Come up and see my etch­ings

Model Rail (UK) - - Backscene -

That was a mildly sug­ges­tive pro­posal from the come­dies of the 1960s, but just ex­actly what are etch­ings? In rail­way mod­el­ling terms, I - and many who read this - have lived through the launch, rise and de­cline of the etched kit. They were won­der­ful things - a flat­packed lo­co­mo­tive, coach or wagon, that re­quired a level of sol­der­ing skill to as­sem­ble it, but which gave you a model of some­thing that sim­ply wasn’t avail­able by any other means. No other kits have ever looked quite so shiny and ex­cit­ing when you opened the box. I got into ac­tu­ally pro­duc­ing some etched parts, things such as GWR sta­tion canopy valanc­ing and the lovely dec­o­ra­tive ridge tiles for Much Wen­lock sta­tion, through my as­so­ci­a­tion with Mopok. That was the kits-and-bits busi­ness set up by John Se­nior and Tony Dyer, fel­low mem­bers of Egham & Staines Model Rail­way So­ci­ety. I sold cast whitemetal parts through Mopok, too, but I was a hope­less pat­tern-maker and Adrian Swain (ABS Mod­els) made most of the pat­terns for my prod­ucts. I could draw quite well, how­ever, and etch­ings be­gin as draw­ings. I should add that the only model etch­ings avail­able at the time were a small num­ber of GWR lo­co­mo­tive name and num­ber­plates from a cou­ple of man­u­fac­tur­ers. John and Tony had made con­tact with one of these name­plate mak­ers, Ge­off Kil­ner, who traded as LFC Name­plates. Ge­off had in­her­ited the fam­ily’s York­shire fire­works com­pany, Lion Fire­works (hence LFC), but the cost of in­sur­ing the mag­a­zines of ex­plo­sives had led him to look for an al­ter­na­tive line of work. He had plate-mak­ing and print­ing ma­chines for pro­duc­ing the fire­work cas­ings, and the process of mak­ing print­ing plates is to etch the sur­face of the plate with acid. Ge­off mod­i­fied his plate-mak­ing ma­chine so that he could etch small sheets of thin brass or nickel-sil­ver, and the name­plate busi­ness was born. We soon latched on to that process and, for me, the only re­stric­tion was the size of sheet which Ge­off could etch. It meant I could only do small parts and when I drew the sides for a Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple Rail­way Brake Ob­ser­va­tion car in ‘OO9’, it was too big for Ge­off’s lit­tle ma­chine. Then I had to go to a pro­fes­sional etch­ing com­pany, Mi­cro­p­o­nent De­vel­op­ment, in Birm­ing­ham. In time, health and safety reg­u­la­tion and pol­lu­tion con­trols made it too ex­pen­sive for a small pri­vate etch­ing op­er­a­tion to sur­vive and Ge­off re­tired. The last items he pro­duced for me were ‘Golden Ar­row’ name­plate sets like those which, years later, we would sell through Model Rail in its early days.

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