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A Trans-Pennine Class 124 DMU for the Calder Valley

The Class 124s never ran on the Calder Valley, being associated with the L&NWR's Standedge Route.

Three points. One: it is my layout and I can run what I want :-)

Two: I always wanted one when Trix launched their original Ready-to-Run version but have always been put off by its sub-scale of 3.8mm to the foot and, at the time, the price.

But Three, David Ball shot some his cine film at Todmorden in 1972, and, as well as the Royal Train, their is a wonderful clip showing a 7-car Class 124 racing through Todmorden with a 2-car Metro-Cammell unit swaying around at the rear.

Seven-car set? Remarkably, David's film doesn't only capture as Class 124 on the Calder Valley, remarkably the film clearly shows TWO buffet cars, coupled together, so it was either a beer special; extra accommodation was required; a repaired car was being worked back to Liverpool after overhaul: who knows but it proves the point that the Class 124 was known in the Calder Valley.

I have seen the wonderful Class 124 created of Mark 1 carriages as featured on the 'Hornsey East' layout based in East London. The problem here is that the Swindon-built Inter-City DMU units had windows that were slightly smaller than the Mk 1 type, so not only do the donor carriages need much cutting and shutting but the windows are also a major issue. My first thought was to try and get a MTK kit. I have read that these do make reasonable models but are heavy. This led to the thought that the Heljan Class 128 would be a brilliant prime mover, as my Clss 128 can haul 19 bogie vans with ease.

I did buy the January 2017 issue of the 'Railway Modeller'. My motivation was the wonderful article on the Carlisle 4mm model which featured signals built using the signal transfers available on this site :-). However there was also an article by Sean Hutchinson describing the construction of his Class 124. For anyone looking to build a Class 124, this article is highly recommended, and I will make reference to it in these notes.

And that is where I was when I discovered that Silver Fox now have a Class 124 kit.

Silver Fox Class 124 box as delivered

To make the kit, various bits and pieces have to be acquired. These were:

1 x Heljan Class 128 (cheapest of eBay £60, although one without a body was on for £48)
6 x Hornby Railroad Mk 1s (various, as per the instructions - £15 each although the price subsequently fell to £12)
10 x Hornby Class 110 type bogies (from the spares box and Peter's Spares: £4.45 each)
1 x etched grab and door handles.

It is worth noting that it would appear that Dapol did offer packs of Class 124 bogies, which, despite the model being 3.8,mm scale, the bogies had the correct wheelbase and springing arrangements (and I understand the width matches the modern Bachmanns so a real mix of two scales). But none where available. Silver Fox also suggest that the existing bogies can be modified to resemble a DMU bogie. There were problems with this (see later), and in the end I elected to modify the Hornby Class 110 type.

The first item to be converted was the Heljan Class 128. The body is secured by four screws from underneath, and then the cab lighting was removed. The illuminated headcode boxes are also redundant but have yet to be removed. It is possible to cut the sides of the chassis block down so that they are level with the bottom of the new windows, but for now this has been left. The plan is to motorise the buffet car, as it has relatively fewer windows compared to th other coaches, and is centered in the 6-car set, so allowing ease of running in both directions. The wonderful Heljan undergear will also have to be removed, as the buffet car was unpowered. 

The donor body for the buffet car was next tackled, and had to be dismantled. The first step is to disengage the glazing strip through the slots in the chassis as shown.

Then the clip in the middle of the coach side is disengaged.

Finally each end of the chassis can be disengaged and lifted out. Sorry for the slightly blurred image here but it was tricky prizing out the chassis and holding the camera at the same time.

Here it is shown here in its component parts.

Next,the glazing has to be removed. This is held in place by a combination of a 'clip fit' and glue along the bottom. Just gentle insert the scalpel under the glazing and twist, and it should just pop out.

The body was trial fitted on the Heljan chassis and was a neat fit.

