Monthly Archives: October 2012

Converting a Bachmann BR 03 Shunter chassis to fit inside a Craftsman BR 07 shunter

The running quality of my locos is important to me. Irrelevant of how well made they are or how detailed, if they cannot run along a piece of track smoothly or cross a point without stalling, then the loco is of little use to me.

The long suffering Craftsman BR 07

My BR Class 07 Shunter is one such loco that looks much better than it runs. This Craftsman kit was purchased partly completed in 2003. One of the areas completed was the chassis, which was quite jerky and the rods appeared to be binding. I decided to deconstruct the chassis and start again.

I rebuilt the chassis with a new set of wheels and a new Mashima can-motor. I spent a very long time making sure that the chassis was set up properly so it would run smoothly. This was all done on a straight test track. I didn’t realise that the engine would not enjoy going round curves or crossing points.

I persevered, redesigning the pick-up arrangement on the wheels. I was also trying desperately to find a method of keeping the motor from rocking backwards and forwards, which made the fly-wheel skim the inside of the bonnet. My attempts at stabilising the motor eventually led to the DCC decoder blowing up, and the 07 quickly went back into storage (it was that or out the window).

Craftsman chassis (left) and Bachmann 03 chassis (right)

After purchasing a couple of the new Bachmann Class 03 Shunters, I started to wonder whether one could be adapted to replace the Craftsman chassis. I did some quick measurements and decided it was worth a go.

Body modifications

The first thing I did was widen the opening for the chassis and cut away some areas inside the 07’s body cavity. This modification also required removing the floor of the cab and cutting away the control panel (no doubt much easier if the body has not been constructed). The opening into the rear bonnet also required opening up slightly for the DCC decoder harness.

It looked as if the 03’s chassis may actually fit inside the frames, but the chassis itself would require some modifications.

Chassis modifications

The main modification required was to remove the front end of the 03’s die-cast chassis. The length of this section of metal restricts the chassis from sitting where the 07’s wheel sets are prototypically positioned. My new hacksaw was used to cut away the front of the chassis, with some masking tape around the motor core; stopping any metal shavings getting inside.

Once this was finished I unscrewed the axle nearest the crank shaft from the coupled wheels and used a mini-saw to grind away the coupling rods so the cranks could be removed. At this stage I was a bit nervous whether the new chassis would still operate properly.


The new chassis runs very well and sits as low as I hoped it would. The 07 will now happily cross the point work of Brewery Pit. I next need to reattach some bits to the 07 that unfortunately fell off while I was accosting it with a mini-saw. I also want to see if I can fit some of the former chassis’s little details to the new one.

I am fully aware of the inaccuracies in the chassis including: the wheel sets not being entirely accurate, with a slightly different spoke arrangement; and the brakes being fitted the opposite way around, but (as I said at the start), if I have to compromise the accuracy of the loco to ensure I can actually run the darn thing, then so be it.

Brewery Pit: February-April 2008 – Scenery and Buildings

Across these three cold months in Ilfracombe, I seemed to get a lot of modelling done.

The Metcalf buildings were built and placed and Peco back-scenes were installed on the left and right back-boards. At this stage these back-boards were made of plywood and fixed down to the base-board with small pine blocks; these will eventually be changed. The Peco back-scenes were affixed with wallpaper paste, but the right one quickly rippled, which I was not happy about.

Over the years much thinking was applied to the masking of the railway exit points.  At this stage the remaining sections of the Metcalf brewery were butchered to create an implausible wall of buildings to act as an off-scene break on the left side of the layout.

I also started the creation of an extension to the retaining wall which will eventually have a signal box perched on the top (to the right). The most effective area of these early trials with back-scenes and exit point concealment was ironically the simplest: a weathered down section of Will’s brick wall with the Peco back-scene peaking out behind (behind the class 08 shunter). I always found this quite effective in photographs.

This is all academic now, as most of these features were removed for various reasons, which will be discussed some other time.

Brewery Pit: Fiddle yard construction begins

I have wanted to construct a fiddle yard (an off-layout shunting area, allowing you to change locos and wagons etc.) for some time. The main constraining factor has been space, as I live in a one bedroom flat. I had previously concluded that building fiddle yards either side of the layout was just impractical in the flat. Plus I had no clue how to fix them onto the layout; wishing I would have constructed them with the base board at the beginning.

While at a recent model show in Lichfield, I noticed that one of the layouts had strapped their fiddle yard to the under frame of the model, this seemed the solution to fixing them onto Brewery Pit; making the layout support the weight of the fiddle yard.

I then had the revelation that, if designed properly, the fiddle yards could slide up against the main frame when not in use.

So today I have constructed the outside frames for the fiddle yards. The outside frames have holes drilled through at regular intervals allowing large SQ bolts to slip through both the fiddle yard and layout frames. These are then fixed with wing nuts and washers. Two or three bolts per side give strong support to the frame.

The original plan was for the holes to line up in any position, but this has not quite worked (due to my cack-handed drilling), but I think I can sort them out tomorrow, by either widening the holes in the layout frames or setting fixed positions for the fiddle yard.

The pictures below show the left fiddle yard open and closed.

Quarry Transfer: Getting rockier

Me and Ruth (my Wife) have just spent an enjoyable hour creating the rock-face texture for Quarry Transfer. We used ‘Unibond: Tile on Floor’ grout, which we bought from B&Q a year or two ago.

