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In the red: GWR 1900s wagon liveries

Posted by Mikkel , in Rolling stock, The Depot 13 July 2013 · 3,840 views

GWR wagons livery 1900s
In the red: GWR 1900s wagon liveries

No, this is a not a post about my financial situation - though it could have been! This is about building and painting wagons for my goods depot layout , which is set in the period ca 1900-1908. For wagons this was a real transition period, with a diversity of styles, technical developments and liveries. So I’ve started a wagon building programme which tries to capture some of that variety. Here are some photos of developments so far.

 

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First off was this 3 planker, which I built some time ago from a David Geen kit. It has those nice “old world” round ends. Many were later rebuilt to straight ends, but photos suggest that a few still had those enticing curves in the 1900s. The livery is the pre-1894 version, ie with the small 5inch “GWR” on the left side. It seems this livery could still be seen here and there into the 1900s.

 

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In 1894 the “GWR” was moved to the right hand side of wagons. I wonder why – did someone at Swindon wake up one morning and exclaim “I’ve had a vision! Bring out the paint brushes!”. The non-standard tare numbers seen here are copied from a photo of the real no. 64493. Others had the numbers in the normal italics. The 4-plankers were the dominant type among GWR Opens in 1900. This model is a Coopercraft kit but with the oil axleboxes substituted for (David Geen) grease boxes, which still featured on the majority of wagons at the turn of the century. Nick, I forgot to add the vertical hanger, will see to it shortly!

 

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It's been fun experimenting with the shade of red. Contemporary sources indicate a fairly bright (some say light) red. In my opinion, pristine bright red doesn’t work well on layouts, so I’ve gone for a toned down look but with a bit of variety from wagon to wagon. The photo above shows an Iron Mink in the the base coat, which is a mix of bright red and orange. This was then later toned down with dry-brushing, mostly more orange and pale sand.

 

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Here is the finished Iron Mink in the post-1894 red livery. I couldn’t fit “To carry 9 tons” in the panel on the left. The GWR painters had the same problem and some photos show use of smaller letters to fit it all in. So I'll order some 2mm transfers and do the same. The iron minks were numerous in the 1900s. This old ABS kit was in fact a Barry Railway version that I had lying about, which I modified to GWR style. I only now see that the doors have issues in one corner. Mutter, groan, grumble!

 

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Then it was crunch time. There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to decide exactly when he thinks GWR wagon grey was introduced! For my part, I've been torn between 1898 and 1904.Until recently I was leaning towards 1898, which was the year when the GWR introduced cast number plates as standard on new wagon builds. If that was the case, then new wagons built between 1898 and 1904 would have looked something like the 4-planker above, which I built and painted quite some time ago.

 

 

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The cast number plates seem only to have been applied to new builds (see notes below). If GWR grey was introduced in 1898, then older wagons that were repainted between 1898 and 1904 would presumably have looked something like this 3-planker, which I initially painted in the grey livery.

 

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Then I changed my mind! I went through the sources and debates one more time (summarized here), and began to see the logic of 1904 as the year when the grey livery was introduced. So I decided to adopt this as the assumption on “The depot”. The implications are interesting. For one thing, it means that wagons with cast plates would generally have been red. This 4-planker is the same as the one shown in grey above, but now in red. Quite a different animal to look at! (but where's the V-hanger, must have broken off while taking the photo - back to the workbench!).

 

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Another implication of the 1904 cutting-off point is that older wagons repainted during 1898-1904 would have carried the 5inch right hand side red livery right up to 1904. This 3-planker is another David Geen kit, but built to represent a 1900s version with straight ends and retro-fitted with oil axleboxes. The tare numbers are again a deliberate deviation from the norm, reflecting that these numbers were often painted on after the main lettering job. Whether or not the underframes on these wagons were in fact also red is a separate discussion!

 

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And then, at last, came the good old "GW" livery, which was applied from 1904. Together with the Iron Minks, these pre-diagram outside-framed wooden wagons were the standard vans at the turn of the century, until the "new generation" of wooden V5 vans began appearing in 1902.

 

 

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Finally a few of my own notes on cast plates, based on the info and photos I could find in my books.