The first stage of the conversion requires the window area to be removed. Anyone who has used the old PC coach sides or fitted Comet etched brass sides will recognize the technique. Pillars have been left where there are no windows to provide extra strength.

Here the sides for the Motor Brake Second are being prepared, and have been laid out alongside the modified body.

Silver Fox recommend double sided red tape, and two widths were obtained. Here the wider tape has been affixed to the lower body side. The tape was initially affixed to the cork work top, and then , keeping the tension on the tape with the other hand, laid across the body side and then pressed down. The Silver Fox sides are created from clear Acetate sheet, which is then sprayed with grey undercoat on the outer side. Consequently the side which is to be attached to the donor coach has a shiny finish.

Now the second, thinner red tape is attached to the upper body side.

The red backing material was removed, and the side offered up to the donor vehicle. Note that there is a vertical strip of cream and brown is showing on the left-hand side. This is because the length of the Hornby Railroad coach is slightly longer than the Bachmann equivalent. John at Silver Fox provided some additional material to allow this gap to be filled. A final note on fitting the overlays@ do ensure that the donor side is perfectly flat. Remove all signs of door hinges and protrusions, particularly any rough edges where the sides have been cut. There is some flex in the overlays, and they can be carefully pealed back if need be.

Finally, for the other coaches the trussing and various cylinders and battery boxes need removing. Take care with the battery boxes as they will be reused. According to the Railcar Website, the bodies and underframes were integrated, and so no vehicle had any trussing. However the instructions suggest that the TSL DID have trussing, so until further information comes available I have left the trussing on that vehicle. 


The trickiest part of the conversion at fitting the resin cabs. The vertical cut lines exactly with the window opening in the door. The window section to be cut out was marked but left in place until the cab was firmly attached.

Next the section of roof was removed.

This all looks a little crude, but the instructions do stress the need to use filler and carefully sand to shape. A start has been made on removing the window strip. Note that standing behind the Driving Motor is one of the Brake vehicles now fitted with the underfloor detailing segment, representing an engine and cooler group.

The inside of the body shows the join. Superglue was used to join the resin cab and plastic bodyshell.

Finally, the rest of the window strip is removed.

The buffer beam on the casting is lacking detail (right) and the second one was modified with the cast buffer beam sawn off, and the original Hornby buffer beam used. The original one was then modified so both use the Hornby beam. Do take care to remove and keep the Hornby buck-eye coupling. Once the Jackson screw coupling is inserted into a slot cut into the buffer beam, the buckeye is re-attached but hanging down.This is such a characteristic aspect of the real thing that it needs to be modelled. I have never seen a photo of 2 6-car sets coupled together, and it is possible these were never actually used! However I have seen a photo of a disabled Motor Driver coupled on the back of set being returned to depot, although whether using the screw or the buckeye coupling is unknown. Also note on the right hand body the overlay is slightly proud of the cab side, and this is a weakness in the kit, as the door frame is very thin at this point, and it is all butt joints. Not ideal.

With the sides attached to the body shells, the instructions suggest that the joins should be sealed with diluted PVA glue. A drop of detergent was added to break any film that might form and stop the glue working its way into the joint.

An excellent set of floor plans are provided, as new interiors are required for the Motor Driving coaches. These can be cut from the original open seating units, but I had a number of the old Lima Class 117 interiors, which were easier to cut up and reform. 

The plastic packaging for the coaches was used to create a base for the Driving Motor interiors, and here are the interiors primed but not yet painted. There seem to be no colour photographs of the original interiors, although there are a coupe of BTC films that provide fleeting glimpses on the early interiors. The best surviving and restored interiors of the Swindon Inter-City units is the preserved Class 126, and views of the stunning restored interiors featuring the various seating types and colours can be viewed here. Humbrol Matt 88 appears to be spot-on for the regular 2nd class seating; although probably too dark, I have used the Railmatch DMU green for the non-smoking 2nds, and Humbrol 15 for the 1st class (although gloss, it is a pretty close match and I will matt varnish the seats).