The great thing about using tile grout (instead of polyfiller) is that the stuff usually comes in a variety of colours (in this case a dark grey), so if you pick the right shade, any worn or chipped corners will not be an eye sore.

The other benefit of using grout is that the odds of the chipping ever happening are extremely low. Once dry, Quarry Transfer will likely survive a trip out the window and remain unscathed.

We had an assortment of tools to use, but in the end it was much easier to apply the grout with gloved hands.

The front of the diorama was not worked on because I want to have a bit more of a think about that area.

Brewery Pit: January 2008 – Wiring up and track work

Below are some pictures of the first days of Brewery Pit.

The inspiration for the model came from a 2007/2008 article on building a model railway for £100. There was also an O Gauge model railway featured in British Railway Modelling around the same period, which influenced the final track layout.

The aim was always for the layout to be urban or industrial; having visited hundreds of model exhibitions over the years, which felt like they were caked in west-country rural atmosphere, I felt the need to move away from that image.

Once I had decided on the track plan, I stencilled out the pieces of track onto my MDF frame and wired up each track section.

The straight single track on the edge of the base board is now a hidden run-through which is behind the retaining wall and underneath the housing estate. In fact, it is so hidden than no trains have run on the straight track since these pictures were taken!

I used a couple of rolls of ‘Hobby’s Instant Track Bed’ underneath the track (and also much of the MDF surface). This material was gaining positive reviews in the modelling press at the time, and although it has made some things easier to modify on the layout, it is also a bloody pain to work with. It destroys any tools it comes into contact with; caking them in the black tar-like substance, and takes half of the day to remove from your hands. I remember a number of hand strain injuries from my feeble (but ultimately successful) attempts to cut the track bed up with heavy duty kitchen scissors. You most certainly wouldn’t want to cut up a chicken breast with those scissors after I’d finished with them.

I spent many, many hours wrestling that darn tarry stuff onto the layout, and must admit that I have an aversion to going through that again. The track bed also lost some of its tackiness later in life, meaning that I had to pin all the track work down anyway.

There are also some early attempts at ballasting going on in these images (one of the perks of having a tacky track bed), which were all ultimately replaced as time went by.

Introducing: Quarry Transfer

To ensure that I don’t reflect too long on the development of Brewery Pit, I thought I would also include some details of my current diorama project.

Quarry Transfer depicts transfer sidings from a raised narrow gauge system and standard gauge siding at ground level.

Quarry Transfer in development

Quarry Transfer in development

Building Quarry Transfer fits three purposes:

  1. It allows me to take pictures of my fleet of circa 1968 BR Green/Blue transition diesels (so Brewery pit can stay a circa 1948 layout).
  2. It gives me justification to build the small fleet of OO9 engine kits that I have purchased in the past few years.
  3. It allows me to experiment with some terrain effects that I haven’t had the chance to develop while building Brewery pit.


Class 25 Diesel and OO9 gauge Ruston diesel

Class 25 Diesel and OO9 gauge Ruston diesel

For those that are unsure, OO9 is the same scale as OO (i.e. the people are the same size), but OO9 locos run on much smaller track than OO engines. The difference is depicted in the picture to the left. Note that the man in the picture could fit easily in both engines, but the smaller engine runs on much narrower track (Narrow Gauge).

Narrow gauge railways are often constructed to: traverse terrain unsuitable for larger railways; and as a cheaper alternative to developing a standard gauge railway (such as for mines, quarries and sewage workings etc.).

Trial Photos

Test placing of scenery.

Test placing of scenery.

As this diorama is primarily being produced so I can take photos of my locos, it is important that I can get a good perspective on the model with my camera. In a similar manner to how I produced Brewery Pit, I started by placing the main items of scenery and took trial pictures to see how well framed the final pictures would be (see right).

Based on this picture, I felt that although nicely framed, the OO9 locos would be obscured by their larger friends on the lower track. So I decided to raise the level of the narrow gauge track for the final layout.


Polystyrene rock-faces attacked with a hacksaw and being glued onto the back scene.

Polystyrene rock-faces attacked with a hacksaw and being glued onto the back scene.

The rocky outcrops are constructed from polystyrene, historically not one of my favourite materials. The use of a small hacksaw on the polystyrene has given a good impression of the blasted rock-face effect I was after.

Plaster bandages were used to bed in the rocky outcrops, and also as a front facing surface for the raised narrow gauge sidings. The bandages should provide a good surface to detail with some nice upland vegetation.

I haven’t worked on this project in a while (probably because I know I have to get the jigsaw out for the next step), but now the days are getting darker and colder, I will no doubt be pressing on with construction.

Introducing: Brewery Pit

My current layout is the OO Gauge ‘Brewery Pit’ which is a micro layout representing a brewery complex and warehouses. The layouts primary time period is 1947-1951ish which allows me to run a few dregs from pre-nationalisation and also gives me the chance to represent some early experiments in BR liveries.

Brewery Pit was designed for shunting and small wheel-base engines (very small engines, to the uninitiated). I originally planned to create a small army of steam trams, but more about that some other time.

An early decision was the switch to digital control (DCC), which reduced the faff of wiring up the railway in the early days of development. DCC functionality is also very effective when shunting multiple engines across a very limited amount of track.

Work on Brewery Pit started in January 2008 and the layout is now reaching the final stages of completion. In the following months I will discuss the development of the layout from its 2008 origins and also discuss rolling stock and a little bit of history.