Monday, February 28, 2011

Airfix GMC Truck

Rooting through my pile of kits I found an Airfix kit for a wartime GMC CCKW 353 Truck. Not my normal kind of thing but you might be surprised to know it's not the first time I've built one. Not this kit, but this prototype. My friend, Chris Mead, has a layout called "Overlord" which shows part of a dockyard in the run up to D-Day. On the quayside there are lots of tanks, which people get very excited about, and lots of trucks which they mostly ignore.

Since the layout is 40 feet long, there are quite a lot of trucks and I suspect that most of the people Chris knows have built a model or two for him. Normally the GMC comes from a Hasegawa kit and I'll be honest and say it's not the best moulded thing out there. However needs must and I've built a few, even converting one to a rail mounted shunter.

GMC CCKW-35x Medium TruckSeeing and Airfix kit for the same prototype I wondered if it would be any better. And sometimes I want to do no more than stick a plastic kit together which is why it joined the pile.

Construction starts with the chassis and what a beast it is. The truck has 6-wheel drive and the kit includes all the shafts and stuff to make this look like it works.

Everything fits reasonably although I felt some of the location aides could have been slightly better moulded. The fuel tank and box beside have pegs that fit in a tapered slot in the frames rather than a hole. The suspension is a bit fiddly too but that's more a result of the prototype than the model. Build in stages and let things set seems to be the best plan. Or build it all in one go and plonk a bit of lead on top before the solvent hardens to try and make sure all the wheels set touching the deck.

GMC Chassis

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Did The King's Speech get it right ?

By this time tomorrow, we'll know how well the film "The Kings's Speech" did at the Oscars. I saw the film 3 times (as a projectionist so partly looking over the top of a machine and wondering if it was lined on the screen properly rather than following the plot) and it deserves all the praise heaped on it.

Except in one area.

During scene where Bertie (soon to be KG6) is talking to Lionel (his speech therapist, not the model train producer), he fiddles with a model aeroplane that one of Lionel's children is half way through building. The King-to-be confesses that he had always wanted to make models but his father had said that he collected stamps, his son would do the same.

Anyway, the models hanging from the ceiling are clearly carved from bits of wood but the one in Colin Firth's hands isn't. As a model making anorak, I can see it is injection moulded plastic. No schoolchild would have carved the canvas sags between the ribs of the bi-plane top wing so well. Even if he had wanted to, he'd have had to use a hardwood rather than the more common balsa or obechi to get that level of detail.

So, the producers used a plastic kit, but is that right ?

Well, according to Arthur Ward's book "Celebrating 50 years of the greatest plastic kits in the world", the first Frog "Penguins" range included a Gloster Gladiator in the range in the 1937/38 catalogue and as that is the same era the film is set, it it just conceivable that the kids could have been assembling such a model. However the material the model was moulded in was cellulose acetate rather than polystyrene so would it have exhibited the same fine detail ? Even if it could, was mould making as sophisticated art then as it later became ?

Bertie proceeds to stick the wing to the rest of the place with some glue from an open pot. That would be appropriate for a wooden model where the glue is animal bone or even flour based, but simply wouldn't work for a plastic kit. The correct alternative might not have worked in the dramatic context though.

I suspect that the production team cheated and just bought a modern Airfix kit assuming that no one would notice. I did and if I'm right, I reckon those Oscars should be handed back !

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Muffin, lifeboat and cutting board

Bear and Muffin

Regular readers will remember that a couple of weeks ago I announced that I would be selling my old cutting board. It was slightly famous thanks to some magazine appearances, and completely knackered which is why I was getting rid of it. The plan was that some of the money would be used for a muffin, as seen above, with the rest going to the RNLI collecting box at my local model shop.

The board duly appeared on eBay and at the end of the week was won by Matt Dawson. He not only paid up for it, he generously donated a few more quid for the lifeboats. Thanks Matt, this review is dedicated to you.

