Modelling the Cornish Riviera Express

You cant build a model of the South Devon mainline without a model of the Cornish Riviera Express, (well unless you set it during the war…)
For Brent I have decided to model two formations, one for the up direction and one for the down.
The first formation is a rare thing on the Great Western, a train entirely made up of the same design of coach in the same livery, Centenaries. Common before the war, at least one of the sets stayed together into the post war period. There is a published photo by Norman Lockett of a complete set excluding restaurant working a Paddington to Western Super Mare service, while I have another photo (via eBay) which shows a full set passing the sea wall at Dawlish dated 1947.
The up formation is a Bulldog (assisting), King, Break Third (LH), Third, Third, Restaurant Third, Restaurant First, Composite, Break Third (RH). Third, Brake, Brake Composite, Brake Composite (the last three coaches form the Plymouth portion). Of this I have modelled the 7 coach core section (and will possibly extend it with a break composite in the future.
The complete formation (in progress)//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
The second formation modeled in the down direction is based from a description in Michael Harris’ book for November 1947. Again it will be King powered, Break Third (Hawksworth), Third (Hawksworth), Third (Collett Large Window), Composite (Large Window), Composite (Sunshine), Restaurant composite (70ft H26), First (Sunshine), Third (Hawksworth), Break Third (Hawksworth). From which I will be omitting the first Third and one of the composites.

Modelling the formations:
As ever with GWR modelling, there is no way to model either formation out of a box. Starting with the Centenary formation I have used the old Airfix model as a basis. However they only produced the RH Brake third and the Composite (and then only in original condition). So I have used etched sides from Comet to cheap second hand coaches into the unavailable versions (I also used them to update the Composite into refurbished condition with new widows). The hardest part was filling in the joints between side and plastic door, if I was doing it again I think I would use the etched doors for the brake.
Once painted and lettered, the coaches were fitted with new couplings following Tony Wright’s design (see BRM Spring 2017), along with flexible corridor connections fitted to one end of each coach from a seller on eBay called “Fair Price Models”.

Revised corridor connection, although the photo was taken prior to updating the couplings.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

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The final job (still to be finished) is to add the Cornish Riviera Express roof boards (and the coach number panels) either from Sankey Scenics or Precision Labels.

The only way to get to the other formation is to do some kit building (though it does give the opportunity to use a number of the fantastic Hornby Hawksworth coaches RTR. For the moment a Mainline Sunshine Stock third has taken the place of the Large Window, (use a Mainline model rather than the later Bachmann version given Bachmann modified the tooling to make the windows the wrong height!) For the Composite, 12 Wheel restaurant car and the first the only option is an etched kit from Comet. So far I have built the first and dining car which are currently awaiting transfers, while the composite the next on the kit building hit list.
Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Comet H26 Restaurant Composite, part way through painting//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
That’s enough for now, I really ought to stop worrying about rolling stock projects and get on with layout construction…
If anyone has further questions, please get in contact or leave a comment.

Track Painting

After building the track the layout was put through an intensive test phase to prove the track worked as intended. This was particularly important given that it is a lot more difficult to make a quick adjustment to a plastic sleeper or to apply the touch of a soldering iron when the area in question is covered in paint.
Once I was happy with the track it needed to be painted before getting on with the next task, at this stage a lot of tasks are interlinked. So, the track needs to be painted before the point rodding bases are fitted, and before installing the platforms. It would have also been sensible to have done this before adding the backscene…
On Wheal Imogen I painted the track by hand, picking out the rail in various rust shades while the sleepers were finished in a blend of browns & greys. That is fine on a 5ft long P4 layout, but not really viable on the 25feet or so of track required on Brent due to the amount of time required.
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Instead I have turned to alternative approaches, the obvious options were either airbrushing or an aerosol can. The former was discounted due to the limited reach of the airbrush, oddly enough I didn’t fancy having to lift up a 25lt compressor to baseboard height! Which left me with the aerosol option. Both Phoenix and Railmatch sell track colour paints (I used the former on Blackcombe Torr way back in the mid 2000s). However at £11 for a 150ml a can plus expensive postage, it would be a very costly process likely requiring at least 4 cans to do the whole layout. The fact that both manufacturer’s cans have a nasty habit of clogging up also doesn’t help.
Thankfully Halfords had the answer, within their range of very good quality spray paints they sell a range of camouflage paints including a “flat matt brown”. This is perfect as a base track colour, one can covered 2/3 of the layout for £7.50 (at time of writing).
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My approach to painting was fairly simple, after masking off the finished scenic elements (mostly the backscene) I added small squares of masking tape between the switch rail and closure rail to avoid the mechanism ceasing up. I sprayed a 3ft area of track then immediately rubbed the rail top with an inch square offcut of softwood to remove the paint (it’s a lot easier to get rid of before the paint dries).
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I had to fix the wiring for the double slip after painting having, the contact areas were cleaned up with a fibreglass brush and wires soldered in place. As this point uses copperclad construction it is very easy to wire, (the sleepers taking care of spreading the power through the point). As such it needs two power feeds plus two Vee feeds (that will connect to the Tortoise motors). Remember with a slip you need to connect each Vee’s power feed to the opposite point motor.
I can now get on with installing those platforms…

