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James Hilton - Custom Model Railways

James Hilton

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This lovely model of Dolgoch is based upon the surprisingly good Bachmann USA 'toy' Rheneas, and the Dolgochification kit designed by Stuart Brewer and Mark Greenwood from Narrow Planet...


The kit went together well, and replaced the cab with a 3D print with half etched overlays. The chimney is a casting and the front splashers and smokebox door are 3D print. The rest of the work involved a strip of the die-cast metal bodywork and a repaint in Dolgoch's current livery.


This was a difficult paint to match, I ended up mixing satin brown 133 with some gloss red 220 and a touch of orange too, which seems to match the photos I worked from quite nicely. The rods and buffer beams were picked out in red 132.


Metalwork was Games Workshop skull crusher brass and the black areas Humbrol 33. Couplings aren't currently fitted but are a straight plug into the NEM sockets.


Transfers are custom made ones, specifically for the model with help of Precision Labels and DTB who originally did the artwork. Sealed with dullcote, the finishing touch was adding some glazing and the works plates.


It's a small model, but larger than many of my own 009 creations - but here with a 50p it shows the advantages of modelling in this small scale. If you're interested in commissioning you're own dream model then please get in touch using the contact form on the website, Facebook or the various forum messaging service. More soon...

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I designed the Llanfyllin and Llangynog Light Railway Beyer Peacock 0-4-2t last year and we released an small initial limited edition batch through Narrow Planet. A customer asked me to finish his model in a non-GWR finish...


The model fits together well, and the replacement cylinders go along way to hiding the origins of the power unit. The etched overlays provide a richly riveted surface without the problems of preparing a 3D printed surface - a real bonus. The white metal chimney is superb, and the boiler fittings add some much needed balance weight - the boiler and front of the tanks are also filled with fluid lead to help balance out the tail happy Minitrains chassis.


The model is finished without top-feed in North Staffs Madder Lake, which seems to be quite brown - a nice shade actually. I've fitted the NP supplied works plates (which are a work of art in themselves) along with numbers supplied by the customer. As is customary for my models, a small oil can has been placed alongside the footplate.



I'm happy to work on your own models and create models to match the existing stock on your railway, contact me for your own proposal. More soon...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've been building this EMD300hp switcher from a '2 Doors Down' kit in American O scale (1:48) for a customer in Canada...


It's a lovely characterful model, and a prototype I wasn't familiar with before starting work. Components from EMD range used to produce a small switcher, primarily for the military although since re-sold onto industry. 


The kit is largely thick etched brass, which is lovely and crisp to work with, but a challenge for my 25W iron, I think if I do anymore larger brass models I'll get another higher power or RSU. The details are white metal, and the bonnets were cast in resin. A great use of multi-media.


The kit needed wheels, motor and drive to complete - hence why the customer asked me to look at it, as the kit was a UK produced example and all the drive was specified as UK suppliers. Small Canon 5 pole motors (the Mashima no longer available), Markits gearboxes and Slaters wheels, two axle drive via two seperate independent systems connected by wiring, its a slow running model thanks to the quantity of metal involved in it's construction.


The customer requested a primed finish, so unfortunately I won't have the chance to paint such a lovely model, but I am looking forward to seeing how he finishes it and I'll hopefully be able to share photos on my Facebook page.


If you've got a kit lurking in the drawer that you'd like me to turn into your dream model, please do get in touch for a personal quote and model proposal. I'm happy to consider work in all scales, gauges and materials. Contact me on my website contact form, the Facebook page or via a PM on one of the forums I'm on... more soon...

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I've made a somewhat cringeworthy overview of the forthcoming Hudson Hunslet diesel in 7/8ths scale, I'm not sure I'm convinced by the dialogue but its relatively quick and easy for me to do, and allows you to see a bit more of the model than just a photograph. We'll see... anyway here it is: 


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This pair of ex-Chivers Tralee and Dingle Hunslets arrived in a tired and battered condition and were pretty much 'out of the box' in terms of detail. I have fitted the chassis, fabricated extra detail including chassis frames, vacuum brake lines and cylinders, handrails, footsteps, smokebox door handles and replaced the couplings to standard 009 height.


Slightly less obvious is the roof has been raised on both models by 1mm and the door opening enlarged to better match 009 stock, as the original models were 3.5mm to the ft rather than 4mm.


The finish is hard working 1930s, so not too much dilapidation but still heavy soot along the boiler top, dome and cab roof...


I'm happy to work on your existing models, either refinishing, adding custom name, number, lining and weathering through to a more major rebuild. Contact me using the form on my website, Facebook or one of the forum private messaging services for your own personal proposal. Every one is produced from scratch based on your exact requirements, no 'generic' prices here. More soon...