Chocolate Muffin
Supplier: Pumpkin Cafe, Platform 1, Leamington Spa Station
Cost: £1.79

How many ways can a baker rework the traditional muffin recipe ?

Loads. He can produce appley ones or lemon versions or something with blueberries in, but at the end of the day (about 6:30am for bakers) he knows that only people who knit their own tofu buy anything other than chocolate. Let's not kid ourselves, muffins can only help you lose weight as part of a calorie controlled diet. One that involves eating a muffin and not much else for the rest of the day. They aren't a health food no matter how many blue squishy lumps are in there. We want chocolate with chocolate lumps in it.

Which is why I bowed to the inevitable and chose the dark brown version from those on offer. Once I'd parted with the cash, I was the proud owner of just of 120g of cake.

Just like any layer cake, there is a strong temptation to split a muffin in half for consumption. I could ignore this but that would make this a rubbish review. Therefore the top section was pulled away from the base and separated cleanly. The spongy bit was nice and springy but perhaps not as moist as other makes. It peeled away from the case cleanly enough that no embarrassing nibbling at the paper would be needed to consume every last crumb.

The top was crunchy but not burnt in any way - you don't want a burnt crust after all.

Very pleasent and probably big enough to last from Leamington to Hatton. Might be a bit peckish by Acocks Green though...


Donating moneyAnyway, with the muffin disposed of, I trotted down to my local model shop, Classic Train & Motor Bus of George Street, Leamington.

Fighting my way inside, it's a tiny shop and there were customers, I extracted the boat shaped collecting tin from the counter. Sadly it's not one of those where you drop the money in and the lifeboat launches and rings a bell (remember those, fabulous things) but for my purposes this didn't matter.

The fiver was posted with a little difficulty into the "notes" hole followed by the coinage into the slot. Then the tin (can you call it a tin when it's made of plastic ?) was then returned to the counter even fuller of money than before.

So, a result for everyone. Matt has a new family heirloom whose value will increase sufficient that he needn't worry about saving for a pension any more*. I have eaten a muffin and the RNLI have a few more quid to spend hauling people out of the sea.

Note: This wasn't an entirely frivolous activity. I wanted to see if I could generate some traffic to this blog from the eBay posting. The answer to this was: not much. About a dozen visits. Still, it was worth a try.

*assuming he doesn't mind spending his old age in poverty anyway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

165DS Buffers

BuffersWith my spares box unable to produce anything that looked sufficiently like a 165DS buffer, I had only two options; go and find something better, or modify what I had to hand.

Finding better buffers means, in my opinion, going to a show and looking at trade stands. Teh Interweb is all very well and good for big items, but the thousands of little castings available never get photographed properly so you end up ordering several packets in the hope of getting what you want. I'm building an industrial, not a GWR standard beast so my needs are hardly mainstream !

Being a bit of a bodger, and having some basic brass buffers that looked nearly there, I decided to see what I could do to modify them. The problems were that the heads weren't big enough and the bases should have a square plate.

My material of choice was "shim brass", basically very thin brass sheet. It's cropped up in railway modelling since the earliest days of the hobby and I've always seen it's use as the mark of a quality model maker. Old magazines tell of the greatest craftsmen knocking up stunning models from brass shim. Which is why I bought some and then never found a use for it.

However, with heads on the buffers already, anything I added to get the extra face size needed to be thin. It also had to be round and so I searched for a punch rather than try to cut perfect circles. After a lot of digging in the toolbox I found a multi-headed leather punch. Sadly it wouldn't go through the metal, worse, none of the punches was big enough.

On the desk beside the computer was a normal office hole punch. In desperation I tried it and was rewarded with nice round holes in the brass sheet. Inside the punch were bent disks. Flattening these out I reckoned they looked about right for the buffer heads I required. Typical - spend two hours looking for the right tool and the thing you need is right beside you...

