This blog is focussed around my interests in Diesel and Electric locomotives and the modern rail freight scene. I particularly like the humble Class 08 and 09 Shunter and also anything with a pantograph, notably Class 86, 90 and 92 locomotives.

If you have a spare minute please visit my Flickr page

This is my personal blog and as such, all views are those of myself and do not necessarily represent the views of my family, friends, or employers.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Model Rail Grumbles

I find myself writing this at a time where model railway products have never been better. The level of detail, functionality and quality is a far cry from models produced just 20 years ago. Naturally today's models command much higher prices but like anything in life, you pay for what you get. More manufacturers have entered the fray, no longer is Hornby the market leader, and this level of competition has led to raised standards.

However, this hobby is not all rosy.  I genuinely struggle to see how the Model Railway Industry in the UK survives with such a slow conveyor of products being released. I'm not rich, I'd consider myself comfortable with an amount of disposable income to spend on Model Railways every month. I find that I don't spend this money as there is nothing for me to buy. Sure plenty of products have been 'Announced' and plenty of these products interest me, however the amount of time in getting these items on the shelf is increasing. Its increased to the point where I'm not sure I see the point anymore, it's enough to kill off anyone's interest.

Examples of products falling in to the above category are Bachmann Europe's Class 90 and 158 projects. The Class 90 project was announced 3 years ago in July 2014 and the 158 way back in 2012. Today these projects are no more than drawings (assuming they have been done) UPDATE strangely enough the Bachmann website has been updated to say the 90 has progressed to the Tool room. At the rate it has taken to get to this stage then it seems plausible it will 2020 before we see the first Engineering Prototype and probably another 3 years on top of that for production/release. In all seriousness, from the perspective of me as a customer, this is a piss take. I want the 90, I have the money to spend on it, I just want to be alive to see it released. If Apple took 4/5 years to release their latest iPhone after announcing it would customers wait? Would they hell, Samsung would have record share prices to go along with record sales figures.  Will we ever see these projects? Probably not in the case of the 158, was this just a diversion tactic by essentially "Reserving" these items.

This isn't just a problem with Bachmann though, this spans the entire industry regardless of size.
Dapol, a Welsh manufacturer, announced an N gauge Class 142 a number of years ago. Despite a lot of confusion (even amongst their own staff) over whether the model was actually still going to be made, it now looks like its nearing completion. Then there was the Class 73, a model that had been crying out for updating for many years. Dapol did the Class proud with an outstanding rendition let down by avoidable and plain stupid livery errors. There are several 73s that interest me, all from the post privatization period however I point blank refuse to purchase these with the ridiculous yellow ends that should never have made it through quality control. I ain't going to take a paint brush (or indeed pay anyone to) to correct a £150 model. Hopefully the second batch will be better...

Hornby, the only name from the Model Railway world that anyone outside of the hobby knows, have been an embarrassment over the past decade. They have produced some outstanding models, namely the Class 60, 67 and King (for the Kettle fans). However with capacity issues over in China, production of items to sell at one point where more dreams than reality. Then there was the whole laying down the law with retailers imposing unrealistic terms and making it practically nonviable for them to stock their products. Thankfully a lot of kick back was received, particularity from the smaller retailers, and Hornby in part where told to go "F*ck themselves". They do now however seem to have turned a corner and products are starting to appear as regular updates on their forthcoming items. Hornby could however do with some assistance in range planning as some of the announcements in recent years have been shocking and the exclusions of what many people would see as Key/Core items truly baffling. One hopes that someone with an understanding of the products they want to sell is brought in, as they once had someone doing this who was a real asset to them and is responsible for their success before the more recent turmoil.