Edited by James Hilton
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Sometime's it's difficult to show all the work that goes into a model, and even though I've put this together, I'm still not sure it captures all the effort and attention to detail!


The concept is to graphically display the details and changes, as well as referencing some of the small suppliers that make a model like this possible.



However, I'd really like you to let me know what you think! I am considering doing similar posters for other projects I've undertaken. If you'd like to see one in particular please get in touch and let me know. More soon...


Supplier links:

James Hilton Custom Model Railways



Narrow Planet

RT Models



Edited by James Hilton
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I was commissioned by the customer behind the lovely model of Dolgoch featured here previously for some suitable rolling stock. He sourced the excellent Meridian coaches from Narrow Planet and asked me to finish them as running today...


Not quite so easy as it sounds, the brake van especially has been carefully hacked about to include the relevant windows and frames - the models also featured custom designed transfers that fit in the required locations perfectly. These are tiny and are a credit to John at Precision Labels who managed to turn my vector graphics into miniature gold master pieces! It should be noted that these photos are very much cruel enlargements, the models being barely 35mm tall.


The models were painted in Humbrol 220, which is Virgin red apparently! The framing was picked out in Humbrol 62 (Leather) and the strapping in black. Once the transfers were applied the model was sealed in dull-cote before cutting and fitting the flush glazing.


The back of the van proved hard to research, but eventually I did find some photos that show the side that you usually don't see on the railway!


The Lancaster coach was a little more straight forward but the glazing was a fiddly but the results worthwhile. I'm hoping my customer will share some photos of the pair with Dolgoch in the future as I think they'll make a lovely little train.


If you're interested in a commission of your own dream model, please do get in touch either through my blog, forum messaging, or my Facebook page. More soon...

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This week between some of my more complicated and larger commissions I've squeezed in a weathering job on a OO gauge Heljan Class 05 shunter...


This model is lovely, full of detail and character, and I was asked to bring it to life with a well used weathering job. I chose to work from photos of the prototype, and it spent it's life working at Bulmers in Hereford where it seems to have been, on the large part, loved and looked after although I did find some photos of it a little grubbier and based this weathering job on that finish.


Painted wheel rims first, then washes on the chassis and body before airbrushing road dirt, fading dust and under frame muck and then hi-lighting worn metal edges with drybrushing.




The result is a unique model 'that looks great' according to it's new owner. It is winging it's way home this week, and all being well will be performing at an exhibition this weekend. I'm happy to consider all sorts of model making commissions, from re-numbering, weathering to full on design and scratch building. In this case a weathering job that has brought a treasured model to life, contact me for your own proposal. More soon...

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This model has appeared in a previous update I think, it's a lovely H0e kit of an Austrian narrow gauge weed killing wagon that was made in resin and white metal...


I was asked by my customer to finish it as it was running in the 1990s with plain brown van, but with a different brown on the rear look out. The finish was airbrushed on with my usual Humbrol enamels.


A little weathering to the roof was just a simple wash, wiped clean to show some rain streaking and relieve the otherwise boring looking grey. The information plates on the tank had been damaged during the casting process, the edges were quite fragile. I repaired these with filler before painting and the finishing touch was the stickers, YES stickers to go over them. These has a gloss shiny finish which I toned down with dull-cote before adding glazing.


Couplings are white metal link and pin, the van end has a link added to allow coupling to regular H0e couplers. The other end will link to a water tank wagon so has been left to allow the customer to fit a permanent link.


This is heading off to the same home as Molln a few months ago - if you've got a kit in your drawer that you'd like me to turn into a miniature reality, then get in touch, either on a forum, through Facebook or my contact form on the website. More soon...

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The quartet of Hunslet Wagonmasters are complete, and have headed off to their new home this week...


A pair of them are finished in the style of Bord-na-Mona brown and cream - and a pair in faded worn blue. Both styles are also heavily weathered to give the look of a hard working locomotive.


Drivers are fitted, cut down to 'straddle' the worm in the cab, and the windows are glazed with clear styrene. The Liliput chassis that powers these models is a superb performer and these examples are no exception crawling along quietly with plenty of power.


The weathered finish shows dirt and grime as well as oil stains, and was generated using washes, dry brushing and finished with airbrushed exhaust staining.



Good news though, these models have proven the design and they will be released as a kit through Narrow Planet in October. If you'd like me to design your own custom model using 3D printing and etched metal techniques, I am happy to give you a proposal for your own unique model. More soon...

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It's not all large scale narrow gauge commissions here, I've mentioned this wagon before on the blog, but thought with recent progress it deserved it's own post...


The wagon, a LMS 21t 10ft6in wheelbase iron ore hopper has been somewhat a labour of love. Despite reading a copy of Geoff Kent's excellent article in Model Railway Journal, as my customer required a OO version I've driven my own way and trodden a path between fidelity and character that hopefully matches that of my narrow gauge modelling, whilst resulting in a believable and well finished model.