The buffer heads and new faces were tinned and then soldered together. The edges were tweaked to produce a convex face with some pliers and then it was finished with files and emery paper. The results looked OK.

The bases were easier. More brass cut to a rectangular shape with scissors and drilled to accept the spike at the back of the buffer. I didn't try to represent the bolt heads although I wonder about some plastic cubes superglued in place to do this. Maybe later.

So - in the end a simple and reasonably quick modification. Money saved, spares box depleted a little and best of all the model moves forward.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New tyres for a Thunder Tiger fishing boat

Thunder Tiger fishing boat

In our fleet of radio controlled model boats are a couple of ready to sail vessels from Thunder Tiger. They are a fantastic way of getting on the water for not too much money and very little effort. There are cheaper boats for sale, but these come with proper radio control equipment so you can sail with your friends without frequency clashes. The quality of construction is excellent too - decent fibreglass hulls topped with wood and plastic superstructures.

Of course being RTR, there are plenty of identical models out there and so people have started modifying theirs. It's interesting that one of the most popular photos I uploaded from Brighton Modelworld is of a repainted and detailed boat the same as the one I have.

Looking at my boat on the water, I quite like the colour scheme. It's bright and modern, just like the boat. What I hated more than anything though were the perfunctory tyres acting as fenders. On a 1:24 scale model, they were just too tiny. More like wheelbarrow tyres than the second hand car ones that would have been used in real life !

At the show, Mac's Mouldings came to the rescue with some nicely cast resin versions of a more suitable size. For a mere 50p each I now had some decent size, if slightly solid, fenders. A quick spray with primer and then some satin black car spray and the modelling was done. Raiding my Mum's sewing supplies for suitably thick thread to tie them on with (I do have something in the modelling stocks, but can I find it ?) and a little nifty knot work (Hint: Superglue soaked into the "rope" sticks it together and is easier than tying a knot. Unless you are a 1:24 scale boy scout of course) finished the job. As you can see in the comparison shot above, the larger tyre looks a lot better than the original tiddler.

Now, where can I get some suitable fishing net ?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bufferbeam curve ball

BufferbeamJust when you think you can see the end of a project, the kit fights back. With the 165DS, this turned out to be with the buffer beam.

First - there are no buffers supplied. Now I'm not particularly fussy in this area. There are plenty of people for whom there can be no compromise; but for me, if they look about right, I'll live with it. However in this case I've got to make some decisions. Obviously I searched through the kit bits and the packaging first to save myself this but no, the kit is buffer free. That's the trouble with weirdo scales.

Second, Kadee couplings have been specified. While these originate from a country that can't spell colour (for US readers, it has U in the middle of it. Yes it does. The Queen says so.), they are pretty good if a little expensive. Were you to originate from a country that can't spell grey (US readers note it's E not A. The Queen says this is right too.) then they would be absolutely what you want since they look just like those things in the middle of the buffer beam on your countries trains. I know this, which is why they are fitted on my On30 stock. On UK stock, there are people who use them, but not many.

Digging out some No.5 Kadees, described as "'ole reliables" I have wondered just where they are to go in the nice, deep, industrial buffer beam. Worse, the box behind the coupling will be in the way of the bolts that attach the frames to the body.

So, there are some challenges ahead. I have found some buffers which only need a lot of alteration so these might help. Looking around teh Interweb I might have found a solution to the coupling issue. Parts have been ordered, I'll let you know what happens when they arrive.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An unusual material

DB4 Tractor

Amongst all the goodies on display at Brighton this weekend was this fascinating beast. It is, as any tractor aficionado will recognise, a David Brown tracked tractor. Those who can read will spot that it is a DB4 built in 1942 and think "That's a good model". Scale appears to be about 1/32nd.

The real surprise is the material used to make the model - clay.

According to the blurb beside it, the clay is worked and then flattened to dry until it has the texture of leather. Then the parts are cut out and fitted. The results are surprisingly sharp. There must be a real skill to doing this as I've never seen such clean lines on an earthenware item before.

