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70XX 'Castles' and 45XX/4575 prairie tanks now in the UK

Just to let all our very patient customers know that the full consignment of 70XX 'Castles' arrived at Heathrow yesterday and the 45XX/4575 priarie tanks have arrived this afternoon. It is likely to take a couple of days for them to clear customs so we are expecting them to arrive at our storage facility before the end of this week, whereupon we will immediately commence distribution to customers.

We will shortly be contacting customers to make the necessary arrangements and we will be requesting payment of any outstanding sums due.

It feels like the end of a very long road, but all the lessons we have learnt in raising the standards for these models are being applied to the next projects in the pipeline – the 57XX/8750 pannier tanks, 47XX 2-8-0s and 'Grange' 4-6-0s, the former due for delivery within a few months and the tender locos in late 2017/early 2018. After those will follow the 'Western' diesel hydraulic (also due for delivery in early 2018), the 49XX 'Halls' and 28XX/2884 2-8-0s. 

Now that we have overcome the production 'gap' that resulted from the change of ownership of Masterpiece Models we expect to maintain a much tighter schedule of new model deliveries.

John Borkowski

'Hall' and 'Grange' chimneys

The frequent interchange of GWR Standard No. 1 boilers between classes complicates the question of ‘Hall’ (49XX/59XX/69XX) and ‘Grange’ (68XX) chimneys. There are many cases of ‘Granges’ appearing in traffic with ‘Hall’ chimneys and vice versa, followed in later years by the taller, thinner ‘ID’ chimney that was fitted as part of the Improved Draughting works. In this update we provide some information to assist you in choosing the right chimney design, although there is no substitute for a good photograph of your chosen locomotive in the period you have selected to ensure you have the details right. In the reservation forms we have now added the option of the ID chimney.

‘HALL’ class 4-6-0s

GWR Period
In the GWR period the ‘Halls’ originally appeared with the early taller chimney fitted with a capuchon ring on the front top of the chimney. Later, after the ‘Grange’ was introduced in August 1936, many ‘Halls’ received boilers fitted with the shorter ‘Grange’ chimney that also had a capuchon on the front lip.

BR Period
In the BR period the improved draughting ‘ID’ chimneys originating with ‘Modified Halls’ also appeared on some of the standard Collett ‘Halls’. The ‘ID’ chimneys are taller and thinner than the standard ‘Hall’ or ‘Grange’ chimneys and do not have a capuchon. In the early BR period when the locomotives were painted black we have found pictures of locomotives fitted with the taller ‘Hall’ chimney, the shorter ‘Grange’ Chimney and also the ‘ID’ chimney. In the later BR (totem) period it seems that the taller ‘Hall’ chimney was not fitted to many engines. By this time most locomotives seem to have either the ‘ID’ chimney or the ‘Grange’ chimney.

49 with Hall ch   49 with Grange ch   49 with ID ch

‘GRANGE’ class 4-6-0s

GWR period
Apart from the first three locomotives, which at the very beginning of their lives were fitted with cast iron chimneys similar to the GWR Moguls, the boilers for subsequent Granges were all fitted with a new, smaller copper capped chimney with capuchon. We are not offering the early Mogul-style chimney as these were quickly replaced on the first engines by standard ‘Grange’ chimneys. However, during the GWR period there were many instances of ‘Granges’ running with the taller ‘Hall’ chimneys probably as a result of swapping boilers from ‘Halls’.

BR Period
During the early BR period most engines appear to have carried the standard ‘Grange’ chimney with some engines fitted with the taller ‘Hall’ chimney as a result of boiler swaps. In the BR (totem) period increasingly more ‘Granges’ were fitted with the ‘ID’ chimney, which appears to have been in general use on the engines at or towards the end of their lives. By this time it seems that ‘Hall’ chimneys were not common on ‘Granges’.

68 with Grange ch   68 with Hall ch   68 with ID ch

How do you choose right chimney for your locomotive?