  • Plates experimented with from 1894, standardized from around 1898 (sometimes 1897 is mentioned), and in principle applied until 1904
  • Photos suggest that number plates were only applied to new builds during this period, not retro-fitted to older wagons
  • Photos also indicate that cast no. plates were always seen in combination with oil axle-boxes, which makes sense as wagons built during this time would have been fitted with oil axleboxes
  • A small number of wagons seem to have carried a transition livery after 1904 which had the cast no. plate and the large “GW” letters (but not the cast “GWR”). There are examples of an Iron Mink and (oddly) a 7-plank 02 in this livery.
  • Photos suggest that wagons with cast plates were greatly outnumbered by wagons with painted numbers.
Regarding the latter point, see eg the very interesting photos from Reading Kings Meadow yard around 1905-06, in GWR Goods Services Part 2A, pages 16 and 18-19. These show many wagons with pre-1904 small GWR lettering, together with wagons carrying “GW”. Only 1 or 2 wagons with cast no. plates can be seen.

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Excellent stuff, Mikkel. You'll need some Thomas and DCI brakes on the 1898-1905 builds. What made you go for black underframes?

 

Nick

Mikkel

 

Brilliant I have seen some photo's of curved end wagons in LMS livery so some may have survived for quite a while on the GW also? I did some experimenting with red oxide/red lead type paints once and the colour seemed to scale down with a little light weathering

Nick, good idea about the Thomas brakes (and DC1 brakes of course). In fact, maybe I could put those on the unbuilt 4-planker I still have left: If I remember correctly there are photos in Atkins et al of experiments with Thomas brakes on 4 plankers.

 

The black underframes is guesswork. I appreciate the logic that since the GWR grey livery included the underframe, then the earlier red livery may have done the same (Ian's lovely 2mm vans illustrate it here). But to me it doesn't seem practical to have bright red underframes - would they not quickly look quite dirty?

 

Paul, thanks for that, I didn't realize that curved ends lasted into grouping on some raliways. The odd thing is actually why the GWR rebuilt most of theirs in the first place - why make the effort?

 

As for the shade of red, it's again basically guesswork what the exact shade was of course. I suppose the danger is always that we subconsciouly copy from other people's interpretations of the GWR red. But it does seem intuitive to me that a bright red would tone down to something like this. Our garden shed certainly has (!), but then again modern paints are very different.  

PS: I know this isn't finescale modelling, but larger-than-life photos like these certainly are ruthless. Why do some of the ends appear to lean outwards? I've just been studying the real things up close and the angles seem just right. Bah!

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Job's Modelling
Jul 14 2013 09:52
Nice inspirational modeling.
Lovely set of wagons for the depot.
Do the open wagons get a load?

Hi Job, glad you like them. Yes they will have loads. I look forward to that, but it's a whole little project in itself so am saving that for a rainy day :-)

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Miss Prism
Jul 14 2013 11:06

Mikkel, on 14 Jul 2013 - 09:38, said:

But to me it doesn't seem practical to have bright red underframes - would they not quickly look quite dirty?


That is true, especially as wagons were rarely cleaned below body level, even in those days, but in talking about 'underframes', we first need to distinguish between the solebar/headstock level and things below that level.

It does seem to be a general Victorian norm that wooden solebars and headstocks were painted the same colour as the wooden body. The GWR never picked out bodywork and solebar strapping pieces in black as far as I know on goods stock. When wooden solebars/headstocks gave way to iron and soon thereafter steel (c 1888), it's an interesting speculation as to whether the GWR regarded the new underframe materials as 'ironwork' (black) or bodywork. My view is the latter, for a visual continuity with the older (and initially far more numerous) wooden-underframed vehicles. (And the GWR had already jumped this conceptual hurdle in its all-metal Iron Minks.)

I think the only significant area of doubt is whether the body colour extended to parts below the solebar. When grey was adopted, we know it did, but for red, I think things below the solebar would have been in black.

Glad you agree with that Miss P.

 

I've sometimes wondered whether the whole debate about when red changed to grey is missing an important point - ie that both liveries may have coexisted at the same time, and that grey and red were used to show *differences* between wagon types, functions, materials, technical details or whatever.  We know that some wagons carried special liveries (black, white etc) and it seems clear that brake wagons carried grey long before other goods stock. So the idea isn't that crazy, I think - but who knows? 

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Miss Prism
Jul 14 2013 13:23
Undoubtedly red-bodied wagons coexisted with grey ones, and it's no surprise to read that red examples could still be seen up to 1914-ish. Apart from the departmental black (a differentiation of ownership), and the use of white to lessen the absorption of sunlight heat for particular vehicles, I don't buy the 'differentiation of function' notion in general, and it's not clear what the rationale of singling out brake vans for grey was. The only factor I can think of is that post-1888, new brake vans were completely non-wooden. So maybe the pre-1904 (or 1898) rationale was, for substantially wooden construction, red (no doubt a shade of our old friend red oxide, which is an excellent primer for wood) continued to be used, but an overall grey was increasingly adopted for vehicles that were all metal??