The display showed a number of models, sadly I didn't grab as many pictures as I should have done. The paintwork on some of the others was also excellent with very good weathering.

All this makes me wonder what other unusual materials are out there and due for rediscovery ? Is anyone carving model cars out of marble ? Papier Machie locomotives ?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brighton Modelworld 2011

Daddy Long-LegsIt's a looong way from Leamington to Brighton, Even further when it's hammering down with rain. But we were determined to go and see the Daddy Long-Legs.

Brighton ModelWorld is a very unusual exhibition in the UK. Travel to the continent and visit something like Modelspoor or any other large show and you'll see a similar show though. It's not just trains. Or boat. Or aeroplanes. Or Meccano. Or plastic kits. Or dolls houses. Or radio control cars. Or sci-fi. Or Lego. Or model engineering. You get all of them.

For me this is fantastic. I saw boat exhibits and traders. I like to see some model engineering and a few plastic kits too. I especially like full size Daleks and even though I pretend not too, can raise some interest in a big of Lego. Just don't tell anyone.

Even half an hour after the show opened there was a healthy queue to get in. This wasn't helped by the design of the centre which has a revolving door on the entrance. Just what you need to a high traffic area ! Inside it's no better as the show is a real maze to explore. There are decent sized halls but finding them is challenging. It is worth it though.

The first goodies we found were the model boat exhibits, or at least some of them. Well strictly speaking I had bought 3 diecast VW vans by this point but the first big stop and chat was on a boat club stand where at the back was a model of the Waverley next to the Brede lifeboat. My Dad has a 6ft Waverley to refurbish and I have a Brede which has just been joined by a second one. Lots of photos were taken and we discovered just how much the paddle steamer had altered over the years. He wants to produce a 1970's boat which means the lifeboats will be different from the one on display.

UndertakersThere were some cracking model boats on display but we moved on the the railways. The main feature was an incredible G gauge American mining town. I think it was around 40 feet long and unlike most garden scale exhibition railways, a nice model with well done cameo scenes. The public loved it even though operation was basically several trains following each other around a continuous run.

Next door was a 7mm scale tramway layout by members of the Tramway & Light Railway Society. Tram layouts have always tended to lag behind their railway counterparts in display terms but this one certainly doesn't. The street scene was beautifully modelled and aside from an oddball half wagon against the backscene, free of gimmicky scenes.

Lego Hanna-Barbera CharactersOne surprise was the amount of Lego courtesy of The Brickish Association. On one had there was a enormous aircraft carrier, on the other a very nice mosaic showing the Brighton Pavilion being built as we watched by a couple of very well organised members working out of tubs of colour plastic bricks. Fair play to these guys as they really are taking a children's toy and showing what a grown up can do with it. I mean, I might play with toy trains and boats, but at least I can claim the parts, and cost, are better than the kids are getting. They have the same raw materials but create some fascinating models. I loved the SRN4 hovercraft and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.

War DalekIf robots were your thing then there were many varieties of Dalek including one of the stupid new Fisher-Price variants. Happily though, most were proper old-school versions. Obviously they were all housed on the ground floor... The R2D2 was nice too but rather shoved in a corner where it was difficult to get a photo.

Trade was like the display, mixed. You could have model engineering supplies on one hand, model boats and fittings (like some for a 1:12 Brede) elsewhere and lot of railways. I loved the juxtaposition of Freestone Model Accessories card buildings with Macs Mouldings resin boat parts.

As I said, if you like lots of different types of model then this is a really good day out. I do, so it was.

See more photos on Flickr

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ideas to get da kidz building models

It's nearly half term and the countries youth will be staring into X-Wii-Box screens or hanging around local shopping centres. "Why can't they do something useful ?" will be the refrain, especially when you try to get something to eat in McDonalds and find everyone under 16 for a radius of ten miles is hanging out in there under the misapprehension that this is "cool"*.

