VISIT TO KOREA: John Borkowski is now in Korea until 11 December making the final pre-shipping inspection of the completed 47XX 2-8-0s and 'Grange 4-6-0s, as well as inspecting work on the  'Hall', 28XX/38XX and Class 52 'Western' diesel. It may not be possible to answer enquiries immediately during this time. However, we look forward to meeting as many of you as possible and updating you at the Bristol Show on 27 January.

Exceptional museum quality model locomotives for modellers, enthusiasts and collectors

Update 25 April 2016

45XX/4575
We finalised the tank rivet patterns for the 6 different model types at the end of last week. Tomorrow Tuesday (26th April) I am travelling out to Korea to finalise the build of all the 6 models. We still have to go over some of the chassis detail on Types 1 and 2, which have completely different brake gear and pull rods than the other later versions as we are determined to get all these details as correct as is possible. The inclusion of the 6th variant, basically a Type 3 extended rear buffer beam with a curved drop plate over the front of the cylinders, makes another interesting model for either the GWR or BR Western region periods. Production will commence next week although the manufacture of components has already been in progress for many weeks.

Reservations continue to flow in every week with Types 1, 4 and 5 (4575) being in high demand. If you want an early type (Types 1 and 2), do please get your reservation in during the next few weeks otherwise you may miss out on these versions, as there are not many slots left.

70XX Castle
As already reported, work on this model continues at a rapid pace, and the builder is now well down the path of manufacturing all the key components. We have also ordered the new motors and work is underway on the revised gearbox design. I plan to go over all the design changes in great detail with the builders so that they are fully incorporated in the finished model.

On the sales side demand continues to be strong with many customers continuing to opt for the Scale 7 version. In general Scale 7 demand has been very much higher than for previous Masterpiece Models’ locomotives.

GWR Tender Locomotives
Sales of all of these locomotive types have been brisk, especially for the 47XX and 28XX 2-8-0 locomotives. I am taking over all the detailed changes to be incorporated in the locomotive drawings for all types. We will be discussing all the changes in detail with the builders to ensure that they are fully incorporated in the locomotives. I will also discuss the production programme with the builders to see how we can best plan the production to meet a realistic timetable.

Spare Wheels Sets
We have had several requests for wheels and we will try to incorporate the requests in the wheel production programme. If anyone else wants wheels, please remember that there may not be much time left to secure additional wheels for the 45XX/4575 and 70XX.

If you are interested in in the supply of complete wheel sets please contact me with your requirements.

Pre-owned Masterpiece Models
At present we still have available one Masterpiece Models Duchess (non streamlined) in LMS livery and an early GWR livery Star. Both models are in O gauge finescale. If anyone is interested in acquiring these models, which are in superb A1 condition, please contact me for further information.

Future Locomotive Programmes
I plan to discuss the A3 and 57XX Pannier locomotives with the builders for the 2017 Programme. Work on the Pannier is already at an advanced stage. So production of this model could proceed quickly.

Class 52 D1000 Western Diesel-Hydraulic
We have had an amazingly positive response from a large number of people for this locomotive. I will discuss it in detail with the builders to determine a realistic retail price and to see if we can proceed with it in 2017. If it is commercially viable we will build it to exceptional standards with great attention to producing exact accurate wheels and full detail.

I will be in Korea from 26 April and back in the UK on 5 May. While there I will try to respond to your requests and enquiries, as best I can, but please do bear in mind that I will be working 12 to 15 hour days while out there.

Future Shows
Just to let you know that we will be exhibiting at the ALSRM show at Reading on Saturday 7th May and also at the Doncaster O Gauge Summer Show on Saturday 4th June. I very much hope to make acquaintance of as many of you as possible at these shows, so do please come and visit us on our stand at both events.

John Borkowski
25 April 2016

Update 10 April 2016

45XX/4575
Over the last two weeks together with our panel of experts we have been working fIat out examining the final builder’s drawings of the 45XX/4575 locomotive models. The exercise has been a fascinating exploration of all available material to decide how best to configure the versions of these locomotives in our build list. Not surprisingly we have discovered much more information that was previously unknown or perhaps uncertain (at least to me). What we have learned is that these locomotive went through so many changes during their working lives that it is simply impossible to cover every variation even in 170 models.

