Monday, May 22, 2017

Bit of a shock in Banbury

So there I was having to change trains at Banbury. It was approaching 4pm, so I though, "I'm in no rush, I'll wander along to Trinders." It's an excellent in-town model shop where I've enjoyed many a happy session perusing the shelves and left much of my money behind in return for exciting products.

Imaging my surprise when I round the corner and see this sight:

Oh no! It's gone! Another model shop casualty. 

A closer look revealed that they hadn't gone, just moved down the road slightly.  

The new shop incorporates the existing cycle store and adds a snack shop for some reason. 

Inside, the previous generous space given over to models has been compressed. I'm sure there is less stock, but not as much as you might think. The shelves got up a lot higher for a start. Some more specialist ranges have been trimmed a bit, I bought the last O gauge wagon kit in the shop for a start but then I doubt there was ever a rush for these. 

The huge range of glues and paint is stil behind the counter, you still get Hornby and Bachmann stock, some at impressive discount (J15 £99) and scenic materials and wood are still for sale. I suspect that the odder items have been sold off though. They still have a very large aircraft centre cap for a propeller in white if you want it. How that ever made it into a general shop stock I don't understand. 

Everything being on one floor allows for embarrassment free looking at the toys too. Well you never know what might come in useful!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

G Rail 2017

Quarry Hunslet

A common whine from people who take a brief break from their computer screens to venture into daylight and visit an exhibition is "I didn't see anything moving". 

Seasoned exhibitors know that this is usually because they only allow a nanosecond for each layout between extended spells examining boxes on trade stands so we just ignore them. 

Well, even the hardest core webmoaner couldn't fail to see something running at G Rail. Loads of layouts with great big, both in length and scale, trains trundling around for the entertainment of the visitors.

Quite frankly, if you brought the average "normal" family to the show, they would have left delighted.

Playmobile railway

Starting with a massive Playmobil layout that kids can operate with radio control, there were several LGB setups and of course some live steam on a test track.

OK, so pretty much everything is circuits laid on baseboard only just big wide enough, but you certainly got close to the action. Most people try for some perfunctory scenery but it's an area largely unexplored here.

Loading coal

G Rail is about people who like trains having fun.Maybe that's why everyone was so friendly?

That's not to say there isn't quality modelling. Just inside the door was the competition with some absolutely superb entries. The quarry Hunslet at the top of this post is a GRS kit with superb paint and extra detail. I initially thought it was a finescale live steam model, but in fact it's a lovely example where someone has taken a kit well beyond a simple assembly.


Trade was pretty good. While less than half the size of the 16mm AGM a month earlier, there was plenty to see and buy. Both box shifters and more specialist stands were present, although neither appreciated the rubbish mobile phone coverage the venue is notorious for when trying to use the card machines.

Crowds were thinner than perhaps you might expect, not great news for the organisers but it made walking around a real pleasure, as did the excellent cafe opposite the entrance!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

UK Slot car festival 2017

Minic Roadrailer

After all the lifeboat fun, Saturday afternoon was given over to the UK Slot Car festival at Gaydon transport museum. Last year's swapmeet whetted our appetite so my dad and I were keen to see the main event.

The show is pretty much split into two. As you get up the stairs you're thrust into the trade area with stands selling everything from the market leader Scalextric to esoteric resin kits, spare parts (new and second hand) and loads of scenic materials to make your track look realistic.

Beside this is the main hall of working tracks. The centrepiece is an 8 lane track of very substantial construction. When we arrived, there were time trials going on with what appeared to be 1:32nd projectiles. OK, they were sort of car shaped but also sort of concave wedge shaped. 6.5 seconds for a lap seemed to be the best time, certainly impressive but to me only a single step away from a video game. 

The controllers were impressive though, knocking the multi-button DCC train versions into a cocked hat. Several looked distinctly home brewed but there were more professional versions for sale. Chatting to one owner, the knobs etc are used for tuning the cars response, acceleration, braking etc. It all looked horribly complicated to me but I expect this is what you need to compete at the highest level.

Tricky corner

We did have the chance to get hands-on with some simpler setups. I say simpler, but the Luton clubs single lane time trial track had a particularly tricky corner which caught me out a few times sending the car spinning off the track. I'm sure with many hours of practise I could pick up my lap times, although I was just as interested in how the lovely buildings were made.

Slot Car Shop

One of the most impressive things about the show was the efforts made to get people to have a go, especially children, or maybe they were just less bashful than the adults. Several tracks were open including a couple of drag strip versions.

I managed to have a go with some Wren Formula 152 models which really appealed to me. Sadly, horribly rare nowadays, there is an excellent website covering all the products in the range.

Wren Formula 152

The real treat thought, was the Matchbox slot car range. I remember coveting the "Race & Chase" set when I was a kid. I mean who wouldn't want one after adverts like this?

Anyway, I would look through my mum's mail order catalogue and wishing I could have one. It wasn't really the racing that appealed, although the weekly Saturday fix of The Dukes of Hazard certainly made this appealing, I wanted to know how the cars spun around. Well, after explaining this to the owner, I got to try the police car.

Matchbox Race and Chase Police car

But I couldn't make it spin! 

It seems that the Race & Chase controllers had an extra button on the top. When pressed this reversed the polarity of the power initially making the car shoot backward. On reaching the corner with extended edges, it carried on straight until momentum caused it to whip around and point the right way. Very ingenious - knowing how it works you can see what's happening in the video.

In more conventional models, the huge variety of cars on sale, and the level of detail now on RTR models impresses me. I think these Carrrera cars are 1:24th rather than 1:32nd but the (slightly) smaller scale versions look just as good.

Carrera cars

Or if you prefer hand-built, then one guy was merrily making all sorts of things run on slots, including these rather nice scratchbuilt models.

Scratchbuilt vintage racers

If all this wasn't enough, entry includes access to both the Leyland museum and new (to me) Jaguar collection. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

KMBC Lifeboat day 2017

Moored boats

Last Saturday, I spent 3 hours in a car park. Well, more specifically, parking cars for the KMBC annual lifeboat day. I had my hi-viz jacket to protect me from the chilly wind and an RNLI baseball cap so I looked quite the part.

This means I saw a lot of boats briefly through the back windows of cars. By the time I decided that pretty much everyone who was coming had arrived, and some of them had already left, the boats were on the water.

Shannon retrieval system

One model that aroused my interest more than most was a scratchbuild retrieval system for the newest boat in the RNLI fleet - the Shannon. This amazing waterproof tractor and long trailer combination makes for a really striking model and not one you'll find on the shelf in kit form any time soon! 

While boats are the main interest, the ancillary equipment is far harder to build and yet just as fascinating. The boat can be hailed up the channel on the trailer and then the whole lot spun around ready to be re-deployed quickly. An amazing bit of engineering.

Gillis Gullbransson

Shows are very handy ways to find out details for a future build too. I bought one of these German lifeboats in kit form recently at a bargain price. I'd seen another members model and liked it a lot jumped at the chance to pick up the kit. Now I have a pretty good idea how the mechanical and electronic bits can be fitted in. All I need to do is fit the building into my schedule. That and work out why I bought an little RNLI bucket...