What they should be doing is developing model making skills so they become the next generation of railway/boat modellers. Someone to take over when the old guard have slipped off into their dotage.

But how ?

Well, they could do worse than be  pointed at the nearest ModelZone shop. They are running events over the half term. I quite fancy being taught how to build Airfix kits but am probably far too old now. I know you are probably bemoaning the loss of the eccentric local model shop and the appearance of a Tesco for model makers, but you didn't buy your big ticket items from the old shop did you ? You just hung around talking and drinking tea purchasing the odd packet of track pins so shut up. Or move to Leamington, where we have an excellent shop !

Oh, and the photo shows someone taking part in the Stormtroppers event., I don't think that's what the staff wear to teach da Kidz. It might be a good idea though.

*Note: Obviously I wouldn't know what constitutes "cool" but I'm pretty certain that it isn't loitering in the only employment opportunity you're likely to get in your lifetime while too young to work there. Even a nerd like me wouldn't hang at the local council, or a credit card company, or a quango yet I've since worked at all three.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Magic Cat Speedboat

Magic Cat model speedboat

The are bargains out there you know. A few weeks ago I picked this little speedboat up at our boat club auction for a fiver.

For those not in the know (how could you ?), a Magic Cat Speedboat is just under a foot long, features an odd (to me) pistol grip controller and a water-cooled motor. The package comes with everything apart from a 9V battery to power the transmitter. Basically, it's a very small, very fast boat. Since I don't really do very fast boats I thought it would be interesting to give it a go.

On the water you squeeze the trigger and the boat sticks its nose in the air, it's arse deep in the water and shoots off at speed. Steering seems to be reasonably responsive even when it's travelling at 45 degrees. Of course you can run slowly in which case the little driver (there isn't one but just imagine) will see the land and not just the sky. There is no reverse but the vessel is so small should you get to the bank, ripples from other boats will bounce you around quickly enough. Ripples are bad news, any crew would quickly become sea-sick as the boat bobs around like crazy.

Having driven the boat I'm not sure what to do with it next. I think a colourful paint job would be a good idea. There is another in the club so maybe we could race although I think a tight track would be better than open water - far too easy just to open her up and let rip even on the corners.

We did try for a shot on the water but it's too fast. A video was a whole lot easier !

Buy a Magic Cat from here although you can see what a good deal I got !

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gaugemaster Hand Held Controller repair.

Guagemaster Hand Held ControllerOne of the Gaugemaster hand held controllers I use to run our layouts developed an interesting fault at Peterborough. When you shut it off, the loco suddenly got a jolt of half power. Not for long, a fraction of a second, but enough to be annoying. I just swapped over to the spare and put it down to overheating.

A few weeks ago, when testing the layout in advance of the trip to Southampton I tried it again. Same problem.

How did I fix this ?

Simple - I rang Gaugemaster and they said "Pop it in the post". I did and today, around 2 weeks later, I received a box as show above. The knob on the controller is a lot stiffer so I suspect at the very least the potentiometer has been replaced. In the box was an invoice.

For £0.00

That's right, Gaugemaster controllers come with a lifetime guarantee. They fixed my battered, well used controller for free. They didn't even charge for postage. Which is why I always buy Gaugemaster controllers. And recommend that you do too.

Cutting board auction update: 5 bids now - things are hotting up !

Thursday, February 17, 2011

165DS Roof on

165DS Progress

Progress on the Ruston continues. The roof has been fitted to the cab. This is a bigger step than it ought to be.

The original plans for the model had included a removable cab lid but trying to persuade the half-etched component to retain the bends while lose proved fruitless. Ideas around making a separate sub-frame to attach it to foundered when I realised the bottom roof edge would be below the top of the front windows making the design rather more complicated than I fancied.