We are unaware of a totally reliable source of information on what type of chimney was installed on each engine at each stage of its life. So the best way to discover what chimney was fitted to your selected engine for the period that is of interest for you is to try to find an appropriate photograph. We have a number of books that cover every Hall and Grange, but most of the photos are for the BR era, especially the totem period. So to the extent that we are able we would be happy to give you any information that we have, but we cannot guarantee complete accuracy. For the GWR period we have very limited photographic resources, but as boilers were frequently changed many engines will have had both the ‘Hall’ and ‘Grange’ chimneys. If you have already reserved a locomotive and want further advice, please do contact us as soon as possible. We will do our best to help you.

"I would be surprised if these 'Castles' are ever surpassed"

– Bob Meanley, Tyseley Locomotive Works

Meanley5043If anyone knows a thing or two about GWR 'Castle' class 4-6-0s, it's Bob Meanley of Tyseley Locomotive Works. Bob managed the team that undertook the benchmark restoration of 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and now has day-to-day care of this exceptional locomotive which was once considered only fit to be a source of parts for other preserved 'Castles'. Shortly, the restoration of another much-loved engine – 7029 Clun Castle – will be completed at Tyseley.

It's fair to say that in the process of restoring and maintaining these magnificent locomotives Bob has become familiar with literally every nut, bolt and fitting, and we are extremely fortunate to have him on the Masterpiece Models panel of experts. So, when we take our pre-production models to Bob for assessment, we listen very carefully to what he says. In the case of our 70XX 'Castles', Bob examined the pre-production models in minute detail and, in conjunction with close inspection of the real engines, he made wide-ranging recommendations – all of which we have followed.

What, then, did Bob think of our production 'Castles' when we took a pair up to Tyseley following our recent return from the builder in Korea? "I'm extremely impressed," he said. "In fact they are so good that they are on a level with some of the best professionally hand-built models that I have seen costing many times the price. For a ready-to-run model, that's remarkable. These models really are as good as genuine 'Castles' and I would be surprised if they are ever surpassed. It proves the worth of concentrating on one series of the 'Castles' in order to get them right as there are so many subtle differences between the engines built in the 1920s and 30s and these final 'Super Castles'."

We know what he means; just within the 70XX series we have built, almost every engine has small differences that make it unique.

On our visit to Bob we also showed him our latest batch of pre-production models. He scored the new Collett 3,500 tender at 100/100 with no changes or corrections necessary; the 8750 Pannier Tank scored 97/100, the 47XX scored 92/100, the 49XX 'Hall' 92/100 and the 'Grange' 94/100. All in the 90s before we have even made any tweaks or corrections! Our policy of going for absolute accuracy with no compromises is paying off!

*82% of Prairies now sold*

Of the 160 GWR small prairies in the Masterpiece Models build, only 31 now remain available. There are no Type 1 engines, only one Type 2 and two Type 4s. CLICK HERE to see the current availability and livery selection.

Busier than Swindon!

Castle inspection 28 2 17

John Borkowski and Adrian Knowles inspecting the 70XX 'Castles' at the Incheon factory

For the last 10 days Adrian and I have spent our time out in South Korea with the builders, inspecting and checking over 250 locomotives and discussing our current and future build programmes. And have we got some exciting things to tell you about and show you!

The main thing to say is that all our customers who have remained remarkably loyal and patient during the unexpectedly long build cycles for the 70XX ‘Castles’ and the 45XX/4575 Prairie tanks are about to be rewarded with models that are second to none.

In total we inspected 160 GWR/BR Prairie tanks and 108 70XX ‘Castles’, involving an overall visual inspection, checking of measurements, squareness and gauge, followed by running trials for each engine to verify electrical continuity, smoothness of operation at low and high speeds and sound (where fitted). We were highly impressed with the detail and also the running performance of the locomotives, as well as the very realistic sound package cleverly compiled by Bryan Robertson who deserves to be congratulated on what he has achieved.

