Sunday, August 8, 2021

Bachmann Donald and Douglas

This pair of Scottish Twins are still two of my favorite characters of the Thomas and Friends show. I was excited when Bachmann USA released them for Thomas fans and collectors to add for the HO scale layout, and after owning them for a few years now, I finally gave them a long overdue upgrade to make them more realistic and transform them to competent, good looking models. Here’s how I sit it!

1) First Pass of Changes:

First thing I tried was giving them a spray of Krylon matte medium I get from the drawing section of the craft store! This gives them a really nice finish to knock the plastic toy-like shine, but feels like a nice mix of a very flat to a satin finish, which gives them a very nice look, and a great starting point for fixing the body and weathering them later. I also gave them a few details right off the bat, which includes pipes along the bottom of the running board, made from 16 gauge craft wire wrapped with strips of Sticky Note paper! I also added two peelable gems for firebox bolts.

2) Body Shell Modifications:

Now for the tricky part, taking off those molded handrails! I use a combination of my flat-head hobby knife and 240-400 grit sanding files.

I carefully press my knife into the corners of the boiler bands to pluck off the handrails, then evenly scrape all the way along the boiler, which helps the strips of plastic to coil and when finished each section I can just grab them and throw them into my trash bin by my desk. Then once done I sand the boiler and the cut sections as smoothly as I can with my sanding files.

3) Handrails:

Now I can drill the holes I want for the handrails using my pin vise! This Weill give both engines a really nice profile once finished. While I’m here I fill the holes made for the nameplates I plucked off with filler putty to completely hard and sand smooth. I next masked and spray-painted the boiler and body with a flat black paint.

NOTE: Please spray outside or in a well ventilated  area, with a mask, and make sure that there is a consistent temperature  in the room of choice, not too hot or not too cold, as it will effect  the spray application. Having good lighting also helps with drying. As  the trim tape for the lining was glossy, I spray the model a very light  first coat to help painting, apply the paint I want for the body shell,  then once dry I add he glossy lining before a final coat. Weathering  will come later!

Now for the handrails! This was one of the trickiest jobs I’ve done as it required extra bending and shaping with my pliers. I put one of the handrail knobs in the middle of the 0.45 gauge wire and bent the wire carefully on something round like a thick screwdriver to bend the wire to its semi-circle shape. Then bend each side flat again. I’m very pleased with the results! I also added some on the cab.

The handrails I use are made by Nairnshire Modelling Supplies in the UK I found on eBay. I had to have them shipped to a friend who lived there who then shipped it to me, as listing didn't offer shipping to the US, but this can work with any you choose from model railroad suppliers or eBay, like Cal Scale (US) or Markits (UK), and a wire that's stiff enough to hold it's shape but can be bendable if needed.

4) Couplings:

At last the finishing touches! I use Smiths from in the UK, for locomotives and some coaches I get the LP8 screw-links kit to assemble with my modeling tweezers. I have something like the metal tip from a fine tip paintbrush handy to bend the "hooped" parts, then squeeze them to the center piece to swivel freely. I use the same technique as I do with the lamp iron and brake pipes to snip the bottom and wrap the end with Sticky Note strips to glue on as the bottom weight.

Now I have to make a slit on the buffer beam to fit the couplings in, so I hand-drill two holes with my pin vise, then simply cut the excess plastic in between with a hobby knife. Next, I make the coupling "mount" piece from scratch, the thing the couplings fit securely in place with the buffer beam. I cut two pieces of cut Evergreen styrene, each with a slit for the coupling made from drilling two holes and cutting the excess away like before, and then gluing both square pieces together, one square bigger than the other. I use RustOleum's "Chalked" Barn Red spray paint to color the piece, then once it completely dries glue it in place using Crazy Glue, making sure to keep it aligned with the slit made in the coupling mount, then slipped on the coupling on to dry!

If first starting out, I recommend getting the LP5 assembled screw links, or the spare ones Hornby now sells on eBay or most UK suppliers. If you're using Hornby's screw links, it's just one round hole, so you can just pop it right in the coupling mount, just make sure it's secured well with glue if you want it to pull trains!

As you can tell from this photo, I repainted the faces and added better eyebrows! I sprayed them using Rust-Oleum "Chalked" aged gray spraypaint, and used Faber-Castell ink pens, and also painted the mouth to be open rather than be filled in with teeth.