A few thousand tons of surplus high-quality Admiralty grey pigment may have been a factor!
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PaternosterRow
Jul 14 2013 14:29

Now that's proper modeling!  Love the amount of research you put into this and that little Tare plate on the underside beam of 10070 is brilliant.  How on Earth did you get the relief on the wording to show up so well?  It definitely is finescale when it comes to the use of actual miniature plates rather than transfers.

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Miss Prism
Jul 14 2013 14:57

Photos suggest that wagons with cast plates were greatly outnumbered by wagons with painted numbers.

 

I agree, but that doesn't seem to tally with the standardisation of plates on new build from 1898 to 1904. (I haven't done a count!)

Thanks Mike, but the plates etc are all provided in the original kit. Painting them isn't too hard. The letters are raised as they come, so a small flat brush (with slightly stiff bristles) dragged horisontally and repeatedly across the letters does the trick. The underframes are rough representations, as is my modelling of them. Fortunately Coopercraft are upgrading their GWR underframes, which is a good move I think.

 

Miss P, yes I do wonder about that. There is the possibility that the photos give the wrong impression. Because the plates were fairly small, you have to look hard to spot them in photos from goods yards. Alternatively, of course, the plates may not have been as standardized as we think.

PS: I know this isn't finescale modelling, but larger-than-life photos like these certainly are ruthless. Why do some of the ends appear to lean outwards? I've just been studying the real things up close and the angles seem just right. Bah!

 

 

PS: I know this isn't finescale modelling, but larger-than-life photos like these certainly are ruthless. Why do some of the ends appear to lean outwards? I've just been studying the real things up close and the angles seem just right. Bah!

Excellent work as usual, and a great history lesson.

The ends look odd because of the shape of the lens shape. The closer you get the worse it is.

Mikkel,

 

Fantastic modelling as usual!!  And also a very well reasoned argument for the Red livery changeover.  However, for myself I will continue to put plates on GREY wagons rather than RED.  I can't help but feel that your image of the red 4 planker with the plates reinforces this for me - in my view the grey background plates looks absolutely horrible against the red!! Whereas on the grey body they just look right :-)

 

Obviously this is purely a personal view, and I have no evidence to support my view.

 

I do however look forward to images of these wagons on the Farthing modules!

 

Ian

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Brass0four
Jul 14 2013 21:27
I love the artistry of the plate/bluetak(?)/thumb. Now I know I'm not the only one to scrape tiny bits of model off my pillow in the morning... ;-)

Tony.

So maybe the pre-1904 (or 1898) rationale was, for substantially wooden construction, red (no doubt a shade of our old friend red oxide, which is an excellent primer for wood) continued to be used, but an overall grey was increasingly adopted for vehicles that were all metal??

 

That's a very interesting theory. It would presumably mean that Iron Minks were also grey... The obvious question is why this distinction would have been necessary, but maybe as you inidcate it had to do with the paint - ie red oxide for wood, and was there something in grey that was good for iron, perhaps...

The ends look odd because of the shape of the lens shape. The closer you get the worse it is.

 

Thanks Pete, I hope that's why. In fact, I hereby decide that's why! :-)

However, for myself I will continue to put plates on GREY wagons rather than RED.  I can't help but feel that your image of the red 4 planker with the plates reinforces this for me - in my view the grey background plates looks absolutely horrible against the red!! Whereas on the grey body they just look right :-)

 

Obviously this is purely a personal view, and I have no evidence to support my view.

 

 

Hi Ian, I think it's great that modellers can explore different historical hypotheses like this. Railway modelling is quite unique in that way, we can physically illustrate how this or that scenario might have looked. 

 

Personally I rather like the cast plates on a red background. It makes them stand out more. Although we don't know the colour of the plates either!

 

BTW, I plan to use some of your excellent early GWR tarpaulins - thanks very much for putting them up in the gallery!

I love the artistry of the plate/bluetak(?)/thumb. Now I know I'm not the only one to scrape tiny bits of model off my pillow in the morning... ;-)

Tony.

 

:-) I agree, not to mention paint. I seem to get it all over and it would be more rational to spray it on (the primer is), but I like the interaction with the brush and paint. "Getting stuck in" is a lot of the fun in modelling, isn't it?

