Monday, 1 November 2010


A pause in the current projects (while awaiting etched brass components to be produced) means there is the opportunity for additional commissions to be taken on at this time.

Email us to discuss how we can produce a unique and bespoke model (in any scale) to your exact requirements at:

Below are some examples of our recent work.

A 4mm scale(009)model of the Ffestiniog Railway's newest carriage 103. This carriage is not produced by any kit manufacturer.

A 4mm scale model of an ex-SAR AY ballast wagon. A number of these have been imported to the UK and are in use on the WHR and the Vale of Rheidol lines.

Here are two of the wagons after painting. There is no kit on the market in any scale for these wagons.

We can also produced scratch built models of buildings. This is a modern corrugated steel type barn produced for our exhibition layout 'Bron Hebog'

This 4mm scale model of Minffordd Weigh House was commissioned as a retirement gift for the FR's Permanent Way boss Fred Howes. Every stone was hand carved on the model and the decorative barge boards were fabricated by us from styrene.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


A full day session on the ballast wagons and a lot of progress made with the details on the platforms at each end of the vehicles, which are mostly bits of the braking system.

The first task is also the simplest - the vacuum reservior tanks which are tucked underneath the Z shaped hopper supports. These are made up of styrene tube with a blanking piece glued on each end and chopped / filed to a circle.

Four shorter pieces of tube were cut to form the basis of the vacuum cylinders which are mounted vertically on the right hand corner at each end of the wagon. There's a lot of fiddly detailing involved in these to represnt the fluted ribs around the sides. Each is a seperate little triangle of styrene which has to be cut and filed to shape and glued on.

There's also a band that has to go around the cylinder about 2/3 of the way up. You have to be very brutal with the styrene for this, holding it in place and being very generous with the solvent and not letting up the pressue until the glue has set firm.

The next task was to fabricate the upside-down 'U' brackets at each corner of the wagon. These are formed from an L section. Although you can buy styrene ready formed like this it's almost impossible to get a 90 degree bend in them like this.

So these were fabricated from strip. 3 pieces are formed into a flat U shape, then another 3 are glued on around the edge, upright this time. With a little filing on the corners they're ready to be put on the wagon.

The most tricky job is the cuvred cover over the vacumm cylinders, made more awkward by the way it has to attached diagonally on one edge onto the bottom of the Z supports.

The easiest way to do it would be to cut and bend them from sheet brass. But I don't have any sheet brass in stock so I did it the hard way: with styrene.

It is possible to bend styrene and get it to hold its shape like this but there is only a 50% success rate - a lot of pieces will crack and snap as you make the bend. It takes patience and perseverance, but as you see it can be done.


Thursday, 14 October 2010


Another little job on the snagging list is completing the buffer beams / headstocks on the wagons.

Normally these would have been completed at the first stage of making up the frame but on this occasion they were left off to allow my client to decide on why type of coupling he wanted to use and how they would be fitted.

Just another example of how models made at Boston Largs Works are completely bespoke to you exact requirements.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Well, I did promise they would look more like the real ones inside.

This is a shot of the first of the wagons which like all prototypes involved quite a bit of trial and error, so that's why it looks a bit untidy with lots of different bits of styrene fused together. The second is a lot neater because of the lessons learned on the first one.

So that's the ballast doors just about done. The only major job remaining on them is the opening mechanisms, but I can't do them until I receive the cogs which are being etched for me.

So the next job will be the air reservoirs and vacuum cylinders located on the platforms at each end of the wagons.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


OK, so what are these supposed to be for?

Home made pieces for a famous family board game to replace those which were accidentally swallowed by the cat?

Close. They are indeed wedges, just like the little plastic ones you get when you get a question right in Trivial Pursuit, but these are going to become the dividers inside the ballast shoots on the wagons.

Here's what they look like in place..

And here's what the real thing looks like...

The model will eventually look more like this, honest!

Monday, 11 October 2010


After a family holiday it's back down to work on the 7mm ballast wagon project.

The latest progress is a start on the detailing of the ballast door mechanism.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


The 7mm AY ballast wagon build continues.

Attention's turned now to the underneath and the ballast spreading / hopper doors unit.

On the 4mm verions I completed recently I cheated and only modelled the exterior details because the wagons were built with the intention they would run permanently loaded.

However this time the client wants wagons in which he have removable loads which means I'm going to have to include all this.....