I add lamp irons I make from 20 gauge wire, with the base made from strips of Sticky-Notes wrapped around the middle of my wire, with some room on the bottom to fit snugly in the hole I hand-drill on the running board. I spray paint them black on a piece of foam before fitting, and secure in place with Crazy Glue. The headlamp and tail lamp on the tender are Bachmann Branchline dummy lamps!

The one thing I really want is to give them new custom nameplates by Light Railway Stores in the UK, which offer a great selection of brass etched parts that are easily customizable at great prices, and other details for model railroading projects.

5) Weathering:

Now the weathering! I really enjoy using any of Dave’s Decals weathering powders, which hold well to flat paint and breaths life to any model. I add generous patches of dust in between the corn sets of the boiler, the firebox, and splashed. I also added rust pigments on and around the undercarriage detail and the axle boxes of the tender. I even add coal dust on the bottom of the funnels and stream it down the smoke box sides with my fingers or Q-tip. This really helps transform the Twins to look like industrial, hardworking engines.

6) Tenders and Coal Load:

On to the tenders! I love adding real coal for engines’ bunkers and tenders with fine grade Hattons real coal loads, so the first thing I did was use DAS modeling clay to make a better profile for the tender load, which I paint black once the clay dries, I cover the whole top with Woodland Scenics foam glue, which once dry will be completely flat and Rick hard with no shine. I then begin sprinkling the coal right on top, making sure to cover any areas of white glue. It looks rather convincing and very nice once finished curing.

I'm very happy with how they turned out! These engines look really good pulling either passenger or freight cars on any layout and are fun to operate! From their closeness to each other to their courage from escaping the negative effects of the Nationalization of British Railways and their industrious work ethic, they are a proud pair!

Thanks so much for reading! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about the process. Linked here are the supplies I used you can look for your own projects!

- Stephen

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Bachmann Arry and Bert

Known by the steam engines as The Messangers of Doom, Arry and Bert work at the Sodor Ironworks, taking scrap to be melted down at the Smelter's Shed and made into new metal parts, learking in the shadows and around the lonely Scrap Yards ready to scare any steam engine they find! These goons are favorite diesel characters of mine from the Thomas and Friends show, and I'm delighted to share how I detailed and customized my Bachmann models to make them realistic and fully weathered.

1) Fixing the body shell:

When I first got them in 2017, this is how they looked with their manufactured faces intact, each locomotive given a spray of Krylon Matte Finish for a flat look. This is when I also started using craft acrylics to dry-brush on some rust and grime colors that look natural and help make the model look better. Much later I would add more detail and heavier weathering to make them look more realistic. But the very first thing I did was cut out all the molded windows from plastic!

I use my hand-drill pin-vise with bits of different sizes to begin drilling into the plastic, first in the corners of each window and door opening, then a row of three bigger ones along the center, which I use as a starting point to begin cutting out with my hobby knife. Make sure you have new blades in case the cutting along to the edges makes them more dull as you go along. Once you break the extra pieces off you can clean the edges using your hobby knife and a strip of fine-grit sanding paper.

To install clear styrene for the glass, I can also unscrew the cab and take it off. You just have to make sure you look carefully at the boxes on the front of the cab from the inside, because they have slits that need to be pressed with a mini-flathead screwdriver to pop the cab freely off the body shell. Now I can cut clear styrene I have from the hobby store and glue them in place with Crazy Glue. You need to be careful not to glue your fingers and make sure you allow the glue to cure the styrene to the plastic of the cab securely before moving on to the next one.

Before installing the styrene, I like giving it a spray of matte medium to flatten the gloss of the plastic, so it looks older and less shiny. Once you glue them on and screw the cab back on the body, it's perfect to have weathering powder applied with a brush for a dusty grimy look for that extra bit of realism for heavy use. Now with the cab with added glass, it looks so much better and less like a toy!

I also like adding tail lamps to my locos, so the ones I use are from Bachmann Branchline, dummy ones I can glue to the cab.

2) 3D printed faces:

My good friend Jake @Jje09 on Twitter designs amazing Thomas themed rolling stock and faces to run on 3D train simulators, and having designed Arry and Bert for Carson @CarsonMarenka to be used in his Halloween Special, "A Dark Night for Bert" in 2020, we were excited to try testing these faces out to be used for replicas and Bachmann HO/OO conversions. So I agreed to test them out for his Shapeways store! You can now get them here:

Here's how I painted them:

 The very first thing I do when I get faces for the Class 08 diesel characters like Arry and Bert is unscrew the body so I can unscrew the eye mechanism Bachmann makes to have their eyes move from side to side. This will help the Airsoft eyeballs we'll be using later the proper clearance so the faces fit snugly inside, without the eye mec rubbing against the back of the eyeballs. That would hurt!