In our work we have however discovered another important variant that we had omitted from the list. This is the Type 3 locomotive with the 9in wood-packed frame extension, also with a curved front drop-end to the running plate. We will now also build this version. As a consequence we have to reshuffle the whole building programme, reallocating production numbers to the various types.

Reservations have continued to build up strongly and I should advise you that if you want one of the early types of 45XX Types 1 and 2, please consider making a reservation very quickly as they have nearly all gone. We expect to fix the production allocation next week after which it will not be possible to increase production numbers.

With over 100 changes to the prototype that we exhibited at the Bristol Show the production schedule has slipped a few weeks. We feel that this is justified by the huge improvements we are incorporating in all versions of these models. We expect production models to be available in July 2016.

70XX Castle
Work on this model continues at a rapid pace, and the builder is now well down the path of manufacturing key components as can be seen in the picture below.

70XX parts 1

Some of the detail parts are exquisite; here is the double chimney and lubricator:

D chimney lubricator

We are continuing to refine some of the detail of these locomotives and in total have made over 120 changes compared to the earlier 50XX ‘Castle’ made by Masterpiece Models about seven years ago. So our attention to detail has been formidable, as we want to make this model the finest 7mm scale ‘Castle’ ever built.

We expect to have a pre-production locomotive in May for everyone to see, and if all goes to plan production will roll-off the assembly line in the summer, we expect this to be August. So it is a short, very tight programme, but you will have a Masterpiece Models ‘Castle’ available to buy in 2016.

On the sales side demand has been strong with a considerable number of customers opting for the Scale 7 version. 

GWR Tender Locomotives
With the pressure on the 45XX/4575 and ‘Castle’ programmes, we also have been working on the drawings for the GWR tender locomotives. Last week we received a detailed technical appraisal from one of our expert panel, which are now being incorporated into the commentary for the builders to amend the drawings. During the last few weeks there has been a steady stream of reservations for all types, with considerable interest in the 47XX, which is selling fast. We have been looking at the preliminary production schedule for these locomotives and current plans are to produce the 47XX and 28XX/38XX first, followed a little later by the 49XX ‘Hall’ and the 68XX ‘Grange’. This is subject to confirmation.

Spare Wheels Sets
In recent weeks I have been approached by a number of modellers who have asked whether we could supply our wheels so that they can be incorporated in kit-built or scratchbuilt locomotives. As an active modeller I am very keen to encourage everyone to build their own models. It would be very sad if the only models that were made all came from manufacturers.

So, to the extent we can, Masterpiece Models would like to support the model builders among you railway modellers. Howeve,r supplying wheels is not an easy exercise and we have to do it in a way that is economic and does not disrupt our own manufacturing programme.

Essentially we would be in a position to supply limited quantities of only those wheels that we use when we undertake an individual locomotive programme. Wheels would have to be ordered at the same time as we order our own requirements and we would only be able to supply full sets – not individual wheels. We would not be willing to take on stock, so if you want the wheels you have to commit to buy them. We could supply both O gauge finescale and Scale 7 wheels. So far most of the interest has been in S7.

Our wheels are mounted on 5 mm diameter axles, which are non-standard with the UK 3/8” size, so they would require special hornblocks. We may also be able to secure some of our own hornblocks to save you having to dismantle wheelsets. This is something we would have to investigate with the builders. Driving axles also have cranks and cams where appropriate for inside valve gear. We would not be able to supply this inside valve gear to you, so you would need to make up your own components for these items.

If you are interested in in the supply of complete wheel sets on this basis please contact me with your requirements.

Pre-owned Masterpiece Models
From time to time we are asked to act as a broker for customers who wish to sell earlier Masterpiece Models. At present we have available two Masterpiece Models ‘Duchesses’ (non streamlined) and an early GWR livery ‘Star’. If anyone is interested in acquiring these models, which are in superb A1 condition, please contact me for further information.

Future Locomotive Programmes
A number of people have asked me about the future locomotive programme beyond the current programme. Our next major (large) steam locomotive will be the LNER/BR A3 on which we are currently working actively. We hope to produce this in the 2017 programme after we have completed the GWR tender locomotives.