Seeing and hearing all those ‘Castles’ was a bit like being at Old Oak Common in the 1950s and early 1960s, or Laira in the case of the Prairies. I can still hear the sound of whistles, the fireman stoking the fire and steam escaping from the cylinder cocks before the engines move off in slow motion!

Castle inspectionWith a few small corrections and refinements having been made here and there, it is expected that the bulk consignment of Prairie tanks will be shipped by British Airways in the coming week, with the ‘Castles’ following about 10-14 days later depending on flight availability. We were able to bring a few finished models in our hand luggage for display at the Kettering Gauge 0 Guild show on Saturday 4 March, as well as the first Prairie tanks for customers who had said they would be at Kettering. Everyone was able to see the fine work that the builders have put into the models.

We also had on display the first sample model of the later cab GWR Pannier which seems to be amazing everyone who sees it. It is a superb execution of the prototype with an extraordinary amount of detail in every area of the model and the builders are now working on the second sample with the earlier style of cab, which we hope to receive in April. Both will be on show at the ALSRM Reading show on 6 May and the Gauge 0 Guild Summer Show at Doncaster on 3 June.

Inevitably there will be some changes picked up by our expert panel and these will be incorporated in our final production design. Our objective is to shorten the review and testing process so that we can bring the models to market faster than we achieved for the Prairies and ‘Castles’, both of which became more complex and difficult for the builders than we originally anticipated. It just shows that one always has to learn new ways of improving performance as a result of experience, especially where things do not go quite to plan.

Other exciting arrivals are the first pilot models for the forthcoming programme of Great Western tender engines. These painted models cover the eagerly-awaited 47XX, the 49XX ‘Hall’ and 68XX ‘Grange’. To accompany the ‘Grange’ in particular is a brand new tender – the Collett 3,500 gallon design which looks superb and will be offered alongside the Collett and Hawksworth 4,000 gallon tenders and the Churchward tenders already in our catalogue.

While these models have yet to be assessed and refined, we think they are a very good demonstration of the superb workmanship and skills of our Korean colleagues. The plan is to put these locomotives into production as soon as have had the samples evaluated by our technical team. However, as we have to make a minimum of 240 locomotives we will probably split it into two programmes, most likely starting with the 47XX and either the ‘Grange’ or ‘Hall’, followed shortly thereafter by the 28XX and either the ‘Hall’ or the ‘Grange’. Following advice from our expert technical team we have been rethinking the programme. Trying to build four different classes (not to mention subclasses) of locomotives simultaneously is not probably the best way forward either for us or for the builders. We are now drawing up a detailed work schedule to try to ensure that the gap between the first build and the second build is not too long, so that we keep the gap down to 6 months if possible.

Another project now well under way is the Class 52 ‘Western’ Diesel Hydraulic. The first test etches have been made and work has already started on assembling the first prototype. We also took the opportunity to go through the scans that we made of Western Champion at Kidderminster late last year. Once again we would like to thank the Diesel Traction Group for all their help and advice without which we would never be able to make the ‘Western’ model that everyone wants to see. We remain very excited about this project, which we hope will be the first of several future ventures by us in the non-steam locomotive domain.

During our visit we came under intense pressure to increase the payments to our builders. Unfortunately, due to the fall in the value of the Pound following the result of the EU referendum, the builders are facing a reduction of around 20% in the income they were expecting to receive when we started our contracts. Since the middle of last year we have been monitoring the situation closely in the hope that there would be a more significant recovery in the exchange rate. Sadly this has not happened and as a consequence we now have no alternative but to raise our prices to alleviate the hardship that the builders are facing.

By absorbing half the increase in cost ourselves, we can contain the price rise to 10% which will apply to all new orders placed on and from from Saturday 8 April 2017. Existing orders where deposits and staged payments have been made, and orders placed before 8 April will be held at the original prices, which gives everyone a month to be able to secure models at the old prices. We are very sorry to have to apply this increase and if there is a significant recovery of the value of the Pound we will see what can be done to reduce our prices again.

John Borkowski
6 March 2017

View the latest pre-production models