Another firm uses "Crowdfunding" to get projects going which seems reasonable. The guy behind the company is one of the most enthusiastic and technically minded people in the business. A modeller himself, he looks to produce what he would like to see in models. He's done this with good success so far and if you go off what he posts on well known model railway forums there is much more to come. However, sometimes he comes across as a complete liability and its like he should be housed in a cage and fed water and leaves. A recent crowdfunding project had plenty of expressions of interest and a number of orders placed too. Realizing that the numbers hadn't got to the stage they needed to in order to make the project viable, it was opened up to established retailers to get it over the line, makes total sense, the project can continue and retailers get a slice of the pie = Happy Days, or so you would think. So when announcing this on a forum, instead of thanking those who had supported the project from the start and the retailers who have essentially bailed the project out, the attention was focused on those who had expressed an interest but who had not converted that in to an order yet. A public dig at those people who essentially he wants to part with their hard earned cash seems a most unusual marketing strategy. The gripe being that there were 'Broken Promises' which is amusing as if you were to go through this thread in particular, the amount of times you see an update from the guy saying "Update on the project to be posted Monday/Sunday" or "Next invoices to be sent out Sunday/Monday" and you're still waiting a week later. Broken promises, oh the irony.

At the end of this rant, which is actually a fact filled rant, I conclude by saying that all I want is to be able to spend money on products. Gone are the days where Lima had mass releases every 30 days. I'm not saying that is the answer either, somewhere in the middle will do. The only models I have purchased this calendar year are the Dapol Class 68 (which is truly outstanding) and a Bachmann 57. I have a broad modelling interest which spans an era of 30/40 years and there has been virtually nothing come through. I've spent more money on second hand items this year such is the lack of supply.

Over the next couple of months/years I have the following to look forward to

  1. Bachmann Class 90
  2. Hornby Class 87
  3. DJ Models Class 92
  4. Dapol 59

and various re liveries of existing tooling.

I look forward the eventual arrival of these new models, however, I wont be around forever...

Monday, 5 June 2017

08 Update

Introduced well over 60 years ago, the standard BR Diesel Electric shunter,  or Class 08/09 as they are more commonly known, continues to prove its worth on the British Railway network today. Although the numbers have dwindled right down in recent years, a number of operators continue to add to their fleets.

Once the largest operator of 'Gronks' in the post privatization era, EWS/DB Cargo withdrew and sold their remaining shunting fleet in late 2016 after a number of unsuccessful attempts. The shunt operations which retained a dedicated pilot have been taken over by Class 60, 66 and 67 Diesel locomotives. Of the 24 sold, most were snapped up by hire market operators such as RSS (Railway Support Services) and HN Rail. The preservation movement also secured a number of these workhorses to ensure that they will be useful for many more years to come. Reflecting the current low price of scrap metal, only former Tinsley favourite 08879 was sold to a scrap dealer, Raxxstar Ltd, but even this is now has been repaired and should be sold on again shortly.

RSS (Railway Support Services)

Contracts both new and existing are being won all the time, however RSS are taking the lead in this field and below is detailed a list of recent goings on at the Wishaw based theme.

08460 prepares to shunt crippled wagons in to Axiom Stoke after their arrival from Warrington Arpley.

By far the busiest operator as of late is Railway Support Services Ltd based at Goodmans Yard, Wishaw. Formerly trading as Traditional Traction Ltd, the operator has made real strides in to the shunter hire market and as well as winning long standing contracts, has won new contracts as well.