And some pics of the progress so far...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I think that it's when these Z shaped struts are added that a rather nondescript model becomes unmistakably an AY ballast wagon.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Silly title - serious progress.

The frames and the hoppers have been united, so they're begining to look a little like ballast wagons now.

I've also made up a jig to fabricate the Z shaped braces at each end.

(The title's my made-up word combining frames and hoppers in case you were wondering)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


The frames for the ballast wagons have been glued together.

Gosh! 7mm models are such huge things compared to 4mm, they only just fit on my workmat.

The next step is to fix on the footplates at each and then add on the end beams which will need holes for the the couplers to fit through.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Some steady progress on the 7mm ballast wagons this weekend.

The slanting lips have been added to the top of the hopper bodies.

Already the difference in working in 7mm as opposed to 4mm (009) is becoming apparent. There is a small gap on the inside edge where the lip rests at the top. On the 4mm wagons I could deal with this by brushing in some styrene dust and running a little solvent over it, but that won't work in this scale so it's out with the tube of filler.

The second task has been to cut the pieces of styrene strip and channel which will be fabricated into the main frames of the wagons.

The main side beams have already been laminated with much thinner sections of strip to form the stepped L profile.

Friday, 10 September 2010


An exciting and challenging new commission. I've been asked to build another pair of the Welsh Highland Railway's ex-SAR ballast wagons - but this time in 7mm scale.

It's the first time in 20 years of narrow gauge modelling that I've built stock in anything other than 4mm so it's going to a fascinating experience for me.

The basic hopper bodies have been knocked up out of 0.60" styrene already, and I have to say they do seem rather big. It's strange to be working on something you hold using your whole hand rather than just your fingertips.

I'll be blogging on the progress on the wagons here so keep dropping by if you're interested in finding out how I'm getting on.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


So here we are with the final installment of this stage by stage account of how I build carriages out of styrene.

With the detailing work completed on the four sides and ends the last task before they can be glued into a box is to fix some locating blocks for the chassis / underframe on the back of the bodysides. These will make sure the body sits at the correct height.

And then - cue drum roll - Ta Da!

Add on the bases for the chassis and the roof and finally we have something that actually looks like a carriage.

Now, you've probably noticed that so far the roof is flat and might be thinking that that's a little odd.

You might also be wondering why I don't just bend a sheet of brass and make a roof out of that?

Good questions. Here's the answer.

Styrene - or plasticard if you prefer - is the Devil's own material and has a mind of it's own and it won't stay in shape unless you force it to, by altering it's molecules through heating and cooling them or alternatively by keeping it stressed. Here I'm using the second option.

So I make the roofs with a twin layer flat base. The lower layer is cut to fit inside the bodyshell - this will keep the sides under stress and stop them bending inwards (or outwards too once the roof is glued on). It will also help to make the whole carriage body more rigid.

The second layer of the laminate is cut wider to sit on top of the bodyshell.

Flip it over and you can see I've added a thin strip a few mm's in from the edge.

Any guesses what that's there for??

Those strips will help locate and hold the glazing in place when the model is finally assembled after painting. Keeping the glazing held tight against the inside will also prevent the bodyshell from warping inwards over time.

Now attention turns to the top side again and I glue on 3 trusses along the length of the roof. These will support the roof skin and keep its shape and stop it sinking in the middle.

Then a final piece of styrene sheet can be bent over the top to complete the roof skin.

It's one of the most tricky jobs of the whole project. The styrene will bend easily enough but overcoming the fierce natural spring in the material and getting it to stay bent is much harder.

What I do is glue one edge down and wait for it to set firm (perhaps as long as half an hour) and then test out attempting to bend it over the formers. Inevitably this will expose some weak points along the joint where it opens up. So I re-glue those areas and repeat the process until the styrene can be bent across to the other side without any lifting.

Then, being very generous with the solvent, I put the roof upside down on the workbench and roll it over and press down very hard on the second edge. Easing the pressure off will once again expose any sections that haven't bonded properly and I go back, apply more glue, more pressure until, finally, the styrene submits.

I've made that sound a bit of an epic battle - man against styrene - but the good news is that once you have got the roof skin to bond it will stay bonded. Although I am putting the styrene under great stress I have carriages that I made 20 years ago in this way and the roof skins have never lifted once.

