Iron ore for the other Ironopolis

South Pelaw, with it's iron ore traffic going to Consett, will be on show in Middlesbrough, where, not that many years ago, a few tons of iron were produced.

Middlesbrough Model Railway Club Exhibition will take place in the Newport Settlement Community Hub, Union Street, TS1 4EE, on Saturday and Sunday 18th & 19th May. And South Pelaw will be there.

We have been taking photos for a proposed magazine article so whilst the real photographer was doing his stuff, I sneaked a few phone snaps of my own.

The train of empty oil tankers returns to Jarrow having delivered fuel for the plate mill at Consett.

There's a certain irony (sorry for the pun), about a coal fired Q6 pulling an oil train.

And now a Q7 bringing down some of the steel products. In these days portrayed, Consett produced plate for ship building and intermediate products such as billets and blooms to go to other finishing mills. The company had its own facilities in Jarrow but a lot of these materials went to places like Sheffield - probably via the different route through Lanchester.

These two view are of our condensed interpretation of the massive Stella Gill yard, at that time still handling coal and coke. The coke works also produced some benzol by products, hence the tankers. The model of the shed is only half its real length and was used by the NCB. It is one of the very few structures still standing but in a much more delapidated condition than portrayed here. The tragedy here is that the hours and hours spent faithfully modelling the intricate detail of the windows is lost as gaping black holes in these pictures. Come and see the detail in a few weeks time.

And to finish, one of the iconic 9F locos on it's way back to Tyne dock with the empty iron ore hoppers.

So if these few shots have tempted you, come and see the layout in operation at the Middlesbrough show. We won't be on show in the North East for some considerable time after this. Wakefield and then Glasgow next.

Monday 21 January 2019

An Update - (Somewhat overdue).

We have now been to two exhibitions with the layout, Railex NE 2018 in July and the Newcastle &District MRS in November. We were well received at both shows and managed to stir a few memories for folks who had remembered the location.

Here are a few photos, some taken at one or other of these shows but others in our temporary home. Please make allowances for the lack of Photoshopping of the background of some shots.

This is a bridge we have used as a scenic break. The bridge actually existed but not quite in this location. The bridge was close to Ouston Junction carrying the Beamish Wagonway. The left hand track depicted here actually went under the same arch which carried the wagonway. 
The right hand arch crossed the ECML just south of Ouston junction. The track that we have going through that arch is our representation of the line to Washington and Tyne dock. This line actually crossed the ECML by a different bridge, if you can imagine, behind the photographer.
 We thought it would make a tidy scenic break. The photo was taken before we completed the ballasting and scenic work.

Here we show a Q7 (devoid of lamps!) hauling the legendary iron ore train towards the signal cabin. The train is obviously going to have to wait because there is no banker in the siding to the right.

Another ore train. As you can see it is 3/4 mile from Ouston junction, but it hadn't come from there. By now the Q7s had been replaced by the 9Fs. on the ore trains.

The Q7s lasted for a few years but on the less glamorous turns. This one, still with air pumps (which would actually have gone when the 9Fs turned up) takes a rake of empty bolster waggons up to Consett.

Another ore train crosses from branch to main, ready to take on the banker. The waggons in the foreground are for the colliery (not on our model, unfortunately.

The 9Fs were kept busy on other duties when there wasn't an ore carrier alongside at Tyne Dock. On this occasion one of the ten such locos is taking coke up to the steel works.

The K1s that were shedded at Consett didn't arrive until 1962. This is a visitor from Darlington.

The weather forecast is grim so the ploughs are given a test run.  The main line here wasn't really this close to the back of the NCB storage shed but we have had to put it closer to keep the model to manageable proportions. This shed is one of the very few features still in existence - though it is in a very sorry state.

The layout is due to be exhibited at the Middlesbrough show on 18th & 19th May and hopefully at Expo EM Autumn in Wakefield 7th & 8th September. Come along and see it 'live'.

Wednesday 27 June 2018


South Pelaw in EM will be exhibited for the first time at the forthcoming 

Railex NE on 28th and 29th July 2018.

Organised by the Blyth & Tyne Model Railway Society in North Shields. NE29 9PU

For details see:-

Tuesday 20 March 2018

A Signalman's Railway.

As the saying goes, "The Driver drives the Guard's train on the Signalman's railway" 

It is this concept that has governed our choice of operating methods and procedures. We don't want to decry those who choose to have computer controlled automatic model railways. It's just not for us.

Our model hopes to replicate the scene at South Pelaw and Stella Gill as it was in the 1950s and 60s. So our control methods for the scenic side of the layout is based on the signal box as it was then.

South Pelaw box had an 85 lever frame, with 6 spares. We have modelled all the turnouts and signals but have not catered for facing point locks nor detonator placers, (though those would liven up things at an exhibition!).

We have added to our panel some signals that would be controlled by our neighbours - slotted distants. And have included controls for turnouts that would have been operated by ground levers.

