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!!!


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.



O Gauge Weathering for Shaun

Another couple of O gauge Heljan Diesel Locomotives for a friend, Shaun Harvey. Shaun has recently appeared in a Model Magazine with his N gauge layout, but like a lot of us, he is moving to O gauge. I won’t go into his plans, but an exciting new layout is on the way over the next year or so.

These loco’s are numbered to the pre-tops system without the ‘D’ prefix. This puts them in the 1968-72 era. Both are light to Medium weathering and are DC at present. although I think Shaun has plans for DCC.










Buildings for new O gauge Layout

While making the baseboards, fiddle yard and track laying, mainly outside on our picnic table, I also wanted to ensure all buildings and structures fitted in, size wise. To this end I have purchased some Laser Cut MDF and Laser Cut HD Card Kits and made them up indoors when the weather was poor outside. As the track laying progressed I kept checking the buildings clearances as I made them, this ensured all would  be OK. I also refurbished a very old scratch built Cattle Dock that was in a very poor state.

I now have several items in various states of completeness, but at least I know they will fit in the required positions.

Station Building and Canopy  ——-LCut Creative

Goods Shed ———————————-Laser Cut Railway Models

Coal Depot————————————LCut Creative

Loco Coal Stage—————————-Poppys Woodtech

Station Fencing—————————-Poppys Woodtech

Signal Box————————————Laser Cut Railway Models

Signal Box Interior———————–LCut Creative

Station Platform—————————Laser Cut Railway Models














Only the Cattle Dock is actually finished – I will do update posts as things proceed.


Another great Exhibition by SRC. As usual the standard of Layouts and Traders was excellent. This has to be of the best one day Exhibitions in East Anglia. It was nice to meet up with some old friends on the DEMU stand and lots of mates both with layouts and as visitors.

This was a bit of a special day for us as both my sons came with my three grandsons. After things had  calmed down a bit we gave three year old Charlie his first taste of operating a layout after a bit of tuition by his Dad. Luckily we were exhibiting Lowe St. which only has one point. I have to say that he did remarkably well, a future operator I hope, if we can keep him away from games consoles etc . I have to say that his Dad buying him a Hornby Edward should help.

I would like to thank my son John for staying on and helping and Graham M for his support. Photos by my wife.










O Gauge Class 25 and 26.


Another numbering session this week. Both Loco’s purchased some time ago and appropriate numbers selected after a lot of research. I have tried to pick loco’s that were a bit different from the loco’s as purchased.

The numbering was carried out using HMRS numbers and BR logo’s, plus Fox warning flashes, data panels and coupling codes.

The 26, being a Scottish engine has snowploughs fitted. In these days they were mostly Black , but I have seen some in mid Grey, undercoat perhaps. Speaking of snowploughs I believe some experiments took place, as I have seen a photo of a Class 31 with Red ploughs. Yellow ploughs became the norm in the early 70’s. Sadly just before my modelling era in O gauge.

Again I have not weathered them yet! I must catch up!










Pointless (well nearly)

I recently joined in a thread on RM Webb about pointless layouts. After an initial surge, it quickly drifted off to a trickle. I must admit that I was surprised and slightly saddened as I had hoped to contribute further.

I firmly believe that small layouts are a great entry-level into our hobby and further more they are great for modellers with limited space. I have had several friends that jumped straight in with larger layouts that later floundered and never got anywhere near finished. A small layout can be as complex as you want and is a great learning curve for bigger projects.

I find the use of traversers and sector plates great money and space savers and also reduces overall layout size.  I have produced several layouts with space-saving devices and most are under 6′ x 2′, however one of my latest is 10′ x 15″ and is two 4′ boards plus the sector plate. When you consider that each point in O gauge needs a point motor, CDU, wire and possibly a chip, you rapidly approach £70 per point, with OO coming out just under half this price.  If you also consider the size of an O gauge point you can see why it is wise to engineer as many as you can out of your layout designs. I have not used traversers or sectors in N gauge as by it’s nature it is a space saving gauge.

I have often been asked how I came up with the sizes on my smaller layouts. I always say, that’s easy, I measure the boot of the car. If you can not transport a layout, you probably can not attend Exhibitions.

A small by-product of having small layouts is that over the years I have had many Exhibition invites to ‘fill gaps’ in the floor plan. Some Exhibitions are obviously limited for  space and have to keep exhibits small or medium-sized. On the other hand some of the bigger Exhibitions seem to only go for the medium to large layouts. As good as they may be the larger layout is mainly outside most people’s capabilities. I am not putting down large layouts, we are blessed with some fantastic ones at present. I just think that the bigger Exhibitions should have some small or even micro layouts to inspire potential new modellers and the widest presentation of our hobby should be portraid . Size is a factor at an Exhibition and is just as important as country, scale, era, gauge and location

The under 6′  layouts have appeared in previous posts on this site, they are:-

SEFTON YARD                               O gauge             one point       Sector plate

MERLINS LANE                             O gauge             one point       Sector plate

NORFOLK COKE AND TAR         O gauge             pointless        Traverser (single track)

LOWE St.                                      OO gauge              one point       Sector plate

And the 10′ layout is:-

MORLOCK HEATH                       O gauge              one point       Sector plate

Please have a look if you have not already.


Building Micro Layouts By PAUL A. LUNN

Layouts for Limited Spaces By NIGEL ADAMS