A Parkside chassis has been lengthened and strengthened and a 15 thou styrene hopper body fabricated, measured from a scale drawing. Side strapping is micro-strip and the rivets have been painstakingly added with resin rivet transfers. A representation of the door operating mechanism has been made in styrene from rod and offcuts of 15thou sheet from the bodywork.


The model here has been primed so show where needs a little work - there are a few obvious things to remedy, before a second light spray of grey. Once I'm happy I will then make a start on the second of the pair!


If there is a model you'd love in your collection that is not readily available I am happy to scratch build a model in any scale or gauge. Get in touch for your own personal proposal and unique price. More soon...

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Over the past few weeks holidays I've managed to slot in a few smaller jobs, although this O scale model isn't small, the weathering work is more easily completed in short bursts, and here it is ready for returning to it's happy owner...


The model is well detailed and has real presence compared with the standard gauge OO models I'm more used to from my own collection, and it has been fun working on it. The model was finished with reference to some prototype photos of the real 08173.


The weathering combines several techniques including washes, detail painting, dry brushing and finally airbrushing that pulls it all together in a coherent overall finish.


It isn't just a variety of techniques that bring a model to life, as important is the study of prototype photographs and careful observation of the accumulation of dirt, it's colour, texture as well as corrosion, streaks of dirt and dust. 


With care these can be easily represented in miniature. I use Humbrol enamels in a relatively neutral pallet, mainly 33 (matt black), 53 (gun metal), 98 (matt chocolate) and 133 (satin brown).


If you'd like me to bring your own model, in any scale or gauge to life, with a realistic and well observed weathering then get in touch either through the contact form on my blog, Facebook or the forum messengers. In the meantime, more soon...

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The first pair of Hudson Hunslets to be 'finished' are shown here on my garden railway, and I'm really proud of them both...


What I love is how two near identical models can take on such different personalities, different again from my own cabless model. Not just the cab but the paint work and finish, showing that despite buying a 'production' model from me, my customers truly get unique models.


The first here is a 'Hare Crag' cab finished in yellow. My customer originally specified yellow all over but I suggested a black chassis and wasp stripes. The yellow is three coats of gradually lighter yellow to achieve the faded look, and the models been weathered with washes, dry brushing and detail painting.


I particularly like the subtle scrapes with fresh rust staining - and the rust edges picked out with a touch of metal. If this was a 32mm gauge model I'd be loathed to let it go as it just looks so right on my tramway.


The second is a Trefor cab, finished (at the moment at least) in out of the works condition - although I think it may have a little 'lived in' dirt and dry brushing added.


The more traditional maroon crimson colour really looks great on the taller cab, and the red buffer beams look very smart indeed. I particularly like how the tall cab is accentuated by the round porthole windows, flush glazed with precision laser cut windows. 


Both models will shortly be at their new homes, making way for the next pair in the paint shop and time to crack on with the rest of the 45mm gauge batch. 


I am considering a further run of the model in 2020, alongside the new Ruston Proctor (in 7/8ths) and the 24hp Hudson Hunslet (in 16mm). If you're interested get in touch via Facebook, the contact page on my blog or one of the Forum messaging services. 


More soon...

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This pair of coaches have appeared on the blog on and off now for quite a few months, they've been a lovely commission to work on, given the chance to work on something from concept sketches to finished model, with a lot of agency within a creative brief...


They were passed on to their new owner at the Llanfair garden railway show, and he was very pleased with them and they garnered a lot of lovely comments from other people as well. 


The models went from sketches to a rough mock up in 3D CAD, that was used to produce some scale side elevations for my customer to check with his other stock. These were worked into 2D CAD for laser cutting, before assembling into sturdy and robust bodies and chassis.


The models have some other custom designed elements, including the decals with a logo I designed and had printed as transfers, and the lamp tops, which were drawn in 3D CAD and printed by Shapeways.


The finish is a deep Lancashire and Yorkshire railway 'Blackberry black' with Humbrol 41 'Ivory' panels, several coats over sanding sealer and then red/white primer, rubbed back each time. This goes a long way to sealing and smoothing the MDF finish, although it still gives some natural relief in the finish rather than a pristine plastic based coach.


If you're interested in commissioning me to produce you a dream model, custom to your railway, then do get in touch for a personalised proposal, either via the contact form on my website, Facebook or the various forum messaging services. More soon...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Earlier in the year I created a downloadable and printable Poster of the Bachmann 64xx to 74xx conversion I undertook. It received some favourable and encouraging comments. Having just completed work on a new identity, detailing and weathering of a DJ Models Austerity this seemed to offer another good candidate for the same treatment...