Excellent stuff Mikkel, Ive just got back from a weekend camping in the Brecon Beacons and found your post. Inspirational modelling as usual, looking forward to seeing what loads you decide to put in them. I wish someone would do some cast plates in 7mm scale, some round ended wagons wouldnt go a miss either! The red solebar with the dark w irons and brake gear looks right to my eyes at least.
I always look forward to reading a post from Farthing, keep them coming!

Dave

Thanks Dave. That sounds like a very nice weekend!

 

Maybe you could ask one of the name and number plate manufacturers to do some etches of cast plates?

 

As for the loads I've been looking with admiration on the ones in your superb 4-plankers. Discrete and just right. I find that loads are actually not that easy to get right. Just plonking something in there doesn't work. On the other hand, making loads too uniform and neat doesn't always look right either. As usual, it's about studying photos of the real thing. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of those illustrated "correct loading" guides for GWR staff!

.. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of those illustrated "correct loading" guides for GWR staff!

There's a large number of these photos in Russell's Appendix and Wagon Loads volumes. However, their official use was in the General Appendix to the Rule Book where they appear, at least in the 1936 edition, together with much text and many diagrams in a section entitled "Loading, Etc., Of Merchandise Traffic". Recommended reading and, no doubt, a few surprises for anyone wanting to put loads in their wagons, but the reproductions of the photos in the appendix are much less clear than those in Russell's books.

 

Going back to the red/grey debate, here are a few examples:

 

5141, a single plank 18' wagon seen in photos in Atkins et al. and BGS Broadsheet 46. This wagon may have been painted in 1894 and was probably photographed no later than 1897-8. It appears to be in a single colour all over, including everything below the solebar. Maybe red, or could it be an early example of grey?

 

44321 (4-plank) and 6945 (dumb buffered 3-plank), Fig 1 in Russell's Appendix, p85 in Atkins et al., both freshly painted and photo could be as early as 1888. I think it's difficult to argue against a single overall colour on both wagons. The solebar and W-irons on the 4-plank look a little darker than the body, but I'm inclined to put this down to the differences in texture of the different materials rather than different colours.

 

42903, fig 2 in Russell's Appendix, a Tourn bogie open of 1888, probably photographed when new. Body and solebar almost certainly the same colour, bogies significantly darker, probably black. I'm not aware of any dispute about the bogies being black, but I've included this one because the distinction between the black and the other colour is clear.

 

632, 10793, 73697, figs 10, 11 and 12, in Russell's appendix, all probably carefully painted for works photos. All are from the plate era and all show a clear distinction between the metalwork, including solebar and corner pieces, and the wood which again I would put down to texture rather than colour. Admittedly, these may be a bit special as the latter two are painted to illustrate Thomas and DCI brakes.

 

Over the next few pages, figs 15-21 show a variety of  two, three and four plank wagons with wood and metal solebars. Most are well weathered with fading paintwork. Again, texture plays a large part in any distinctions with paint surviving less well on woodwork and greater build-up of dust and other dirt on the solebars and below. In most of the wooden types, it is very hard to distinguish between the grey tone of the solebar and metalwork below. On those with metal solebars, the solebar and everything below often looks darker than the body woodwork but not sufficiently different to clearly argue for different colours..

 

So, all very inconclusive. There does appear to be good evidence for a single overall colour around 1888 but, once well-weathered, I think you might argue either way, though my inclination is towards a single colour.

 

Nick

Very interesting, Nick, a really useful little photo survey. I will try and have a look through some other books to complement it, and report back.

  

I don't know enough about photographic emulsions to know whether it is possible to tell the difference or not, but it is definetely worth the try.

 

Clearly I really do need to get my hands on Russell's Appendix, and the appendix to the rule book.

...I don't know enough about photographic emulsions to know whether it is possible to tell the difference or not, but it is definetely worth the try...

Really, the only thing to bear in mind with the early orthochromatic films is that, when printed, reds look much darker than you would expect. To see the effect, compare loco buffer beams in a photo of around 1900 with one from after WW2. For example, if you have both volumes of the Russell loco books, try fig 230 in vol 1 (which also has red frames) and fig 572 in vol 2 (there are also a couple of post-WW2 photos in vol 1 that show the effect).

 

The real problem with any monochrome film is that two quite different colours could end up being printed with identical grey levels and so be indistinguishable. With wagons, I tend to the view that this is possible, but unlikely. Occam's razor, if you like, why argue for two colours when the single colour fits what you see? Of course, that approach can still be wrong...

 

Nick

BTW, I plan to use some of your excellent early GWR tarpaulins - thanks very much for putting them up in the gallery!