You've also probably noticed there's a triangular cut out in the roof. That's where the domed end of the roof - a feature of the FR's Observation Carriages - is going to go. More on this later.

Let's turn our attention back to the underframe.

Here you can see I've added a strip around the edge which represents the main steel underframe of the carriage which pokes out beneath the wooden body, and also the truss rods have been bent up from a length of brass rod and glued into place.

And on the other side...

Those upright rectangles of styrene are going to hold the glazing in place at the bottom. Normally this job would be done by the interior, the seats and tables etc but the client has specified a carriage without an interior so these lengths of strip have been added instead.

Now it's back to the roof and time to form the domed end using that fabulous modelling material, Milliput.

It's wonderful stuff. Firm enough to be pressed into shape. It can be smoothed down with water. Won't shrink or crack and it sets like rock (after 24hrs). The best modelling filler I've ever used.

So now I'm just waiting for that to set so I can rub it down with with some wet and dry paper and then the roof can be glued in place and that'll be it. Job done!

Monday, 6 September 2010


There's been some steady progress to report in the build of Observation Carriage 100.

The detailing has been completed on both bodysides and the glazed observation saloon end piece. The main outstanding item is making up and fitting the corridor connection pieces for the other end. Then they can be glued together into a box shape and it will finally start to look like a carriage body.

As I explained in an earlier post, each bodyside is a three-layered laminate. What I'm showing you here this time is the third layer, which gets put on the inside (or the back) of the bodysides and represents things like window droplights or blanked-out panels.

In these pictures you can see how this third layer of the sandwich is seen from the outside of the carriage and also what has been glued on behind to create the effect.

As you can see, the work on the reverse side is a lot rougher and less exact than on the viewing side. Just like going backstage at a theatre or film set all that matters is what the audience sees.

Saturday, 28 August 2010


Time to start adding the second layer of detail to the carriage sides,

For this I use a slightly thinner strip - 15" as opposed to 20".

The first stage is to cement on the three horizontal runs along the carriage side, at the top, the bottom and the waist.

The top and bottom are 15" x "40, and 15" x 20" for the middle.

Next, the vertical beading. A strip is placed in the middle each of the window pillars, with a matching strip below the waist.

Pieces are also placed along the rail below the toplights

It takes just over an hour to add these 50 odd pieces - each of which has to be cut to a perfect fit.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


The stage 1 outlines of all four sides and ends of the carriage are now complete.

When an order for some more styrene strip is delivered I will be able to start work on the second stage detailing.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


People often ask how I go about building carriages out of styrene. So I thought I could use the build of Observation Carriage 100 to give a blow-by-blow account on this blog.

The first step is to obtain a drawing of the carriage, scale it down to 4mm = 1 foot, and tape it onto the back of a sheet of glass.

Next, cut a piece of styrene to represent the lower half of the carriage side.

And tape accurately in place on the glass above the drawing.

Then I chop lengths of styrene strip and glue them in place to represent the vertical window pillars.

I lay a ruler across the top, mark a measurement at each end and chop them to a uniform height (Keeping the ruler in place to guide the blade).

Glue another strip along the top, with a drop of cement at each T joint, and you have a basic outline of a carriage body.

100 is one of the FR 'Barn' designs with their distinctive toplights, copied from the Lynton and Barnstable carriages. To represent these I have to cut exact lengths of strip to glue into place between the pillars - it's a tricky job and a number have to get thrown away when they've been trimmed too short and there's a gap at one end or the other.

Next time I'll show you how I add the second level of detailing.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


In an ironic twist my next commissions are destined to end up a stones throw from the FR.

A client in Blaenau Ffestiniog has requested a set of FR carriages.

First on the production line will be Observation Carriage 100. It is the second vehicle to carry the number, replacing the original 1965 design which saw out its days as a mobile construction mess on the WHR.

The new 100 saw a new change in policy on the FR, removing the guard's compartment from the rearmost vehicle of the train with the space used for another four plush Pullman seats. The guard's compartment was built into a new Service Carr, 124, which runs in the same rake.

Monday, 9 August 2010


A snip from a post on Colin Lea's Rhyd Ddu blog after receiving his scratchbuilt AY Ballast wagons and DZ wagons.

"They really are super models. If you have a project you’d like Boston Largs Works to do for you, then don’t hesitate any more, the workmanship is phenomenal. Worth every penny."

If you would like to commission a model email me at:

Friday, 6 August 2010