Lister. Day 1.

With so many models headed out of the house these last few weeks it was so exciting to see one headed in. My IP Engineering Lister kit arrived in yesterday’s mail and, well, I’m so excited to have it here and start looking through the box. Figured I’d share some of that excitement here too. Certainly, this one of those things I thought about a lot and then just went ahead and did. Last month I dug out my box of 16mm scale models with the plan to either make a working chassis for the Ruston or buy a chassis that could be used.

“It’s a big model of a little thing” and similar first thoughts

I pictured soft castings that fit together more by the coincidence of their shared space than any plan for their assembly. On first impression, instead, each bag of castings in this kit is filled with parts that are something I might not be creative enough to make on my own and they’re all of a quality that’s better than I think I could do on my own. I think I was worried this kit would be like the white metal kits I’d built of OO9 engines and cars as a teenager. This is better.

Because the prototype is such a small thing I kept thinking of the model in similar terms. The kit is mostly white metal castings and it’s quite heavy. In the smaller scales, my experience would suggest a tiny model would be a light model and need so much constant help across dirty track that it may as well be a push model with no motor. A quick trip across the kitchen scales rings this kit in at around five hundred grams which feels quite heavy, massive even!

The drive is simple. It is fitted into a length of metal channel and only one powered axle. I actually think I’m going to make up the powered chassis and fit it into the Ruston where it’ll be just fine. That said, I love having a chassis here that I know will work just fine under any model. So it’s a solution that works where I don’t have an alternative and while I’m enjoying playing with this I can be learning how to make one closer to what I’m looking for. I think that’s sort of the sentiment I have in mind for this kit. Working on the last few layout’s worth of track has taught me I like to work in a kind of iterative, do and then revise, style and I think that’ll work here. The size of the components in this model are large enough I can make them, enjoy them, and as I get better at making things I can remake these parts. Sort of like that joke about the family axe (“Been in my familiar for a hundred years. Only replaced the head five times and the handle seven times.”) this one model can be a focal point around which to practice skills.


The kit is designed for battery power and includes a battery holder, wires, and on/off switch. I’ve only got a small shelf to run this on and can already seeing this not as a practical idea. The wheels are insulated so converting it to track power should be easy. From there I could do my first decoder install even! Nystrup Gravel is my inspiration here and their Lister is radio-controlled and I’ve been designing a board that might work here in my model…again, iterative design is my guide so make something, make it different.

I wouldn’t have even made it this far without the generous sharing of stories of other people who built this kit and shared notes on their experience:

Nystrup Gravel’s notes have been pivotal. Claus’s model is gorgeous and a true inspiration.

Corris Hill’s article is superb. Coupled with Nystrup’s this really made me feel like I was going to be okay with this purchase.

Peckforton Light Railway has this article on their site that I’ve enjoyed equally:

Categories: 16mm scale IP Engineering Lister, 16mm scale Ruston

3 replies

  1. I’m excited for your excitement and I look forward to seeing what you do with this. At this scale you can effectively introduce weathering with real texture – not just rust colours but flakes of rust for example. I predict a trip or two to the military modelling aisle at the hobby shop, and the military modelling magazine shelf at the bookstore.

    • I think weathering on this model is an interesting conversation.

      On a different scale model of a standard gauge locomotive the thing it represents is so large that certain processes happen during the operation of that locomotive that cause it to weather independent of its situation. Which railway owns it and how they care for it further flavours that mix. When I’m operating a model railway I tend to imagine myself down into the scene pretending I might be driving the model, pretending I might be on the ground hooking up or locking down cars from the train. My imagination might even be so vast that I pretend it’s even my shortline as a means of contributing context into the scene. Bringing this back to this LIster and its two foot gauge tracks this land of imaginary things feels a little less farfetched.

      The Lister feels like a ride on lawnmower on rail wheels in terms of its size, power, and mechanical complexity. I’ve never owned one but I’ve enjoyed repairing them from time to time and they can be interesting machines reflective of their owner’s care. Some have never been closer to ever being washed than the day it rained while others are cared for in a way so detailed you wonder if Mr.Ferrari himself is its caretaker.

      It will interesting, fascinating even, to move into weathering this because its finish should be the evidence of work worn. Luckily so many Listers have been preserved and they’re so popular that Youtube is filled with film footage of them in use. Watching them as research invites noting how people climb onto them, how they sit to drive the engine, how all these things localize wear patterns in the engine. Archives of vintage photographs of Listers and then similar small narrow gauge engines show ones that have never been indoors or been cleaned anything more than to remove muck now caked so thick its in the way or hood sides now painted by layer upon layer of exhaust. Somewhere in this spectrum is my Lister. It bothers me to see a dirty workbench or tools damaged by misuse so I don’t see my model being too banged up or wearing dirt too deep because I’d just want to clean it off. It should look like its used but cared for because we’d like to keep using it and cared for because if we can’t use it we have to shove those darn skips around by hand and that’s just not going to be any kind of fun.

      In terms of technique I’m excited. I am a big fan of Youtube channels like Scale-a-ton and Night Shift. Absolutely there’s techniques in there, from tank modelling, that would be a pile of fun to transfer over. While I expect to spray the major paint onto my model its a period of fussing around with a brush or like detailed painting that I’m most looking forward to. The track I’ve been building these last couple years feels so rewarding because I talk to it when I’m building it, interacting with it to see what it needs from me next to become what we both think it can be.

      I really appreciate being able to share this journey with you. Thank you both for listening and facilitating through this. I wouldn’t have made it this far without that.


  2. Trevor makes an interesting point but in my experience 16mm is not quite as big as you think and I think that a weathered finish that focuses upon the right tones and patterns is more effective than texture. I still find that in 7/8ths, where people think texture is important – rather it’s the artistic finish that is important. Your ability to create a model of weathering rather the process of weathering.

    That said Chris, exciting to see this arrive and the box open, so to speak. I can feel your excitement and also a degree of trepidation that you’ll ‘mess up’, which is natural when tip toeing into a new (to you) part of the hobby. Enjoy it, the results will be of your hand, and wonderful, of that I have absolutely no doubt.

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