By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more

Model Railway Express News Bulletin 27 May 2015


Share offer

By Phil Parker

Thanks to everyone who has been feeding back comments on the changes to MREmag.

A number of people have followed the link to DRM e-Publishing, the company we have set up to look after MREmag and (hopefully) a few other publications in the future. Some have taken up the opportunity to invest in company shares - a welcome vote of thanks in our efforts. We hope this will turn out to be a wise investment for you, although it might be a few months before you need a Ferrari dealership on speed-dial!

To date we have reached the first milestone for share sales. Share certificates are being prepared and should be with you soon.

Thanks again for the support. Don't forget to have a look at the test site for new look MREmag and let me know what you think.


Have Your Say

Having your say - Wed 27th May 2015

By Phil Parker


I am quite happy with the new look MREmag and I applaud your determination to keep it free for we readers and contributors. You have indeed some illustrious names on the board with Mr H and Mr K and I think the mag is in safe hands.

Just one tiny suggestion, is it possible to keep the old font for the new mag?

I feel the old font is easier to read than the new especially for us old blokes as it is a bit 'blockier' and appears slightly larger.

John Simmonds
East Surrey


Like it - especially the type face, much easier to read, though I do not have as problem with the old one - the new one is just better.

Alan Brant


Thanks for the overview of the magazines reincarnation, it looks to be an exciting step forward in the magazines history. From a personal point of view it was with a sense of pride that I saw my letter as the first one on the new site.

Andrew Carter


I've looked at the new layout for MREmag and it's nicely refreshed with the text in a clear and easy to read font, and the various sections are well laid out and easy to locate.  The pictures look good as well.
You no doubt have your reasons for using orange, a difficult colour for contrast, especially with light weight lettering against a white or grey background, it is very weak and not easy to read.  Bold lettering is better, and bold white on an orange background is better again.
The description MREmag doesn't say what's in the tin, unless you happen to know what the initials stand for.  'Model Railway Express' (without the 'mag') could be more useful, and certainly sounds more lively and says what it is. 
Also, the odd colour in the logo may be better if it was the same orange as in the rest of the magazine, and I suggest the title would appear more up to date in upper and lower case as 'Model Railway Express'. 
The title would look more consistent with the rest of the mag if it was made up with an orange block with white (or black) upper and lower case lettering, in the same font as the headings, and perhaps with a horizontal rule line above and below that (in white or black) signifying track,  then perhaps a logo wouldn't be needed, although the 'track' choice is the best of the three.
Apart from all that, I must admit that I've worked in marketing most of my life, with a bus company having light orange as its fleet colour!  I don't regard myself as an authority by any means, but it's a natural thing to want to alter anything once asked to comment, so please excuse me for my ramblings above!

John Woodward

Editor: Interesting that we have views for and against the current typeface. For my part, I find the new font a lot easier to read, but am happy to try to retain the current version if readers prefer.

"Model Railway Express" was the title of the magazine Pat Hammond was editing when he started the website. The two became separate entities years ago and we only own - in fact I'm not sure who now owns "Model Railway Express" but there is a "Rail Express" magazine on the newsstands.

Orange - well, the site is currently orange and I don't want to change to much initially. I appreciate that white on orange isn't perfect. but with tweaking, I hope it will be OK.

For anyone still interested, please head over to to have a look.



Am I alone in bristling about the words ‘time-honoured (or similar) 2" x ½” framework ‘ for supporting base boards. I have always believed that 3" x ½” (or even 4" x ½”) is far preferable, being in general much stiffer, and allowing cut outs for cable runs etc.

The only hesitation I have is about the straightness and quality of timber from DIY sheds and a bit of judicious eyeing up before purchase is necessary, or a reliable timber merchants.

Alan Brant


Can I put in my tuppence worth? I have had layouts in lofts in the past, and now in a custom built room in the house.

I agree with the majority of the contributors that Sundeala is  a no-no.

The 3/4 inch chipboard with bracing method is also a disaster, as no matter how well braced it will distort especially where one board meets another, and it is horribly heavy.  My latest layout uses 4mm ply built as egg boxes with top only where there will be track or buildings. This has been perfect now for 25 years. I built it in 4ft by 2ft or 3 ft pieces 6 in deep. It was very easy to scenic and even easier to wire as each board was so light.

When I moved it to our new house I discovered that it was indeed so light that I could leave two sections bolted together and avoided a lot of dismantling. The layout needs a dropped section for a viaduct and this too was easy. The viaduct was also made in 4mm ply and acted as the stiffener for that board. I strongly recommend this method of construction. I avoided the dreaded trestles as well by putting it on top of cheap MFI self assembly kitchen units.