For the smaller steam locomotive the plan is to follow on the 45XX/4575 programme with the 57XX pannier. It is possible that we may have this locomotive available at the beginning of 2017 as the builders have already completed a large amount of work on this project.

Project W
On the website we have mentioned Project W. A number of people have enquired about the identity of the project. I am now able to reveal that it is the D1000 Class 52 ‘Western’ Diesel Hydraulic locomotive. This iconic diesel locomotive of unique design is probably the most distinguished diesel locomotive ever to have graced the British railways network, and it is a locomotive very dear to my heart.

We have passed detailed plans to the builder who is evaluating what further information he needs to make a Masterpiece Model of a ‘Western’. Some of you may be shocked that Masterpiece Models would contemplate building a diesel locomotive when there are so many steam types that merit building.

It is our belief that the Class 52 'Western' deserves an equal place in history, on the mantelpiece and the layout, as any ‘King’ or ‘Castle’. ‘Westerns’ were simply amazing and a key part of our railway history. I can still hear the roar of the engines coming into Paddington ringing in my ears, although they have long gone. Please do let me know whether the Class 52 is of interest to you.


John Borkowski
10 April 2016

Post-Kettering update

It was very good to meet so many of you at the Kettering Show two weeks ago. It was great to renew acquaintance with those I had met before as well as meeting others for the first time. I very much enjoyed the conversation and all the questions that you all posed about Masterpiece Models, about the different tack gauges and aspirations for future models. Several of you were also able to clarify your requirements for our current range of models.

It was the first time that I had visited Kettering and the weather was bitterly cold, so perhaps attendance was a little lower than expected. Our stand was pretty busy all day and I only had about 20 minutes free to look around at other stands. So the layouts never really got a proper look from me, which was a mistake.

In addition to our new models there was a lot of interest on the models on display mainly Michael Brooks’ lovely Bulleid Pacifics, which from a customer viewpoint sadly have all been sold. I took expressions of interest from several of you for past MM models. If we do find suitable examples we will get in touch with you to see if we can meet your individual needs.

We also had identical locomotives in both O gauge and Scale7, so that customers could look at the differences. Most customers could tell the difference both in terms of the track and also the locomotive wheels, and most preferred the S7 versions as stand alone models. However it is for you to decide individually what gauge best suits your needs.

What happens if you do not have a computer or email address and you want to buy or enquire about a Masterpiece Models locomotive?

This problem has been posed to us by a number of customers who don’t have access to email. We have already taken a number of orders by telephone and letter and we are trying to improve the quality of our service for those who do not use (or do not want to use) Information Technology Systems (computers and email).

The easiest way is to contact us by phone on our landline or on our mobile phone. It is better to use the landline 01737 242073 (or +44 1737 242073 if you live abroad outside the UK) as it is generally cheaper and has a better messaging system. Please leave your name and contact details plus a short message on the nature of your enquiry if we are out. We can then ring you or send you the information you requested. Providing you give us sufficient contact details including a telephone number and/or postal address we can respond to your request.

I have to admit that it is not as easy to work around telephone and paper as is by email, but it is still possible to communicate using these channels, even if it takes more time and effort. We have taken at least three orders in recent weeks by letter, so it is possible to work this way. So for those of you who do not do email, please do contact us by telephone or letter.

45XX/4575 Customers: What do I have to do to confirm my reservation?

We have had a large number of prior reservations made before I took the helm of Masterpiece Models, and many of you have already paid deposits. We have now reached the stage where we have finally specified what we are going to build.

When Michael Brooks first offered the 45XX/4575, there were 19 different versions of the locomotive on offer. For 120 models that were initially planned for production, this worked out at an average of just over 6 models per series, which was clearly going to be uneconomic. So we have had to go through a difficult process of rationalising to reduce complexity and the number of different types. This has been a very difficult exercise as necessarily there are some variations that will not be made.

I appreciate that everyone who has expressed an interest or made a reservation will want to be able to check out what specification is available, and whether it meets their desired locomotive requirement. So I propose to email the specification to everyone who has made a reservation before I took over at Masterpiece Models, so that the necessary checks can be carried out.