 

Mikkel,

 

I'm glad that they may be of use to someone.  Richard Brummitt pointed out that the diagonal numbers on the corners of the tarpaulins should probably be closer to 45 degrees rather than the about 60 degrees that I have drawn them.  I will be interested to see what they look like in 4mm - they should be fine for the larger scales as I drew them at a pretty high resolution but will be interested to see what you print them on as I used a green Rizla for 2mm.

 

As for plates on on red/grey bodywork (and black underframes, etc), I really think it's a case of "you pays your money and takes a chance" because at the end of the day until someone invents time travel we really will never know (and I suspect that if time travel does become possible folk will be more interested in going forward to see what next weeks lottery numbers will be than going back to the late 19th century to see what colour the GWR painted it's wagons) :-)

 

Ian

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richbrummitt
Jul 16 2013 13:12


Clearly I really do need to get my hands on Russell's Appendix, and the appendix to the rule book.

 

I recently acquired a very scruffy copy of the appendix to the rule book at a sensible price. This will be my new ignoring the television read once I have finished William Dean... I really do think that the freight wagons and loads book will be more interesting to you if you had to choose. From memory there is much more modern late stuff in the wagon appendix?

 

 



I suspect that if time travel does become possible folk will be more interested in going forward to see what next weeks lottery numbers will be than going back to the late 19th century to see what colour the GWR painted it's wagons

 

We might find out that they weren't red after all. :jester:

For example, if you have both volumes of the Russell loco books, try fig 230 in vol 1 (which also has red frames) and fig 572 in vol 2 (there are also a couple of post-WW2 photos in vol 1 that show the effect).

 

The real problem with any monochrome film is that two quite different colours could end up being printed with identical grey levels and so be indistinguishable. With wagons, I tend to the view that this is possible, but unlikely. Occam's razor, if you like, why argue for two colours when the single colour fits what you see? Of course, that approach can still be wrong...

 

What a good illustration of the point, Nick, the difference between the 1900s and 1940s film in those two photos is certainly very clear. I didn't realize that the real probelm was in the printing. What a source of confusion then because different printing qualities would show liveries differently even if they are from the same period.

 

As for plates on on red/grey bodywork (and black underframes, etc), I really think it's a case of "you pays your money and takes a chance" because at the end of the day until someone invents time travel we really will never know

 

I know exactly where I would go if we invented time travel. Good afternoon Mr Dean! Ah, I see you have Mr Churchward with you today... :-)

 

Seriously though, I wonder if IT advances might help us one day, eg running thousands of photos through computers to analyse and establish tiny differences in the colours or patterns of the, er, dots that make up old photos - thereby identifying differences and shades we did not think were there.

 

I really do think that the freight wagons and loads book will be more interesting to you if you had to choose. From memory there is much more modern late stuff in the wagon appendix?

 

[...]

 

We might find out that they weren't red after all. :jester:

 

Thanks Richard, I might get it all the same though as I have this 1947 thing going with "The sidings".

 

Not red at all? Impossible! I have already painted my wagons you see! :-)

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Crichel Down
Jul 18 2013 13:57

Someone (I think it may have been Miss Prism) mentioned, en passant, the painting of service vehicles (e.g. cranes, loco coal wagons, etc.) in black livery.  I certainly used to think that such vehicles were painted black, but I have come round to the view that this was only done by BR(WR), and that in GWR says they were Freight Stock Grey.  (I won

That sounds like an interesting experiment you have done with the loco coal wagons. For my planned 1947  layout I'll be needing some loco coal wagons, so I'll be confronted with that issue as well. I noticed at Didcot that they had two P15 PW wagons, one in black and one in grey livery. That's playing it safe :-) 

 

As for red wagons in the 1920s, I understand that one or two sources suggest that the GWR had red wagons as late as 1914. If they are right (though it sounds pretty late to me!) there might still have been one or two red wagons somewhere in a corner of the system in 1921. But it's a bit far-fetched maybe :-)

What a can of worms you have opened. Seing as I saw a tender with GWR clearly on it in 63 I cannot see how anyone can be sure no red wagons lasted through WW1. One trouble is a lot of official photos were done specially so it is really in service photos that are the best guide. To me red solebars with black underframes seems most likely and fits with how other railways painted their stuff (although the GWR never followed other railways!). It does seem to me to b bery difficult to be certain that the underframes were painted grey with the body initially, it could be that the grey was introduced  and the red painted over whilst the underframe was still black but later the all over grey became the norm.

Don

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