Alistair Wright


Further to recent letters I would first wholly concur with the comments that MDF is the only way to go. My baseboards are 9mm MDF and being braced in the right places have not warped or twisted over three years with differing temperatures in the loft.

Secondly a serious suggestion to anyone looking at a new layout, get an decent "chippie" in the get boards the right size, well supported and most of all - level! I have enclosed a photo of my friendly "chippie" working on installing my loft layout.. Money well spent!

Alan Wickens
Sunny South Coast


I have made a number of baseboards without finding an ideal material.

I would only use Sundeala glued all over with PVA to a plywood or MDF board about 6mm thick, then use the composite board. This is easy to do in 1220 x 610 mm (4 x 2 feet) chunks, rather more difficult with larger pieces. If you need a piece of an odd size, cut the Sundeala and the plywood or MDF separately and then glue together. Unsupported Sundeala isn't a good idea.

Although you can save a lot of material by only having support where there's going to be track, I tend to change my mind a lot so I go for a large flat surface.

I have also tried a double layer of cork floor tiles, arranged so they overlap, on 6mm ply, and I prefer the result of this to a Sundeala surface. Easier to do a bit at a time, as well.

Finally I used Woodland Scenics foam, "Sub-terrain" on my current layout. I use a mixture of their offerings, some plain boards covering a large area and some just where there is track. It is quite expensive but gives a good result. I use papier mache (newspaper and wallpaper paste) to cover the foam and fill in between tracks.

Any layout needs wiring below the track. With anything except a sub-terrain system, the boards are drilled so wires run under the board and up to the track through the board. With a sub-terrain system, the board is not drilled, the wires lie on the surface of the board passing through the sub-terrain material. I found this very much easier than working below board level.

Finally, remember that you have to be able to reach every bit of the layout.

Chris Patrick


Having moved house and found a 17ft x 7ft room that I could not find a better use for the stripped layout was reformed and is now a complete runaround.

The picture depicts a busy morning at Moorwestern, with local passenger, express milk and trip goods all in evidence. Obviously there is a tremendous amount of work to do but the principle that I used was to get the layout running and make sure that all the movements that I wanted to make could be achieved before doing the scenics. Its easier to make changes at this early stage of development.

Dave Scott
Daventry MRC  - Kirkby Stephen branch (And yes I can see the S & C across the fields from my house)


The method I used for baseboard construction follows Iain Rice’s methods found in his book An Approach to Model Railway Layout Design.   I strongly recommend that Ian Waller study this book carefully before designing and building anything.

My baseboards are constructed from ½ inch plywood with plywood tops on 3 inch deep plywood frames. I avoided softwood given its propensity to warp unless very well seasoned.  The baseboard corners are braced with 1 inch square pine, glued and pinned; the ply top is glued and pinned to the frames.  Every 18 inches there is a cross member in ply.  This gives the strength of L girder construction in two directions and has prevented any warping.   They are light and can be constructed off site.  All cross members have a hole drilled for wiring.

For the track-bed, I again followed Rice’s suggested method and use neoprene as the track-bed and do NOT pin the track in place but spot glue it with flexible glue.  This helps keep noise transmission to a minimum.

While I live in Utah, the second driest state in the USA, my layout is in the basement which has flooded in severe weather a couple of times resulting in high humidity in the train room.  The baseboards have remained dead square.
And I have no connection with Iain Rice, other than I believe the guy is the best thing that has happened to model railway thinking in the past 20-odd years (along with Barry Norman - but his baseboard construction is far more complex).

Richard Davies


I thought there might be some comment about my Sundeala suggestion! It’s a bit like Marmite – you love it or hate it!
Firstly, Iain did say that his loft was being converted with floorboards, roof insulation and ceiling cladding. Perhaps those who have had problems didn’t follow the ‘conditioning advice’? See the link below.
Part of my layout has off-scene double-track reverse loops three inches above a lower part of the layout. To make the track-bed, all I did was:

  • Cut the board to the required loop shape;
  • Glued and pinned thick board (from Hobbycraft) vertically along the edges;
  • Mounted that on vertical risers made from foam-centre board every eight inches.

The photo below shows part of the loop. Baseboard heresy to some? Maybe, but it is as solid as a rock.