Essentially we are offering 4 types of 45XX and 1 type of 4575 in 3 basic paint schemes: Great Western Green, BR Black and BR Lined Green. We will be able to adjust the labelling on Great Western to 'Great Western', 'GWR' Shirtbutton or 'Great <Shields> Western', and on BR versions with the totem or the Lion over the Wheel. We also expect to be able to change chimneys, buffers and safety valve types. So this arrangement should give us some flexibility to offer additional variations.

The 45XX models that are being offered comprise:

Type1
Type 1: The very early engines short square drop footplate, short smokebox, no struts and flat (small lipped low) bunker

 

Type2
Type 2: Early engines short square drop footplate, longer smokebox with struts short flared higher rear bunker

 

Type3
Type 3: Early engines in later life with short square footplate, longer smokebox with struts, extended higher rear bunker and packed wooden rear buffer beam

 

Type4
Type 4: Later engines with curved long footplate, longer smokebox with struts, extended higher rear bunker

For the 45XX, beyond the selectable items, the difference is primarily in the paint livery.

To try to cover the costs of all these variants we have had to increase the production from 120 to 170 models. Shortly we will have to commit to production and this means that we will not be able to change the mix once this commitment has been made.

What we need from you is confirmation that you still want to take out a reservation and which locomotive type best fits your needs. If you decide that none of the available locomotives are acceptable to you, then we would be willing to cancel your reservation and refund your deposit (if you made one). However, before you cancel, do remember that you have been offered a much higher specification locomotive than was originally promised still at the original price and that this model is unlikely to be re-offered by Masterpiece Models for a long time, if ever again.

John Borkowski
20 March 2016

Visit report, Korea: 27 February 2016

The visit was a bit of a whirlwind event with virtually no spare time despite being there over the weekend. Helped by the BA B787 Dreamliner (non-Business Class) flight I was able to walk straight off the aircraft into the factory office for 10 hours of meetings. What a great aircraft it is from a passenger viewpoint!

Austrian 2-8-4

Austrian Railways 2-8-4 express passenger locomotive in Gauge 1 made by our builders

45XX/4575

We spent the next two days reviewing in detail over 100 items of commentary/change on the 45XX/4575 models. The Builders were most helpful and keen to upgrade the detail on the models. Thanks to our expert panel’s copious input, we were able to resolves all but 5 issues. These required additional information that in turn needed extra photos. While I was in Korea my colleague Adrian Knowles very kindly visited Didcot and provide a host of new pictures giving amazing detail of the chassis and body of a 55XX resident there. The builders now have all this information and the changes will be incorporated into the final build.

The 4575 sample model was about 60% complete not yet ready to bring back to the UK. The builders will try to incorporate the agreed changes and have it ready as a painted model at the end of March. So I regret to report that the model will not be available for exhibition at the Kettering Show. As soon as it is ready we will publish photographs on the website.

A key part of the purpose of the visit was to fix the production programme and the number of models to be produced. There has been a huge amount of interest and orders have been steadily flowing in since we received the sample 45XX model. As a consequence of this development and a large amount of interest in a wide range of different variations, we have decided to increase production from 120 to 170 models. The planned split is for 90 45XX models and 80 4575 types. We will put on the website details of the planned production programme including the choice of liveries which will shortly have to fix if we are to meet the target production date of end June 2016 availability. In choosing the schedule we have tried to accommodate the requests we have received from you all as best we can. We hope you will understand at the price we are offering these models for a much upgraded specification, we cannot make 170 completely different individual models.

We will be contacting everyone who has made a reservation to ensure that we are building a locomotive that meets individual essential requirements.

70XX Castle
The second half of the visit was spent on the 70XX Castle and the other GWR Tender engines. We went through in extensive detail a large number of changes that are required for the 70XX compared to the earlier 50XX Masterpiece Model build. This amounted to over 50 changes, a remarkable amount, far exceeding my initial expectations. As the builders are already very knowledgeable on the Castle locomotive, they have a much better understanding of all the changes than expected. On the few early GWR build models in late GWR livery we now will be able to offer the option of the rounded top inside cylinder casings.

On both the Collett 4000 gallon and the 4000 gallon Hawksworth tenders we identified several important detailed changes to make the tenders as accurately as possible. This included fitting extra items and repositioning of some key items to make them as close as possible to the originals.