All the sides were primed, and then the initial coats of green were sprayed on, using Railmatch DMU green. It will be noted that there are some lighter patches appearing. I have not had this problem before with this combination of primer and top-coat, and can only think it is either something to do with the overlay or the primer. I have also made sure to only spray at the warmest time of the day. Either way, the solution has been to touch up the patches using the same paint from the bottle, and then gently use wet-and-dry to rub down the surface of the brushed paint. A further spray coat then gives the desired finish.

4 November 2018

Rectifying defects in the paint work has taken a few days, but one time consuming but essential task has been to paint and populate the interiors.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: painted and populated interiors completed

As previously noted, the Class 126 DMU Preservation Group has done some stonking restoration work on their interiors, and the three colours selected come pretty close to the real thing. The exception is the non-smoking seconds, which I feel should be an orange-brown, but am uncertain, as this often seemed to be a later Blue-era seat covering, so for now have stuck with the known-knowns.

And whilst the Railmatch spray cans were out, attention has also been paid to the cab ends. The plan is to have yellow warning panels, so the later Green-era livery. Although starting with a primed surface, the yellow has proved difficult to get sufficient depth of colour despite careful 'filling-in' by brush to build-up the areas around the headcode box frame.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: painted cab ends showing yellow first coat before masking off to apply the later DMU green.

13 November 2018

The painting of the bodies took longer than expected. There were odd patches where the spray paint did not adhere to the grey primer, and these were touched up with the matching Railmatch bottle and then rubbed down and resprayed. The buffet car was particular bad, and had to be fully rubbed down and resprayed.

It took quite some time to perfect the glazing routine. Silver Fox supplies a neat sheet of pre-cut strips, which have a protective film on both sides. These need to be cut from the sheet, and then gentle trimmed till they fit inside the rebate formed on the inside of the coach body. The fit should good, and not 'clip' in, as this will deform the relatively weak sides.

The critical thing to note is that the contact adhesive must be applied sparingly. And then left for the full curing time, so that no 'liquid' excess oozes out around the frame. John at Silver Fox strongly advised NOT to use Superglue for this purpose, and I concur. If the Superglue oozed out onto the visible glazing, there would be no way back, as it would not be possible to remove and replace the glazing strip, as once the Superglue went off, the join would be permanent. Whereas using contact adhesive it is still possible to remove the glazing and live to fight another day.

It was apparent that at the rate that the glazing pack was being used-up that there wouldn't be sufficient to complete the model. I therefore bought a sheet of the 1mm clear plastic sheet from the appropriately located Todmorden Model Supplies. I will just add that their delivery was immaculate, the sheets arriving within 24 hours. My first attempt to use this sheet failed, as I didn't spot that there is a protective film on BOTH sides of the sheet: one opaque and one clear! You've been warned.

The first image shows the inside of the window strip, and the recess that the glazing strip has to be trimmed to fit.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU:  carriage body ready for glazing strip to be added

The trimmed strip is offered up, and then checked from the outside to ensure that there are no gaps.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU:  glazing strip cut to size oand offered up to check for fit

Taking care to ensure that the opaque strip is uppermost, a felt tip marker is used to draw a line from top to bottom to indicate the areas that the contact adhesive is to be applied to. Note how the line starts and ends on the body side: a vital alignment aid when fitting the glued window strip.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: glazing strip marked with felt tip to mark areas that contact adhesive has to applied to

The image below illustrates the clear protective layer being removed. This is the side that the contact glazing will be applied. Note the black felt tip line showing through the opaque protective film.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU:  glazing strip showing clear protective film being removed

The contact adhesive is sparingly applied to the positions previously marked up. Note how the area with the two half windows flanking the door have no adhesive applied. It proved too challenging to effectively apply glue to such narrow areas without damaging the glazing.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: contact adhesive applied to glazing strip

The strip is gently fitted into the window recess, and the glued areas pressed down firmly. Here is the glazed side, still with the opaque film in place.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: glazing strip glued into position

Difficult to tell in this shot, but here is the fully glazed side. One small point is that the Todmorden Model Supplies glazing material is marginally thicker than that supplied by Silver Fox, making for slightly sturdier sides.

