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Sample articles

To give you a feel for the subjects that Model Trains International covers in each issue, we've added a few sample articles from the magazine to the website. These have been taken from issues no longer available - on the one hand it's a way of sharing articles with you that you couldn't get otherwise. On the other, it doesn't reduce our potential income!

"On the Nebenbahn" is editor Chris Ellis's exploration of German branchlines as potential subjects for a layout while "Budget Modelling Starts Here!" has suggestions on getting into railway modelling on the proverbial shoestring.

Finally, "Oldbury Basin" is Jordan Foster's minimum space N-scale layout and is very typical of the type of layouts featured in the magazine.

Oldbury Basin

N scale layout by Jordan Foster takes up next to no space on the Inglenook principle - a sample article from Issue #1

Due to being a sufferer of that dangerous condition known as ‘Impulse Shopping’, which means you leave a model shop with a bagful of goodies completely unrelated to any current layout or project you have, I ended up over time with a small collection of second-hand British N scale wagons and Grafar Class 08 and no layout to call home.


Click to enlarge
Looking down on the complete layout shows how simple the track plan is on this neat little canal basin setting

As I also had a couple of spare Peco Setrack points and some left over flextrack offcuts, I devised Oldbury Basin as a diversion from American interests and also as a chance to try and create a realistic minimum space layout. The track plan needs no comment at all as it falls into the ‘Not Inglenook Sidings again’ category! One siding runs into a shed which is open at the rear for exchanging stock, a sort of ‘Fiddleshed’.

The setting is part of a large scrap processing plant by the side of a canal basin, in the Black Country sometime in the late 1960s when such small lines and the canals were still in commercial use, albeit with closures looming on the horizon.

Lots of detail, including scrap iron, is needed on a little layout like this.  The big ‘tin shed’ gives a good ‘industrial’ look to the layout and doubles as the fiddle yard, or offstage, cover.
Lots of detail, including scrap iron, is needed on a little layout like this. The big ‘tin shed’ gives a good ‘industrial’ look to the layout and doubles as the fiddle yard, or offstage, cover.

An old shelf offcut, 2 feet long by 7 1/2 inches wide at the shed end and 6 inches at the other, forms the baseboard, with hardboard offcuts naled on top to form the canal basin and also slots for point operating rods that project behind the backscene, which is thin plywood. I did say it was a scrap branch!

I have found that Peco points don’t always lie perfectly flat, warping slightly so that the frog area is slightly higher than the rails - enough to cause stalling trouble, especially on dead frogs. They need firmly pinning on either side of the frog to cure this. Also I have found that although old Code 80 rail and new Cose 55 do join together, the Code 55 rail top surface sits slightly higher than the Code 80, causing a bump and possibly derailing with 4-wheel rolling stock.

A close look at the headshunt shows the refuelling stand for the loco - fuel is ‘handpumped’ in from the drums.  A retaining wall from brick paper makes an easy boundary for the yard.  The locomotive has the rather stained and faded paint often seen on hard-worked 08s in the 1980s.
A close look at the headshunt shows the refuelling stand for the loco - fuel is ‘handpumped’ in from the drums. A retaining wall from brick paper makes an easy boundary for the yard. The locomotive has the rather stained and faded paint often seen on hard-worked 08s in the 1980s.

The Grafar 08 was second hand and had been repainted with a thick, horrible grey paint that took several soaks in brake fluid to remove! The motor and chassis also had to be stripped down to clean out the effects of running on someone’s carpet. It still isn’t a brilliant runner but gluing some lead strip in the cab (the only space available) has helped slow running and also overcome to a degree the very inflexible wheelbase which can cause stalling on uneven track, such as the points mentioned earlier. Now the loco is in green, with yellow ends, and heavily weathered, though I’ve chickened out so far of attempting the ‘Wasp Stripes’ on the ends. If you are buying new, a Class 20 might be a better running choice of loco or a Minitrix Fowler 0-6-0T.

As with the board, most of the scenery and buildings were offcuts and scrap bits from the junk box. Ideal junk is old girder bits, wire offcuts, bits of dismantled clocks and watches (especially the tiny gears) and other unidentifiable bits of long forgotten models. An Oxyacetylene cutting set I made from kit sprue and wire. It scales out for 3mm scale really, because I guesstimated the size to suit my eyesight!

Oldbury Basin track plan.  (A) Canal basin with long boat, etc. (R) Tin shed covering ‘fiddle’ siding (S) Scrap metal breaking area (W) Wharf area (T) Fuelling point and hut (or small coal stage and water crane for steam era).
Oldbury Basin track plan. (A) Canal basin with long boat, etc. (R) Tin shed covering ‘fiddle’ siding (S) Scrap metal breaking area (W) Wharf area (T) Fuelling point and hut (or small coal stage and water crane for steam era).

It is surrounded between the two sidings by lots of rusty bits of metal, obtained simply by going outside and kicking strategic parts of the banger that laughingly masquerades as my car, and collecting the resulting copious showers of rust and dirt on sheets of newspaper! At the headshunt end is the shunter’s fuel point, plus more junk, a shed, privy hut, and a Dornaplas Thornycroft lorry, which is about the only item on the layout actually bought new.

In all it has taken around six months of very sporadic work to complete this - a record time for me! The trouble is I get sidetracked by diversions like this, and it leaves the main project way behind. I am still trying to finish an American branch line I started four years ago, in N scale, and I already have my next diversion under way, this time American HO, after taking advantage of an unbeatable offer last year of 8 freight cars for £25.

But meantime I have, at least, made my own version of Inglenook Sidings that differs again in setting from any others I’ve seen. Also, as it is but 2ft long it is easy to store away and carry around, a very definite advantage of N gauge if you are short of space.

A company name on the shed makes it seem part of the scrap operation.  Lines passing through sheds or warehouses are quite prototypical.
A company name on the shed makes it seem part of the scrap operation. Lines passing through sheds or warehouses are quite prototypical.
The Class 08 can shuffle up and down endlessly shunting the sidings, and the shunting variations are never ending even on this small layout.
The Class 08 can shuffle up and down endlessly shunting the sidings, and the shunting variations are never ending even on this small layout.



Click to enlarge
The Oldbury Basin in its entirety, with operations under way