Modelmaking Commissions

As a model maker with over 35 years experience I'm happy to offer my unique combination of skills in scratch and kit building locomotives and rolling stock, painting and weathering, construction of scenic buildings and structures through to complete layouts. I particularly specialise in assembly and finishing of kits of my own design, and micro layout design and construction.

I offer a bespoke and personal service, working with you to understand your requirements, your chosen prototype and share my ideas and thoughts before we agree an approach, price and approximate timescales.

You can view a selection of my previous work on the blog here...

Contact me using the form (click on the three line symbol on the top left), or alternately you can email me through my Facebook page.

Typical prices are given to provide a guide or estimate, however every commission is different and I prepare a specific proposal based upon the details of your request.
  • Locomotive kit build, paint, weather, detail: £250 - £650
  • Locomotive scratch build, paint, weather, detail: £500 - £1000
  • Locomotive painting, lining and weathering: £60 - £350
  • Layout design, collaborative process to facilitate your layout development: £175 
  • Bespoke layouts designed and built: £650 - £2500
It's always great to have feedback from my customers, here are a selection of comments and feedback:

Often the most challenging of project briefs are those that are open, and that's exactly what I gave James at the start of this project. It was a truly collaborative process - James and I discussed a number of prototypical examples that could fit the brief and he brought his years of experience, attention to detail and his encyclopedic knowledge (and extensive library) to bear in bringing to fruition my idea of a model that, whilst not an exact likeness of any one prototype, is a finely-crafted and characterful representation of the class, with a personality all of its own. There were regular progress updates, photos and videos as the model took shape, which also helped to ensure that we were both on the same page at all times. The result is absolutely stunning, and certainly fit to take centre stage as the star of my layout - just what I wanted! I would not hesitate to recommend James for a modelmaking commission and it will be a privilege for me to work with him again in the future.

I did have a sort of epiphany when working through the layout design process with James. The result is very much how I envisaged the layout, I just wasn't able to translate those ideas to paper.

It was a rewarding and stimulating experience working on this commission with James.  His modelling skills created a unique locomotive that surpassed my expectations, runs (and sounds!) superbly and which attracts many admiring glances from anyone who sees it.  James was attentive to all of my requests, providing regular and detailed updates (including photographs and videos), recording the project as the model developed and enabling me to input with any thoughts or suggestions at any stage of the process.  This communication and James’ knowledgeable and friendly manner greatly added to the experience of commissioning and owning the model.  I thoroughly look forward to working with him again!

If you are considering whether to commission a model from James, then go ahead - you absolutely won’t regret it! Not only is communication easy, but the attention to detail, quality of finish and end result is truly wonderful

Thank you very much James I am really pleased with the model, your work and attention to the detail is really impressive and thank you also for the updates, photos and videos of your progress during the build.

Working with James on this commission has been a delight from start to finish. Leaving aside the quality of the finished product, which looks just like I imagined it would, James went out of his way to accommodate my requirements, provided a lot of additional advice, and kept me fully informed throughout the process, so the end result felt like a true collaboration that fully realised an image of this loco I've had in my head for many years.

The loco looks brilliant and is all that I hoped for, congratulations on doing a cracking job.

I would thoroughly recommend James' services to any modeller. He is knowledgeable and approachable, with a wide range of experiences in the hobby. Through his gentle questioning, and his undoubted graphical skills, he was able to interpret my brief and design a layout that exceeded by expectations.

All I can say is WOW! It looks fantastic!

I first found out about the work James does when I saw Pont-y-dulais in a magazine. I approached James to finish off a project I had started a few years before but had been unable to complete because of personal circumstances. Initially I was concerned about providing enough information to him, however, James had clearly also researched the prototype and maintained contact with me throughout the build (including a couple of phone calls to discuss certain aspects). This was really reassuring and exciting to see as the wagons came together. James paid great attention to detail, as per the work you'll see on the pages of his blog, especially on making up the right shade of paint, consistent with the photos he was working from. I'm delighted with the result, thank you.

Just received my model, a wonderful job. I won’t be looking anywhere else for any future commissions. Once again a big thank you.

Some of you may be wondering why I chose to take the unusual (for me) step of contracting this work out. Well, I reached a round-number birthday earlier in the year and quite frankly decided to treat myself! I also had in mind the fact that my own time is presently quite limited. I chose James for this work as I needed someone who could not only refinish the locomotive in the desired colour, but also to create the artwork for the lettering and plates as a one-stop shop. James took great care working from my reference photographs to get the lettering to look right, especially as the real thing is hand-lettered to no standard font. Hopefully in due course I can get the model posed on the footplate of the real thing at Cleethorpes.

Wow! These models are so much more incredible than I could have fathomed - they’re absolute works of art.

James was very accomodating, and did an amazing job on creating a custom model, so much so that it matches the prototype exactly. Considering the prototype was a 3ft gauge model the additional work done is superb. I am very impressed with his skills and attention to detail.
James gave me very clear communication throughout the process and was very helpful, particularly if there was any changes to be made to the model. I would recommend James to anyone and have done, I am so impressed that I am sending more commissions to James due to the standard of work. 

These locos are truly the best you have done for me, your service is a much needed one now that people of the calibre of Paul Windle are no longer available - your innovative designs and attention to detail have in fact moved modelling on to a higher level, thank you, once again, for the really super locos that you have produced for us!

I have lots of my own stuff to do but some things are getting more difficult. If anyone thinks similarly there cannot be a better choice than James Hilton. Without doubt the best thing is that the things turn up and are as good or better than you could have hoped for!

Environmental statement
As a small independent business, where I work from my own premises and have no real transport costs I strive to source my parts and components locally, and if that isn't possible then here in the UK.  I don't use harmful substances when possible, and when using paints and solvents, I use as much as I can before the tin or bottle is empty. I keep off-cuts of scrap plastic and metal, these often form the basis of small details on future models. I can't influence the packaging material my suppliers use, but I keep it all and recycle it in my own packaging so you will often find your model returned to you in a reused box, with reused bubble wrap inside. I would ask that you do the same rather than burdening landfill, or our recycling systems.