The problem is the join here has to be perfect. Nothing else will do. Gaps at the top of the cab sides would look terrible. In the end I soldered the roof at one ens and tacked it into place as I bent it around the front and back. Even then I was pulling the brass to try and stretch it so it made the other end. As you would expect from a well designed kit, it just fits.

Cutting board auction update: 197 views, 7 watchers and 1 bid. Come on, you know you want it !

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Airfix Jet Engine

Jet engine interior

I don't like flying. As far as I am concerned, it's not natural. But if I do have to get on a 'plne, then I want it to be fitted with something more sophisticated than a couple of windmills under the wings. I want jets. My Father though, thinks they won't catch on and prefers something with propellers.

None of this explains why my Dad and I were given an Airfix jet engine for Christmas, but we were. And it has finally been assembled.

First up, this is a big kit. At around a foot long, I've seen smaller jets powering model aircraft. Assembly involves no glue at all (in an Airfix kit ? Sacrilege) just lots of small screws, thankfully spares are provided as they had a tendency to fall off the bench.

Most of the parts are huge lumps of plastic but in the middle you get the guts of the engine. Basically this is lots of bits with blades threaded on to a central spindle. Jet engines are pretty simple beasts - air in the front, heat it up and thrust comes out of the back - so the build isn't difficult at all.

The only problems were that the instructions are rubbish for the wiring. Get hold of someone who can wire up a switch and light bulb (any 6 year old) and you;ll be fine. Basically all the red wires are twisted together and all the black ones (to the other black, not the red obviously) and there is a switch. How this got through proof reading is a mystery as there are duplications and at one point a wire is attached to the battery box using heat shrink cable when you've already done this with a proper bolt. If your brain is on though, there shouldn't be a problem. I'll admit to clipping it all together before we really got stuck in to construction just be sure.

The compressor stuff (in the photo) also needs to rotate freely. By taking the red cone off the back and shoving the spindle back and forth once everything is in place you can put enough lash in to get really free turning. If there is any friction or bits clipping each other then it won't turn under power.

Turning is achieved by blowing air on the front blades. Very clever and you even get the right noises.

As a modeling project, this is a bit limited. Assembly is easy - probably about a hour or so's work and once you've played for a bit it's not awfully exciting. The mouldings are excellent, especially the clear ones. It's very good for a science project though, or just if you like unusual objects.

Just to prove we made it work, watch the short film below.

Airfix Jet Engine for sale on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Accomodating chips

Chip holeThe Ruston 165DS locomotive will eventually use some of this new fangled DCC power. I don't really understand it but know enough to realise that somewhere the model will have to accommodate a chip. Not one of those excessively yellow ones from the chippe near my local either...

That's easier said than done with a tiny model. Ideally the bonnet should be filled with lead to improve traction and road holding. That leaves the cab as home for the microprocessor. Fine but it's a solid box butted up against the back of the bonnet.

There was nothing for it but before I fitted the parts to the footplate to break out the piercing saw and hack my way in. I don't know how big the chip will be but if they fit in N gauge locos, I reckon that I've left enough of a gap. If not, the hole can be enlarged with a file.

The is a common problem with locomotive kits. They just don't think DCC. You can't blame the designers - many models date from the era when "Command Control" meant Zero 1. Besides, if you can build a kit, then finding a home for a chip isn't likely to be beyond you. For most locos it's not going to be a problem anyway as there will be plenty of space.  Possibly more than in an RTR because the mechanisms tend to be smaller and etched bodies are thinner than plastic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Marking plasticard

Plasticard lineThere's an old carpenters rule: "Measure twice. Cut once."

For embossed plasticard I measure, and then practise my cut with a pencil. That way I can be sure that the knife is likely to go in the right place.

Embossed plasticard can be a pig to cut. The very lumps and bumps we want it for will cause the blade to jump around if you don't cut very lightly for the first few passes. Again, it's a whole lot easier if you have a pencil line to align the steel ruler with. And don't try to do it freehand, except perhaps if you are cutting along the line of brick courses.