Brian Macdermott


3D Printing

Reading Phil's very interesting article gave reminder that my wife and I went to a 3D demonstration and display at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum (well worth a days visit) last October.
There was one machine working and making a bracelet but the timing was something like 3 hours for completion, but all the same very interesting to see how the object was being formed. However there was an excellent display of items that had been made by 3D printing which was quite fascinating. An adult bicycle caught my eye and I was advised that the whole frame had been made by 3D printing.
There was a range of parts that are now made for aircraft of which I found quite astonishing only to read very recently that new Airbus A350 XWB Aircraft contains over 1,000  3D printed parts. Who would have thought such a new printing and manufacturing system would have reached this level?
My wife and I are great fans of American TV programmes such as NCIS and the various CIS series and these have features "guns" that have supposedly been produced by 3D printing of which at the time we assumed as pure science fiction. However not so, and sadly this incredible new system has already been regrettably used for this purpose. I mention this because on display at Manchester was a 3D printed device that had been developed and made to detect the presence of guns etc. at airports.
Obviously we are have already seen signs of initial 3D printing for our hobby, in particular for preproduction models, and I do wonder what the future will bring for railway modelling as the process becomes even more developed and the costs reduced. Fascinating times ahead.
John Cherry



I spent an enjoyable few hours at Railex last weekend, as usual the layouts were varied and interesting. With my Exhibition Managers hat on I tend to look around for ideas and tips that I can bring to Banbury's club exhibition later in the year.

One thing I noticed was the amount of layouts set quite high. I know there has to be some compromise and youngsters tend to have their steps to view the layouts but I mention this because there appeared to be more than usual amount of wheelchair users at the show and some of the layouts were completely inaccessible to them.

Black Country Blues was a case in point, a superb layout with very good running and superb scenery, but set a few feet off the ground, making it a non starter for wheelchair users. This is not meant to be a criticism of the said layout just an observation that could have used many layouts as an example.

To be honest it is difficult to see a way around this aside from getting some sort of viewing platform by every layout, I have recently reduced the height of my layout by six inches which was met with appreciation by wheelchair users at my last exhibition, however it may not be practical for exhibitors to do that. I would be interested to know others opinions on the subject and how it may be addressed.

Andrew Carter


Bachmann E4

Further to John Cherry’s comments in Monday’s MREmag Bachmann have, indeed, chosen to model the atypical in turning out 32556 in plain black.  Lined black was the norm for the E4s.  I saw several members of the class in my youth and they were all lined.

According to DL Bradley in the RCTS book Locomotives of the LB&SCR part 3 all the E4s (except 2483 withdrawn in 1944) entered BR stock when all, except 32556, were painted in lined black.  He does say that the last to receive the lining was 32508 in March 1957, ie 9 years after Nationalisation.  So 32556 in plain black and with the early emblem is not wrong but certainly not typical.

But despite Bradley implying it was never lined even 32556 eventually received lining at some point as it carried lining when I photographed it on the scrap line at Eastleigh shed in 1961.

My favoured modelling period is BR 1948 to 1956 so I duly pre-ordered 32556.  However I cancelled when I realised it was un-lined.  I would certainly buy a lined early emblem example.  In the meantime I’m making do with late crest 32500!

Chris Knowles-Thomas


Bachmann Modified Hall

Most observations on the revised model appear to be treading very carefully around the subject saying that it is a compromise, aimed at keeping costs down, utilising available tooling, If you look at it side on its not noticeable etc, When is someone going to state they believe it to be a complete balls up? Oh...I just did.

Let's face it Hornby were pilloried for two extra spokes in the 'Stars' front bogie and other bits and pieces, but this Hall is a fictional mash up of two locos, a disastrous  mistake in my opinion.

Andrew Carter


9 plank mystery wagon

Just to add a comment to Adrian Swain’s letter today, the RCH 1923 Specification specifically allows coke wagons to be 17ft 6in long over the body. The 16ft 6in length only refers to mineral wagons, obviously coke was not considered a mineral but a processed material.
Mike McHugh


Maunsell catering coaches

Top of the poll, the original 1st Restaurant/Kitchen coaches were all very similar apart from the first six which did not have single end doors, although these were retrofitted. If a model were to be produced this would seem to be an
obvious starting point. The conversion of many to buffet cars post-war gave rise to a number of diagrams of which 2657 (3 coaches), 2659 and 2661 (4 & 2 coaches) offer the most straight forward adaptation of the pre-war model,
essentially with different interiors and plated over (painted over?) windows.

Unfortunately the most common conversion Diagram 2666 probably requires a new body as it has a different door arrangement.

Robert Inns


Red Boxes versus Blue Boxes

It seems to me that anyone who buys only the products of one manufacturer is a collector.
Modellers buy items that fit their prototype likes and/or layout requirements, irrespective of origin.
John Street


Holiday photos

A Czeckoslovak-built T669 diesel waiting for departure to Vlore at 13:25 at Durres in Albania, Sunday 17th May 2015. The loco was built for Albanian railways (HSH), but the coaches are second-hand from Germany.

