A Tale of two Heljan VAA (O gauge)

Some of you may have seen my Brown VAA disguised as a ZYA Stores Van on my O gauge layout Morlock Heath, it is a small engineers depot based in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

Having purchased a Railfreight Grey/Red VAA when they first came out, and with it not now fitting easily into my current plans. I decided to convert it to a Civil Link liveried version.

The research part of the project was a disappointment – I could not find a VAA in Civil Link that was repainted and converted to a ZYA or for that matter a ZRA. I did consider shelving the project or converting the van to a VDA that did get converted. In the end I decided to proceed with the project although it was in theory – fictitious.

As it was fictitious I did not want to spend a lot of money on the project and so some compromises were used. Civil Link branding is in Black – it  should be Railfreight Grey and twice the size. The buffer beams should be black not red. And the ZYA should be white on Black. How about some graffiti to distract rivet counters?

I have now put the brown VAA back to a ‘COV AB’ as one built-in 1969, just in my main era.

The Old




The New




Forgive me my  lapse in reality!!!


BR Southern Mk1 2nd Brake ( O Gauge)

While I was browsing through the second-hand suppliers I came across this coach for sale at a very reasonable £100. I knew it was not finished, but it had potential.

It was kit built from a ‘Easy-Build’ kit and considering the basic kit is £135, I took the plunge and purchased it. I also wanted to assess the kit and whether there could be options for buying further kits.

The Coach duly arrived and I was very impressed with the kit and the way it had been built. I then started to finish it off and here are the results.

The only downside was that the person that made the coach decided not to flush-glaze. I looked at removing it, but it was to firmly glued in. I will probably ‘blacken’ the window step to enhance the appearance a bit.

Would I buy another new kit, yes I would, and probably will





Track painting on Ashwell Moor (O Gauge)

With ballasting complete, next I turned to the sides of the track. I use neat Railmatch ‘Sleeper Grime’ for this task. This is a very time-consuming job but I prefer  brush painting as opposed to air brushing simply because of control ability and keeping paint away from places I do not want it! The Air Brush will come out for final blending and weathering with at least four colours including at least one dark Gloss colour for oil stains.

After completing both boards I started to put a wash on the ballast – this is again done with ‘Sleeper Grime’ but mixed 50-50 with thinners. This gets into every little crevice and starts to bring the layout to life. Again I prefer brush painting, but a larger brush can be used so its a quicker process.

It is essential to keep the track tops clean after each stage. I clean down with thinners and a ‘Track Rubber’. I am not a big fan of track rubbers, mainly because of the ‘debris’ they produce. However at this stage it is not important as I vacuum the layout between stages.

Sides Only






Sides and Wash


DSCF5454 (2)




Painting the chairs



Ballasting Ashwell Moor (O Gauge)

I started to ballast Ashwell yesterday – not one of my favourite jobs, but a job that can make or break a layout.

As this is a depot layout I used a mixture of OO gauge and N gauge Ballast with a little sand.  This Fuelling Point,  in theory it sees a lot of traffic and  it  is now over 30 years  since BR decided it needed a FP in the area. In all likelihood the depot never received new ballast in the first place – probably recycled was used when built. Over the years the ballast has naturally broken down under heavy foot fall, weather, fuel and oil.

The ballast is positioned as required, it is then wetted using a garden spray mister – I then used a large ‘eye dropper’ to add a 50-50 mix of PVA and water. Take care not to get any mix anywhere near points – I always do these separately with higher viscosity 75-25 mix – it runs less and I feel more in control of where it goes.  Don’t forget the drip of washing up liquid to break the surface tension of the mix.








Although very boring, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the ballasting when dry. I use a blunt old scalpel and clean all sleepers and rails of little pieces of ballast that ‘try to defy the laws of gravity’. This is very important on the inside of the track so that the wheels have a ‘clean run’ without any bumps or humps. Note:- Eye protection used – don’t forget!







And the moral of the story —- take your time!!!!



Update on Ashwell Moor FP


I have spent the last two days working on the concrete plinth. It is rather a laborious job, but with care fairly realistic aged concrete can be made. I hesitate to add that this is ‘ageing’ not weathering – that will follow later.

Firstly the complete area was undercoated and left to dry thoroughly. I then painted the whole area with ‘Railmatch’ concrete and again left to dry over night. Next I mixed up a mixture of Polyfilla and a water based brown paint. I then applied the mix into all the joins and crevices as required. I re-touched some areas around the joins to ensure they stood out.

Last and final job was to paint, stipple and dab ‘Colron’ wood dye over the whole area, some places had two coats others only one – this is done until that ‘aged’ and blotched look for the whole plinth had been achieved.

Last job will be weathering and blending after ballasting.









I wish I had a better camera !!!!!!!




Update on O Gauge Fuelling Point (Ashwell Moor)


Work over the weekend was moving the Stabling Point to a Fuelling Point. Extra cork has been laid to increase the size of the ‘concrete’ hard standing. I have also put Balsa wood down to form the fuelling area. Some drains will be added between the tracks later. I took the opportunity to spray between the tracks on the fuel line with ‘track dirt’ and matt black.

I have added a rear wall to the Scenecraft fuelling point as only a one track operation is needed – this was some leftover bits from my terminal station walls.

I have ordered some more items to add to the working look of a busy fuelling point. – to be added later.







I have now undercoated the complete ‘concreted’ area.