(download full size here)


This model has been a joy to work with, finely detailed, especially the lovely wheels that capture the distinctive shape of the prototype and with such fine flanges for OO scale. There are compromises, but it's a very convincing model out of the box.


This one was LNER black however, so has seen a makeover into a NCB style machine, using pre-shading and my favourite Humbrol 131 as a base before varied weathering techniques.


If you're interested in the model itself, then I can give you a personalised proposal to bring your own model to life with a customised and professional service, matching your requirements and budget with prototype photos and many years of model making experience. Get in touch via the contact form on my website, Facebook page or the forum messaging services. More soon...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been busy beavering away on the rest of the Hudson Hunslet batch now since the Llanfair show, and they're all progressing well, with 4 working their way thought the paint shop together at the moment. This is the next to be complete though, a Trefor cabbed example on 32mm gauge...


The model has been finished in a faded and patchy green, achieved by spraying black pre-shading, and then building up the green in several coats, getting a touch lighter each time, which gives a worn patina that is difficult to achieve in any other way. Once dry, the engine was picked out in grey, pipework in gunmetal and the axle boxes and couplers in dirty black (mixed from 98 and 33). A white '9' was added to the cab sides and buffer beams with a Posca paint pen before being sealed quickly with a waft of dull-cote.


The weathering is then added, starting with a dirty wash around the engine and letting this pool slightly on the running board, as if oil stains and pools. A wash was applied to the chassis and body sides, wiped off vertically and repeating until a well worn but patchy look was achieved. Whilst all still wet some darker spots were added with neat dirt (33 and 98) and then dragged down in a vertical motion with a bit of sponge.


Gunmetal (53) was drybrished over the cab control handles, cab handrails, worn edges and axle boxes to give a lived in feel, the small glint of metal particles bringing the edges to life. The model was left to dry, and looked good, but a bit 'flat'. I decided to risk spraying a mist of clear lacquer over the paintwork and this instantly brought the finish to life, once dry, dull-cote was applied to the roof, chassis sides and buffer beams which toned things down a touch.


Finally, the glazing was added using Humbrol Clearfix, the driver fitted and the roof placed on...


...seen here posing on the Dyfrdwy Tramway, looking very much at home and definitely telling me that I need to weather my own 'home' locomotive as it's far too clean at the moment. I've another three HH's nearing completion so will share these separately. A second batch of the diesel is planned for 2020, if you're interested in reserving one then please get in touch, or if you'd like me to build you your own unique model in any scale of gauge then I'm happy to prepare a no-obligation proposal. More soon...

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's always a surprise when you open the box of a model you've not seen before, and the Hattons P class took my breath away. It's a very cute little engine and the detail is very crisp and fine. This Bowaters liveried example arrived with me for renaming and weathering...


My customer had commissioned Narrow Planet to produce the plates, although I can offer a complete service and do this for you if you wish. These were cut from their fret, straightened and the edges smoothed and polished to remove any trace of paint as this can easily spoil a finished model. They were attached over the printed names using a line of small dots of gel superglue.


Once dry I set about the weathering - this example uses my standard 3 stage approach (rather than the deluxe 4 stage) but still produces wonderfully layered and believable results. The first step is a wash applied in various locations and mixed as I go from Humbrol 98 and 33. I also added a few patches of neat paint and tiny streaks around rivet and bolt heads - in a deluxe 4 stage process this 'detail painting' is repeated later as well.


The second stage is to apply a coat of dirt from the airbrush - this tones the wash down and blends the edges, and I use the Martyn Welsh mix of Humbrol metalcote gunmetal and leather.


Leaving this to dry overnight the final stage is using Humbrol 53 to dry brush burnished edges and wear to the metal parts such as handrails, buffers and footsteps.


This particular model was then finished with a load of real Welsh steam coal in the bunker. If you'd like me to bring your 'out of the box' model to life, contact me for a no obligation personalised proposal matched to your requirements. More soon...

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  • 4 weeks later...

This model of the 15" gauge Heywood 'Muriel' 0-8-0t has been on the workbench for a few months and has been a delightful scratch build...


Combining exquisite turned chimney and dome with scratch built styrene bodywork, finished with custom designed lining transfers and etched brass plates and window spectacles gives a great finish and consistency to the model.



It is build around a Bachmann USA 2-8-0 Consolidation chassis that has had the middle two axles swapped around, cylinders moved from front to back, lots cut down and spokes filled. This is obviously prototypically incorrect as it's inside frame with too short a wheelbase, but the general effect is good as the wheels blend into the under frame and are a lot in shadow as per the prototype anyway.



I am planning on building a Heywood Ursula for the same customer in 2020. If you're interested in a similar model, or a custom scratch build of your own dream model in any scale and gauge then get in touch for a no obligation personalised proposal. More soon...

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