  • Wigan Springs Branch - Following the sale of 08605 to Riveria Trains, DB have opted to hire in a Class 08 from RSS to cover the sites shunting needs. Home to the Network Rail breakdown crane and MPV fleet, the site is also a wagon repair facility. With the shed having no allocation of its own these days, mainline shunting isn't really an option. 08703, fresh off a C Exam at Bescot (bizarrely sanctioned before sale), arrived at the site on the 20th January 2017. Still carrying shabby EWS livery, the loco has had the EWS lettering painted out and a small RSS logo placed on each cab side. Initially expected to replace 08605, both shunters remain on site at the time of writing.
  • Leeds Neville Hill - Due to low availability of East Midlands Trains 4 own Gronks on site at Neville Hill with 08690 and 08908 out of action, and a commitment to provide a pilot to Northern covered by 08525, 08405 was collected from Crewe IEMD to ease the burden on former Intercity liveried 08950. 08405 was officially stored a number of years back by DB but was maintained in operational condition as Crewe IEMD pilot. Similar to 08703, the loco retains EWS livery with RSS logos attached to the cabsides.
  • Axiom Rail, Stoke - Perhaps the most unsurprising new requirement for a Gronk was the pilot duty for the former Marcroft Engineering works in Stoke. Home to shunters such as 08714, 08993 and more recently 08633, the sale of the latter by DB to the nearby Churnet Valley Railway left this busy facility with no pilot. Realising that this wasn't practical DB turned to RSS who in turn have provided initially 08652, whilst 08460's overhaul was completed at Wishaw, via Mendip Rail. 08460 has now taken up its duties in the Potteries allowing 08652 to be returned to Merehead.
  • Greater Anglia, Cambridge - The Arriva Traincare/LNWR facilty in Cambridge which is used for stabling/servicing units is a new location to require a Gronk. A lane of the shed has been hired by Abellio Greater Anglia for the overhaul of units. As the shed is not electrified the 08 will provide the power for any required movements. 08511 has taken up this duty after generator repairs at Wishaw.
  • Greater Anglia, Norwich Crown Point - A depot and turn that has existed for many years, Crown point has a requirement for 2 pilots at any one time. This contract has been held by RMS locotec for a number of years. Expected imminently are RSS owned 08480 and 08683 to relieve locotec's 08754 and 08847.
  • Tata Steel, Llanelli - Another contract won from RMS locotec, recently overhauled 08632 has been deployed to South Wales for pilot duty.
Purchased from DB Cargo at the fall of 2016 were,


Also added to the operators fleet as of late are,

08568 - purchased from Glasgow Works
09015 - purchased from the National Collection

08632 under overhaul at RSS's base at Wishaw prior to deployment to South Wales

08511 undergoing generator repairs at Wishaw. The loco has since been dispatched to Cambridge for the new contract with Abellio Greater Anglia as described above.

08703 sits outside the shed at Wigan Springs Branch on Friday 19th May. The site is a shadow of its former self with its once large allocation of Class 31's, 56's and 60's all gone and replaced by crippled wagons and Network Rail MPV units. 08605 (which 08703 was brought in to replace) remains on site and in use.

Toton's former Pilot 08480/Toton No1 sits at Wishaw after arrival from the East Midlands. A quick overhaul and repaint in to RSS livery was to follow before being sent over to the Grand Central Railway, Loughborough along with 08683, where they participated in the lines diesel gala. Both shunters are still on site in Loughborough awaiting redeployment which is expected to to be at Norwich Crown Point.
08752 sits on a road trailer at Wishaw after arrival from Bombardier Derby. The loco is onsite for generator repairs and will likely receive a repaint in to RSS house colours of Black, Grey and Red.

'Euro Gronks' 08738 and 08939 sit at Wishaw pending overhaul. The pair are to be reactivated with their multiple working equipment reinstated and deployed nose to nose on an undisclosed contract. The pair last worked in 'Multi' in Rouen, North France but returned from their jollies and straight in store at Toton in 2011.

Former Bescot residents 08580 and 08709 have recently arrived at Wishaw after temporary storage at the Chasewater Railway. It could go either way with these 2, with stripping for spares or overhaul both under consideration.

08411 sits heavily stripped at Wishaw. Prior to the DB tender list purchases, the loco was scheduled for a full overhaul. It remains to be seen whether this is proceeded with.

08480 08683 are seen assisting with shunting operations at GCR, Loughborough. The pair are awaiting redeployment which is expected to be in East Anglia.
Observed from a distance and amongst the gantries is 08405 which is on hire to EMT at Leeds Neville Hill. On hand to assist with shunting duties due to 08690 and 08908 currently being out of traffic.