Once they arrive, I check and make sure the prints are clean from any printing residue or resin flakes, so I might go over them with a used, clean toothbrush and if needed, dunk them in soap and water, then dry them with a paper towel. Once the faces are completely dry, I put on the eyeballs and test how they fit. They are made from 6mm Airsoft paint pellets, and the pupils are cut pieces of glossy black vinyl from a friend. Fixed on with Blue Tak putty, they really help bring the face to life, and can be repositioned for the character to look at any direction.

Once test fitting everything, I make sure I clean the faces if they have any dust or residue left from the printing process, using water and dish soap and giving them a scrub with a used, clean toothbrush. Then I dry them with a paper towel, making sure they're dried for spraying!

I can now give the faces a spray of RustOleum's "Chalked" spray paint with the Aged Gray color, sold at most craft and  hardware stores or online. This has by far been the best paint in a can I've used  that matches the color I want for any Thomas face I paint. I put them all a scrap piece of foam and secure them with Blue Tak, making sure I spray them in thin layers until they are fully colored.

NOTE: Please spray outside or in a well ventilated  area, with a mask, and make sure that there is a consistent temperature in the room of choice, not too hot or not too cold, as it will effect the spray application. Having good lighting also helps with drying.

After I give the spray paint 12-24 hrs to completely dry, I use craft acrylics to add white for teeth, and grays for open mouths. I touch up  any painting mistakes using a half-and-half mix of Americana "Gray Sky"  and "Cobblestone." I use fine-tip brushes applying it, thinning the  paint with a  bit of water when necessary. For the eyebrows, I use a technical pencil with 0.5 graphite to lightly draw the profile on very lightly to go over it with my Faber Castell ink pens, either XS (extra  small) or S (small) sizes so I can make sure it follows the exact design. As ink takes a while to dry, leave it for a  while before handling the face if you don't want smudges!

Once finished, they should look like this! Here's a tip; referencing their S5 appearance and merchandise, Arry is clean-shaven, and Bert's the one with stubble! So if you want to you can get a whole separate set of faces, one for each, and the one set with stubble for Bert. I draw stubble on the chin of Bert's faces, which works great to recreate that stubble appearance!

3) Details & Weathering:

Now for detailing! Arry and Bert are prime examples of industrial locomotives, used to their full capacity and heavily weathered with soot and grime, so I used a combination of techniques to bring them to live with powders and extra detail.

For the body, I love using Tamyia's model master kits with their included foam Q-tip to rub on dirt and grime onto the body shell, such as the top and along the ventilators for black exhaust, rust, and dust streaks, working my way from the top down to the bottom on the footplate, which give really nice, flat and even streaks of weathering.

I used my soft brushes to carefully add Dave's Decals weathering powders in all the places I wanted to add some rust, soot, and grime. I add them all over the body and between corners with on various detail parts on the model, like ladders, buffers, ventilators, and the roof of the cab.

Now couplings! I use Smiths from in the UK. For Arry and Bert, as they are industrial engines, they use LP4 chain link couplings. I first make a slit on the buffer beam to fit the couplings in, so I hand-drill two holes with my pin vise, then simply cut the excess plastic in between with a hobby knife.

Next, I cut excess metal from the coupling itself on the back with my pliers, then use my tweeters to install them in the slit with Crazy Glue to secure them in place.

Something I decided to do was replace Arry and Bert's plastic brake pipes with my own using 20 gauge craft wire! I bend them around a  screwdriver to make them curve, and bend them in shape with pliers, using my spews to cut the excess off. I wrap the facets around the bottom where they'll fit on the model using strips of Sticky-Notes of all things, cut with a hobby knife and a steel ruler! I use Crazy Glue to secure the edge of one end and then once it sets, wrap the strip around the wire a few times until it makes a nice nub, then glue the end and cut excess with scissors. Be careful the glue doesn't get on your fingers!

When that's done, I stick them on a scrap piece of blue foam and spray all the parts matte black. Once dry, I take out the plastic ones I want to replace off with my plyers, and double checking the size of the hole I clean the plastic around the opening, and secure the new ones with Crazy glue! They look so much better and more in profile with the TV series prop on screen.