4mm scale Sliver Fox Class 124 Trans-Pennine DMU: glazing strip seen from outside the body with the protective film removed

18 November 2018

With the bodies initially painted, and part glazed, thoughts turned to the underframes. The undergear was made up exactly as per the Silver Fox instructions, and then compared to photos of the actually thing, and the various models that have been posted on the Web. The following views very much a record of work in progress, but are primarily to illustrate the nature of the Silver Fox resin mouldings. Take as read that the bent chassis seen on one of the Brake will be corrected (the missing Driving Motor had a similar defect and doesn't appear in this sequence as it was being fixed). The interface between the top of the side overlay and the roof guttering needs sorting, and it is also apparent that a method to fix the body to the chassis has yet to be devised. The vent on the buffet car is wrongly positioned and too high and will also need correcting.

The critical issue is that the underframe casting for the motor cars is clearly not right. The fuel tank looks the part and is correctly positioned, but the exhaust from the actual engines is very distinctive on the 124 and not at all like the casting (query whether the engines are in the right place).

Finally, a view of the full 6-car set to mark the current state of the project.


  21 November 2018

There are pluses and minuses of batch production: a definite plus is that you get the opportunity to practice techniques; the bad news is that there are long gaps before you can move onto the next task. And so it has been with the lining.

Fox do a series of sheets: the lining is the same on all of them, and the variations relate to the whiskers.

I found I had two sheets, and picked one at random.

I did two sides, and then called it a night. In the morning I discovered to be horror that the tissue I had been using to mop up excess moisture had slipped into the dish with the water, and the water had 'wicked' its way from the dish, via the tissue paper, to the transfer sheet. I first tried to 'rescue' the lining, but was only able to rescue four further lines.

I didn't think this was a problem until I looked more critically at the second sheet, and realised that the lining was slightly wider. Deep breath time. I therefore removed the previously applied lining and started again using the second sheet. And this is how the job progressed.

First, the lining was cut from the sheet, ensuring that a reasonable margin was left on both sides of the lining. The resulting strip was gently coiled-up, and immersed in the water in the dish for 30 seconds before being removed and laid out along the coach side.

It is left for a further 60 seconds or so before gently teasing the lining off the backing sheet with a cocktail stick.

Once all the lining is approximately in place, the backing strip is removed. The lining is now carefully poked into final position, and any excess moisture mopped-up with a tissue.

Approximately 6 minutes of concentrated poking and prodding, the lining is in the correct position. If the lining starts to adhere when not in its final place, just add more water to soften it.

Although not shown in the photos, I have started adding the coach numbers, as supplied by Silver Fox. These don't have a backing film, and have to be cut close to the numbers. But you need to be aware that Fox only supply five sets of numbers for a 6-car rake, and it would appear that there are no numbers for the TSO, so an alternative source will be required.

1 December 2018

With the lining done, the next stage is to fit the door and grab handles. Silver Fox provide a self-adhesive sheet, but many years ago I fitted a full set of handles to a pair of bubble cars, which greatly improved their appearance.

The first step was to fit the door hinges. I had both the MTJ and Southern Pride frets to hand. The first step was to pain the hinges.

These are very small components, and they were cut off the fret using a pair of scissors over a glass jar.

Many years ago I read of someone using varnish to secure the hinges to the body side. Each hinge was individually speared using a scalpel and then gentle dropped onto the dot of varnish.

And here is the finished item. The varnishing clerly needs redoing - the beauty of taking photos of the job as it progresses.

19 December 2018