For the chassis there were many detail changes and significant changes to the mechanical features. We will fit split axles to replace the previous plunger pick up system. Also a new strengthened gear box based on our existing excellent enclosed design will be installed as well as a new (much more expensive high technology) motor. We also agreed to tighten up all clearances on the crankpins/valve gear and the front axle end-float so that models (in both O gauge and Scaleseven) will have better significantly running performance.

50XX Castle chassis

GWR Castle 50XX chassis from the previous Masterpiece Models’ build

Soon we will have to fix the total allocations of O gauge and Scaleseven to the build programme, so customers will need to think through fairly quickly as to which gauge they want as the target is to deliver finished models by the end of July. We plan to fix the Castle production programme within a few weeks. Once this has been done the ability to juggle the progamme to accommodate changes becomes much more difficult. This is the consequence of producing a quick run of superb locomotives within a much shorter time period.

The builders have promised a sample model by the end of April. We have selected a double chimney variant here as this will be the first time that Masterpiece Models has produced this type. As soon as we have the sample we will publish extensive photographs of it on the website.

We would like to thank all of you who have made reservations for the Castles, demand for which has far exceeded our expectations, especially for Scaleseven versions. So if you are interested in a more accurate model, especially if you do not already have an O gauge layout or do not intend to run the locomotives on someone else’s O gauge layout, that is essentially you are a collector, I would urge you seriously to consider a Scaleseven version. We will be able to provide you with a section of S7 hand-built track on which you can place your locomotive on display.

If you are already an O gauge modeller especially if you have a layout then probably the best way forward is to stick to O gauge. Masterpiece Models’ locomotives in O gauge still look very good!

Other GWR Tender Locomotives
We discussed changes to the detailed drawings already produced by the builders and other key features of the build. The fact that there is a high degree of commonality between these engines and the Saints from an earlier Masterpiece Models build is very helpful to the making these locomotives. Once the Castle programme is underway we will press ahead with these tender engines. A key part of the future decision is whether to build these locomotives as a sequence i.e. following each other or in parallel i.e. running all build programmes simultaneously.

Other Models
We could not resist ending this report with a picture of them superb 8 cylinder vintage Bugatti car chassis made by our builders. Quite simply it is one of the finest models of any item that I have ever seen.

Bugatti

I hope the model shows just how good our builders are at making other models!

John Borkowski

Rapid progress and a trip to Korea

A big vote of thanks to all of your who came to see the Masterpiece Models stand at the Bristol Show. I am very sorry that I did not have a chance to speak with all of you as I have received feedback from several people that they were disappointed not to have been given personal attention. The level of interest was such that I was on my feet continually throughout the show, which was a welcome development. The 45XX pre-production sample was the centre of attention. It created considerable interest and a large number of enquires and reservations. There are numerous detailed changes that have been advised by our panel of technical experts and these will be incorporated on the production models. I would like to record my gratitude to everyone who has helped here.

We will try to arrange for a little more flexibility in 45XX models offered by incorporating some changes that could be made by us in the UK rather than fixing all options at the factory in Korea. This will be limited to a few options not a complete change of specification! I will be discussing how we can accomplish this when I meet the builders in Korea this week.

I will be taking the preproduction 45XX back to Korea to go over the detail body and chassis changes and some more technical changes to the running gear. The model has the split axles that we requested and has eliminated the plunger pick-ups used on previous models. I have set up a test track for O gauge and will be doing the same in Scale7, which goes down to 42 inch radius curves. The pre-production sample has run on the narrowest curve although I feel this is very steep for a model of this quality.

45XX 42inRadius

The photo shows the 45XX pre-production sample on PECO flatbotton Pandrol clip flexi-track at 42 inch radius. On my return from Korea I hope to bring back the 4575 pre-production sample for testing and checking back here in the UK. Then I will endeavour to make contact with everyone who ordered or made provisional reservations for the 45XX/4575 models to check that we are able to produce a model that meets their aspirations.

On the other models I will be reviewing all the drawings and technical details with the builder to ensure that they meet the full Masterpiece Models’ specifications. Since the Bristol Show we have had a strong run of reservations for all locomotives, but especially for the 70XX Castles, and I would urge those of you who have a particular interest in specific names to consider making early reservations as otherwise you may not be able to select the locomotive name and number of first choice.