I gotta say, customizing Arry and Bert was a blast! I'm real pleased how well they turned out, and are perfect essential locomotives for any industrial layout. One thing I would like to do is sand off their molded handrails and give them new ones with piano wire or something with equal strength painted yellow. Once I do I'll update this page to include how to do it.

Special thanks to Jake and Louis for helping make it possible to have these amazing faces to use for HO/OO!

Links to the products I used to customize him are linked throughout the post this time. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about the process!

As always, happy model railroading!

- Stephen

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Scratch-Building Duncan | 16mm Scale

The old Scot who could Rock 'N' Roll ... on the rails and rather reckless that is! This narrow gauge industrial locomotive of the Skarloey Railway was a highly anticipated project that's now completed and ready for mixed traffic on the railway.

Duncan has a unique design as an Andrew Barclay locomotive, with his characteristic features that look similar to his German Orenstein & Koppel cousins, fitted brass pipes and extended tubing, large cab with low windows, and a tall funnel that could get him stuck in low clearances!

An appealing industrial loco, Duncan is an engine that has been on my list to make into a scratch-built model, sporting features that originate from original illustrations in the Railway Series books, the Thomas and Friends show from season 5, and his prototype.

 This has been a fun and challenging project, and below are photographs taken of his construction:


 These measured drawings served as a guide for me to make the parts for construction, getting the proportions right, the right measurements, and variations on Duncan's design.


On the workbench, I always start with the cab when building steam locomotives, and get the cab interior and details done first. With balsa controls like the throttle and brakes, I make the brass pipes with Darice Craft Designer's 16 gauge wire, with strips of thin paper to glue for facets, and covered with metallic sharpies that match with the pipe color.

Next, I build the boiler and smoke box as a shell that covers snugly over the custom Lego Power Functions chassis, made from heavy weight card and glued as well as taped in place for the cylindar parts. The running plate that extends to the front buffers, constructed from balsa.

This part was a fun challenge as it supports Duncan's smokebox. It's made from chipboard cardstock. I like this material a lot because it's thicker for some parts that require it's strength and thickness, but what I like most of all is its ability to bend easily for the curved edges of parts like this. The funnel is paper card rolled for his tall funnel and glued in place.

More chipboard was used for the roof and smoothly painted black. Rivets are craft gems spray painted in primer to be glued in place, and here are naturally blended to the body shell with paint.

Duncan has modified wooden buffer mounts here in addition to metal supports, and lamp irons made from balsa for replaceable headlamps! Door handles are also made from bent craft wire.

Now begins another challenge, hand-making and mounting those extra details on the side. Here are brass craft wire pipes, a sand pipe from the dome, and a brake crankshaft made from wire and balsa, mounted on his boiler housing and extending from his cab.

The axels over his wheels are made from balsa or cut chipboard. Each piece is cut and glued in place by hand and weathered.

Buffers actually work and can be sprung. Here before painting, pre-rolled strips of card paper are glued on balsa supports with rivets and mold extensions from more chipboard. Craft wire couplers and chains will be mounted on a hole that will be drilled into the buffer housing later.


Nearing completion, Duncan and all the assembled parts have been weathered using acrylics from Plaid FolkArt, Apple Barrel, and Deco Art's Americana. Duncan's red cylinder supports and wrapped steam pipes from his dome are actually made from salvaged electric copper wire encased in plastic, which have been cut, primed and glued into place for painting.

Here are his finished buffer details, with worn buffer caps, and sporting his working coupler and chain for pulling.

Name and number place are printed designs from Adobe Illustrator, mounted on the cab and boiler, showing manufacturer and the name of his previous working home at a wartime airplane factory.

As a well-tank engine, Duncan's water is stored in a container mounted between his chassis and driving wheels, so like his prototype, his filling cap extends from each of his sides for a water crane hose to be lowered at water stops!

Ready to join the Skarloey Railway fleet, Duncan is ready to roll. As the tallest member, he stands out from the others with his large cab and tall funnel. Here Duncan has his custom LEGO Power Functions chassis to stand together with Rusty and Rheneas for this shot.


While temperamental and stubborn, Duncan can pull any load and has the determination to prove valuable for the railway. He is fun to operate, and a charming addition to these scratch-builds.

Happy Modelling!