So our signal box controls 55 signals and 33 turnouts. The Stella Gill box controls including the signal bridge with it's 13 boards, are at present included in the fiddle yard operations but there are plans to make it a box in its own rights.

All the signals are capable of operation and the panel has interlocks based upon our understanding of the system but updated recently by the acquisition of details from the Ken Hoole Centre.

Drivers of trains (now using DCC) will have to observe and obey signals. SPADs will cost a round of drinks for the rest of the team! (orders taken on the back of a Form 1).

All signals have been hand made from etched parts and the usual metal materials, with a lot of scratch building to best replicate the originals. Here's one ready for painting which has a lower quadrant arm for the Down Main towards Ouston Junction and then Gateshead and an upper quadrant arm for crossing over onto the Down Branch to Tyne Dock.

The finished article can be seen in earlier postings on this blog.

Here we show the variety of  what was there before rationalisation in the mid to late 60s. The signal on the left has the section signal towards Durham Turnpike and thence Tyne Dock with the slotted distant below it (just to confuse - not a slotted post). In between is a calling on arm for giving access to the crossover. Then on a little bracket to our left is a shunting signal (slotted post lower quadrant) for crossing over in the opposite direction.

The post on the right is the Home for trains going on the UP Main to Consett or across the junction to Stella Gill.

Away in the distance, in the right hand side cess is a diminutive slotted post shunting signal for crossing over at the junction. See next photo for better view.

This picture shows the tail end of a lengthy operation. Trains of 21 loaded wagons were split into rakes of 7 at South Pelaw for the gruelling climb to Consett. This phot shows the loco picking up his last 6 (would really be 7) from the goods sidings to then cross back onto the Up Branch to collect the brake van before setting off up the bank.

A closer shot shows that there are 8 signals in this view and the driver has the OK to proceed from the tiny rotating NE pattern shunt signal  (Dusty Bin signal) at the foot of the small post.

The turnout that the loco is stood on is one of those that would not have been operated from the box but by the crew with a ground lever - as yet to be added to the model.

Only a few yards further on and we have a traditional NE slotted post shunting signal - with it's tiny friend on the far side of the tracks. This train will eventually join that main line towards Consett but has to go out onto the branch first - to at least pick up the brake van!

For an out of the way, work-a-day railway South Pelaw had some beautiful signals. This one featured as an ornate frame for several artistic photos taken by photographers of the real place.

Careful examination of the right hand abutment of the Pelton Lane bridge will reveal a meat skewer.

The next photo shows what re[placed it a few months later.

In it's hey-day this cantilever bracket must surely have been home to more signal dolls but sources fail to identify any.

The whole junction area, about half a mile long, was illuminated by gas lamps, the remains of one of which is in the foreground (a bit out of focus). Over the bridge you might just see the forest of signals awaiting the drivers concentration.

The driver has got the road (but I don't know where he is!).

The layout is about to go out on the exhibition circuit, but these two bracket signals have been all over already as part of demos for MERG and the EMGS. 

The anonymous Q7 has now been numbered but the frames and motion are still to paint now that it has run in.

The junction nerve centre with its 85 levers is this modest building.

Talking of buildings, this row of railway cottages is nearing completion. The 'snow' on the roof may seem appropriate but it is just Plastkard, put in place for the purposes of this photo.

Can you imagine, being a signalman at South Pelaw, being able to see the mechanical parts of your job out of your front bedroom window?

As I say, not yet finished, there's the roof, drain pipes etc to add but look at the detail. Those doors and windows are not etches, they are painstakingly made from plastic strip and sheet. And the lace curtains -----!

Since the theme of this post is about signals, I have included this rather poor and old shot of the signal box panel. I know it should be levers rather than knobs and switches but you can take realism only so far.

Today's panel is a little simpler since we abandoned DC and the cab control method for DCC. (I can hear Jeers and cheers in equal proportions).

The turnouts and signals are operated by servos communicated via MERG's CBUS system.

Traditional control out on the front of the layout but the fiddle yard is controlled by a touch-screen with two panels . The fiddle yard, again, uses servos for turnout operation and CBUS as the communication means. However the touch screen is a JMRI PanelPro version.

These are not the most up-to-date pictures. The loco spur is no longer there on the blue panel (a long story) and the pink panel now has the touch icons for the signals on the Stella Gill Flatts gantry.

Once the panel is live, the question marks change to proper icons. To select a route the signalman presses the point of entry and the point of exit. and all the intermediate point-work changes to set up the route. There are precautions to prevent conflicting routes. 

The system was not without it's teething problems, mainly caused by a lack of understanding of several aspects of setting the system up. It is workable but still something of a work in progress.

What next?

Well we need lots of operating practice and then the layout is invited to this year's Railex NE at North Shields on July28th & 29th for its maiden voyage. Following that to the Newcastle and District Exhibition  on November 10th & 11th. 

Any offers thererafter, gratefully considered!