Modifying a Modified Hall

The Bachmann Modified Hall was released back in 2015 (I think) and contrary to some reports at the time is a completely new tooling (rather than a rehash of the old Replica model.) So far Bachmann have only released it in British Rail condition, but eventually I succumbed and bought one to back date for Brent finding a cheap weathered green example via eBay.
The big problem with the Bachmann Modified Hall, is some poor toolmaking originating in the 4900 series Hall chassis from a few years before. No one at Bachmann thought ahead that a Modified Hall might follow on the same chassis, so no consideration was made when designing the front of the chassis block.
The net result is that the front 10mm or so of the chassis fouls the area between the frame extensions (which should be flat). Bachmann stated after the release that it would have been uneconomic to tool up a new chassis block just for this loco, so they fudged it leaving the 4900 series curved footplate in place (including the two raised panels either side). At the same time they also failed to correctly model the different smokebox saddle that is present on the Modified Hall.

Thankfully Bassmasters have come to the rescue with a detailing kit containing replacements for the incorrect parts. After dismantling the model to separate the boiler from the footplate, and to remove the chassis work could start on the conversion. The front of the footplate has to be cut away to fit in the replacement flat footplate (plus drill the missing holes in the frame extensions). While the replacement correct size smokebox saddle was glued into position. Finally the chassis was
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With the front of my Modified Hall now finally looking like a Modified Hall, it was time to get on with converting the livery to a GWR machine. There are few differences between GWR and BR(w) liveries, with the BR version having green sides to the footplate, lined cylinders, no lining on the smokebox and only a half lined cab. It also needed the smokebox number plate removing. I chose 6971 as a suitable loco given it was one of the first to be released with the Hawksworth tender (limiting the loco to October 47)

For consistency of finish I decided the best way forward was to remove and replace all of the lining with my usual HMRS transfers. The whole loco was given a good scrub in enamel thinners which did the job (and also removed the majority of the weathering as an added bonus.) At this stage there is still a little shine coming from the transfers (mostly visible through the camera lens), a coat of Satin varnish will deal with this later.
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The front frames / smokebox saddle were given a coat of etch primer followed by Halfords satin black paint, before reassembling and adding the new lining (and a coat of satin varnish to seal it all in). Replacement etched plates for 6971 were added from Modelmaster. Before finally the smokebox and footplate were given a coat of my usual weathering mix (Vallejo grey black mixed with various browns).

There was one last job to complete before reuniting body and chassis, which was installing a DCC decoder. I removed the small weight and used the NEM socket to fit a Lenz Gold, my logic was that as it came the weight was not very heavy so its removal shouldn’t impact haulage. Testing so far the loco was happy running on 8 coach trains, so I am pleased with the result.
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I am very pleased with the end result, not only does it now correctly follow the prototype’s design, I have a GWR liveried Modified Hall which remains something that is unavailable RTR.

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Thanks for reading
Richard

A Backscene for Brent

The Backscene
What to do with a backscene is always a difficult question for a model railway, for me the key thing is that it blends in perfectly with the scene and adds a good backdrop for photography. One bugbear of mine is seeing photographic backscenes on layouts where roads disappear, or the alignment of buildings doesn’t match the 3d element of the layout.

My solution to this is to simplify with a backscene that consists of sky, then use scenic materials to blend the joint between the layout and the flat backscene board. For my 1990s layout Wheal Imogen which has a backscene on 3 sides I went for a hand painted sky, using a mix of blue, white and grey emulsion paints to get an overcast look.
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For Brent I have taken a more modern approach, using ID Backscenes photo prints on tough vinyl with an overcast sky print (ID503A/B/C). This came as a 30ft print spread over six 5 foot rolls, which can either be glued to the layout or stuck on using the self-adhesive backing. As I was unsure if the latter would work with my bare plasterboard walls (and I knew it wouldn’t work on the unpainted hardboard that makes up 2ft of the backscene), I went for the glue option and a can of carpet adhesive spray. Before fitting you need to remove 5mm from the edges of the print, I found that a new blade in a Stanley knife did the job perfectly.
Sharp corners always look wrong on a layout, so a 1inch radius curve was added to the far corner. This was simply formed by stretching the vinyl around the corner after spraying the glue.
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While the backscene is a fantastic product, I do have one criticism (specifically regarding the overcast sky version). Unlike practically every other product they sell, on ID503 it is very difficult to tell which end is left & right / top & bottom. I though I had matched it up properly, however it turned out not to be the case, with pack A glued back to front. I will now need to buy a new pack A and redo this…
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King George V crosses the Avon with the up Cornish Rivera Express, I will be covering the modelling of this formation in a future blog.
Fitting was straight forward. I started by preparing the vinyl sheets and marking a straight line as the top datum, before spraying the wall with adhesive and leaving until tacky. Starting from the left-hand side the first sheet was pressed into place, using a towel to smooth the vinyl against the wall.

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At this point you can clearly see the mistake with the joint between sheet 1 and sheet 2, I have some scrap vinyl and intend to experiment with some grey paint in the airbrush and see if I can blend to two together (before resorting to the fall back of buying a new pack).

All in all I would definitely recommend it, but would suggest finding a long clear space and rolling out the whole backscene to match up the parts.
Thanks for reading
Richard