Pacific Power

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I was visiting my local model shop the other weekend and I spied a 00 gauge A4 Pacific fitted with DCC and sound for under £110 pounds. This was surprisingly cheap for a model fitted with sound but as payday was a distant vision I had to pass.

However…

I now feel the need to add an A4 Pacific to my roster of locomotives. For those of you new to the world of trains, an A4 Pacific is the model of engine that Mallard is. Along with the Flying Scotsman, Mallard is probably one of the most famous steam locos in the world and holds the steam locomotive speed record at 126mph. There are only five A4s left and you can Mallard at the National Railway Museum in York, England. The more I research this particular class of locomotive the more I want one of my own.

The thing is I’m being a bit picky about the livery. I’ve decided to go with British Railways in the last days of steam, this allows me to run all kinds of steam locomotives and gives me an excuse to throw in a few early diesels and electrics as well. Ideally I’d like to run an A4 in austerity era black but most ready to run A4’s are in LNER livery. This might not be a problem for a bold or experienced modeller who would get to work with T-Cut and airbrush but for me any locomotive is a bit of an investment and pulling it apart and altering it is a bit of a risk. I’ll have to be patient and hope that someone somewhere decides to release a black A4 with BR insignia, failing that I’ll have to trawl that well known auction site or just be a bit less picky – I have seen some respectable looking A4’s in Brunswick green.

Dapol Wagon Review

Last weekend, on my holidays, I visited the Mid Suffolk Light Railway which is Suffolk’s only standard gauge heritage railway. It’s a very good railway and I recommend it if you are out and about in the East of England. The gift shop there sells 00 gauge wagons with local owner details on the side. Shopping there I had the choice of wagons with Peterborough, Chelmsford or Mid Suffolk on the side, I opted to buy the latter for my Layout.

The wagon is of the four plank variety and made by Dapol. Price wise it is the same price as you would expect from any other wagon from any other supplier. Having briefly run it around a layout it performs with no problems. It has the usual tension lock couplings fitted in NEM pockets which should make it easy to swap them out if needed and it will be needed as after photographing it for this post the hook part of one of the coupling promptly came lose.

It’s fitted with a coal load that looks a little unconvincing up close but luckily it’s removable so I plan on replacing it with the real thing at some point. Removing the coal load was a little difficult and I was worried about damaging the truck at some points but it came out with no disasters eventually. Once the coal load was removed the slightly rough texture of the truck interior shows that it was manufactured using 3D printing, this doesn’t show on the outside so it’s not a big detractor for me.

The Mid Suffolk lettering on the side is clean and doesn’t look like it will peel off any time soon. According to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway website the lettering is true to prototype but having not seen the prototype i’ll take their word for it.

Overall it’s a standard wagon with no major detractors and the localisation offered by the lettering adds a nice touch. I give it a thumbs up.

In the future I plan on weathering the model and making a more convincing coal load for it. Once that’s done I’m planning on swapping out the couplings for something better. Look out for how I get on in future posts.

Additionally, Model Rail magazine (other model railway magazines are available) are doing a special issue on small space layouts this month so take a look if my explanation of inglenook puzzles in a previous post has whetted your interest.

A Word on Baseboards – Measure Twice, Cut Once

One of the golden rules of building a model railway is “Have a decent baseboard from the start”. Unfortunately due to my make do and mend attitude I didn’t follow this rule. My base board is made of a thin sheet of hardboard, one of the most awkward materials I have ever worked with. Hardboard warps easily, is very difficult to nail track pins into and any holes drilled through it will not be tidy. For these reasons I have taken up the existing baseboard and replaced it with a sheet of 9mm plywood. Much better. I’ve gone with 9mm ply because it appears to be the material of choice for experienced modellers; if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.

One downside to replacing the baseboard is that the layer of cork I had on the hardboard could not be transferred over so I have laid the rails directly onto the Ply. This may make running louder but because of the nature of the layout operational noise was not a big issue in the first place. However, if possible I would recommend a cork underlay as it can be trimmed to add a bit of a “shoulder” to ballast and slightly raise the track above the rest of the scenery. As I’m going for a shunting yard with a slightly industrial feel I’ve gone without cork on this occasion.

One other challenge I faced was that the frame the baseboard was to mounted on wasn’t straight. I knew the edges of the ply were straight because they had been cut at the timber merchant using their precision tools. My eventual solution was to partially dismantle the frame and fix it to the baseboard piece by piece. This revealed that one of the edges of the frame was longer than the other three causing the whole thing to be crooked and preventing the two halves of the baseboard from lining up flush.

To sum up:

  • Don’t use hardboard as a baseboard. 9mm ply is what the experts advise.
  • Try to put a layer of cork on your baseboard, it can enhance the scenic aspect of the line and it is a good noise absorbent.
  • Make sure the frame you put your baseboard on is square. Measure twice, cut once as they say.