Luke Stephens


Join in the discussion - send an e-mail to:

In the case of e-mails published in MREmag, individual responses from the editor are not usually sent unless there is an issue to be raised or answered. Our thanks to all those who contributed their thoughts, questions and answers which develop the topics covered above. A special thanks to Pat Hammond, Brian Macdermott, and Trevor Gibbs for their regular features.

 If you have suggestions for the model manufacturers to consider, or if there is anything else you would like to discuss within the British railway modelling and collecting subject base of this magazine, please send me an e-mail, giving your ‘first’ name and surname (no pseudonym please) to Please keep your postings to a reasonable limit, as well as being positive, polite and definitely not libellous.

Anonymous comments cannot be published. Your contributions will be edited for readability and acceptability within the unbiased policy of the magazine. Care will be taken not to alter the views expressed but they remain those of the writer of the e-mail and are not necessarily shared by the Editor. Readers are cautioned that nothing appearing or referred to in the magazine is represented to be a full and authoritative statement of any matter to which it may relate. No liability for any error or omission, for any opinion expressed or for anything done or refrained from in reliance on such material will be accepted by any contributor, the Editor or the Publisher.

Any photographs supplied for use must have been taken by you, or you have copyright clearance for MREmag to use them.

Event information is reported as supplied and taken in good faith. If you are planning to travel a long distance, you are advised to check the website or contact the organiser to make sure everything is going ahead.

 Remember! The manufacturers are our friends - not our enemies. They read this magazine and so, when you comment on their products, you are talking directly to them. Choose your words carefully as you would with a friend.


Estate Agents from Greenscene

By Phil Parker

Spotted at Railex last weekend, a new range of buildings under development by Greenscene - part of a new range provisionally to be marketed as the "Estate Agents" brand.

Each building is laser-cut from MDF and available in a wide variety of configurations. Kits include laser-cut windows, doors and roof tiles. All these will also be available separately.


Single house: £12.90

Double house: £24.99

Quad: £38.00

Alleyway: £8.99

Front yards for each

Single: £6.99

Double: £11.99

Quad: £16.99

The models should be available in time for Warley this year. For more details, please contact Greenscene though the website:

Bob Barlow

By Phil Parker

It is with great sadness that the news of Bob Barlow's death has been announced.

MREmag readers will remember Bob as one of the first editors of Model Railway Journal and the man who took it through most of its early life.

More recently, he started Greystar Publications and took responsibility for Narrow Gauge and Industrial Magazine and the newly launched Finescale Model Review.

More details can be found in his obituary on the Greystar website.

Hints and Tips

Hints & Tips No.989 - Recycled Micro Applicators

By Henry Goralski

The other day my wife was about to throw out an expired Visine bottle. Unscrewing the cap and looking at the applicator itself, I realised that I could place my thumb nail just beneath the rim of the plastic applicator and remove the tip. I washed the bottle completely.

This bottle can be filled either with a glue or a coloring agent and utilised to apply whatever in the most hardest of places to reach, just be creative. and I now have a new applicator for miniature parts. For those of you not in this boat, ask your relatives or a friend if they utilise this material and have them save the bottles for you, rather than throw them out.


Castles - The Final Years 1954-1965

By Laurence Waters

Publisher: Ian Allan Publishing (OPC), Riverdene Business Park, Molesey Road, Hersham, KT12 4RG. Tel: 0844 245 6944

ISBN: 978 0 7110 3822 6

Pages: 128

Illustrations: 208 monochrome & 35 coloured

Date: May 2015

Cover: hardback

Size: 250mm x 220mm portrait

Price: £22.50

Index: none

The book follows the former GWR ‘Castle’ Class locomotives over a ten-year period, including their golden years on the Western Region of British Railways. As a student at a college situated on the banks of the Thames, west of Reading, in the early ‘60s, I well remember watching them from the studio window, where I worked, as they thundered along the embankment on the other side of the river - well aware that this was a passing era and that they would soon be gone. My interest in the class had been awakened back in 1957 when the Hornby Dublo Bristol Castle arrived in the shops and was requested by me as a birthday present.

The book is a photographic album with over 200 black and white photographs, mostly published for the first time, and a section in the centre of the book with over 30 coloured photos, which are mostly of a very good standard. The black and white illustrations have been arranged chronologically, year by year. Each photograph is accompanied by a caption which identifies the loco and location, along with the date and other information of interest.

If you are a Western Region fan, and especially a ‘Castle’ fan, this book is a ‘must’ for your bookshelf. I didn’t mention that there is also a good 14-page introduction about the class at the front of the book.

Reviewed by Pat Hammond

Social Media

'Like' us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Tweets by @MREmag

How many model railway exhibitions do you visit in a year?
Q: How many model railway exhibitions do you visit in a year?













(106 votes)