On the technical side I continue to take a big interest and quite a lot of time looking at developments that will increase the appeal and performance of future Masterpiece Models. In later updates I will be reporting on some of these developments.

Scale 7 or O Gauge
Since the new website was opened on 30 January many of you have contacted me about the Scale 7 option and there seems to be some general confusion about Scale 7.

First I should be clear that Scale 7 is a slightly different track gauge 33mm rather than 31.5 or 32 mm for O gauge finescale. Essentially Scale 7 (or S7 for short) is about making trains, track and everything else as accurately as possible at 1/43.5 of the real thing. So S7 track is wider than O gauge Finescale and the clearances on points and crossings are much tighter. On locomotives and rolling stock the biggest change is in the wheels that are much narrower width tyres with considerably smaller flanges and wider back-to-back spacing. Ideally S7 locomotives would have wider chassis than O gauge finescale with the wheel backs in many cases having very tight clearances with the chassis sides.

For commercial reasons with the current take-up of S7 at Masterpiece Models production, it is not economic to make separate chassis for our S7 locomotive variants. Most O gauge locomotive chassis are acceptable to S7 modellers especially where the wheels are covered by footplates and splashers. Also if we followed strict interpretation of making our chassis widths 1/43.5 of the actual real size for many locomotives such as A3s (on which we are currently working) the S7 locomotives would only be able to travel round very large radius curves, much too large except for huge layouts. So most S7 modellers with large long wheelbase locomotives tend to build the chassis width less than absolute scale. Thus good quality O gauge basic chassis dimensions with S7 wheels fitted are generally acceptable many S7 modellers. Also even S7 chassis dimensions are often slightly less than absolute so that the locomotives can run on practical layouts. Practical solutions are often a compromise – it is just a question of where the line is drawn.

I am pleased that a number of customers have opted for Scaleseven variants, which always look just a little more wonderful. If you are someone who wants to have your models purely as showcase model(s), I would urge you to seriously consider S7 as there is no extra charge for new S7 Masterpiece Model versions. If you later decide that you want to run your S7 model, there are a number of superb S7 layouts in the UK and at least one in the Netherlands. You could consider joining the S7 Group, which is a very friendly and helpful group. Many S7 modellers with layouts allow other S7 enthusiasts to run their models. I am in the course of building my second S7 layout, which will be a five parallel track 20 metre long end-to-end layout loosely modelled on Brentwood Bank on the GER. When it is in running condition, I hope to make it open to S7 modellers including customers who buy S7 Masterpiece Models.

I have to declare an interest here, as I am also Chairman of the Scale7 group. For many years I modelled in S7 before joining the S7 Group. Not joining earlier was a big mistake as I missed out on many years of meeting numerous friends and enthusiasts who have subsequently helped me.

If you already have a large number of O gauge models, and perhaps an O gauge layout, then moving to S7 is clearly probably not a sensible move, unless you are prepared for an expensive and time-consuming process! O Gauge Finescale models still look superb and do have the advantage of being able to be run on numerous layouts. Joining the O Gauge Guild is also a great idea as this gives you the opportunity of meeting many experts and enthusiasts working in 7mm scale railway and scenic modelling. I am also a member of the O Gauge Guild.

Other Developments
On the sales and marketing front I am pleased to say that we will be attending both the Kettering and Doncaster O gauge Guild Shows as well as Guildex at Telford. Attending these events will I hope enable more of you in other parts of the UK to come to see our stand and give you a chance to say hello to us to discuss your interests and requirements.

Tomorrow I set of for Korea on British Airways supporting my old employer. The return is flight is towards the end of next week. While I am away I will not be able to acknowledge any reservations or answer any correspondence, so I hope everyone will understand and await my return. Looking forward to giving you an update on my visit to the builders in Korea in due course.

Michael Brooks
Bristol was Michael Brooks’ last trade show in charge at Masterpiece Models and I would like pay tribute to him and to thank him for agreeing to provide on-going support and advice to us at Masterpiece Models. We will invite him to make future contributions on this website.

John Borkowski
16 February 2016