And even then a pencil line is a a good idea. If I don't use one I get lost half way along the sheet. You might think that it's difficult to get lost working ins straight line but when truing up the bottom of a sheet, I've managed it. Maybe I'm just special !

Cutting board sale update: We have a bidder ! And 5 people watching. Looks good so far. Go and have a look for yourself.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Slightly famous modelling mat for sale...

Old cutting boardLast week, I mentioned that I'd just bought a new self healing cutting board as my current one was looking more than a bit tatty. Some wag commented that I ought to put the old one on eBay.

So I have.

Here is your chance to own a very minor bit of model railway history. If you are the winning bidder, I'll even sign it if you want.

But what to do with the money ? Should I spend it on a yacht, or wild women and song ? No, dear reader, I thought of you and since this blog is about model railways and boats with regular, and popular, mentions of cake, my plan is this:

The first £1.79 of the sale price will be spent at Leamington Spa railway station on a muffin. This will be photographed and reviewed here. Any extra cash will be taken to my local model railway shop and poured into the RNLI collecting tin on the counter.

A win for everyone I think. Now go away to eBay and get bidding !

Saturday, February 12, 2011

1957 Beetle

1957 BeetleMy latest project needs a VW. The first choice would have been a split screen pickup but as I couldn't find the one I have, the next best option was this nice early Beetle.

1957 was an important year for the Bug. It saw the abandonment of the oval rear window in favour of a traditional rectangular shape. Since the project is sort of end of 50's this means it will fit in perfectly.

The model is die cast of indeterminate parentage but probably Schuco. The scale is 3.5mm to the foot rather than the correct 4mm, but as the prototype is a small car I reckon no one will notice.

I did make a few changes to the model as supplied; the body has been sprayed with matt varnish, the glazing was junked and re-done with Krystal Klear to get rid of the 3 inch wide chrome, wing mirrors picked out in chrome and the running board rubbers painted black. You can't rely on manufacturers to get everything right. On the front of a sloping wing (pre-1968) Beetle are some little vents, one of which is in front of the horn. The painter has dotted these with orange as though they were indicators - of course these are on top of the wings. It IS possible to have flashers in this position but that tends to be on California look cars when the wing top lumps would follow the rest of the chrome to the bin. The bumpers would likely be replaced by nerf-bars at the same time.

This might sound a lot of work and probably strikes some as ruining a perfectly good die-cast model, but it's my model and a really hate that shiny paint job so that alone makes it worth it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Telephone boxes in Hornby Magazine

This month I get the chance to do an old favorite for Hornby Magazine - telephone boxes. I've always loved them and contend that if you want to improve your photography, there is nothing better than trying to take the best shot you can of every red box you find. Because the main feature is the same in each image, you have to concentrate on composing the rest carefully to make the best of it.

Anyway, the photos in the article are interesting. Just how big did the designer blow up my models ?!?!  The individual grains in the silver paint on the modern box show up in a picture that must be 20 times life size ! It looks surprisingly good though. Sadly a couple of pictures of varnish and glue have been squashed a bit but you get the point.

Elsewhere I've got a few reviews in of weathering spray, a book and a picker-upper tool. And there is something on building crowd barriers for our exhibition.

Bad news though - there are pictures of the new RTR CoBo and so I better get a move on with my kit built version or everyone will think I just bought it...

Hornby Magazine Website

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shunter steps

Shunter steps
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
On the 165DS, the cab steps are a lovely bit of kitmaking.

Each comes as three parts - two steps and a back. The back has half etched lines to locate the steps. At the back edge of each tread is a half etched section.

Assembly is simple, fold the half etch at the back of the tread up. Tin it. Slop loads of flux into the line on the back. Push the step into this and heat. The result is a surprisingly neat and accurate fit.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Removing letters from rolling stock

PO WagonHarry from Canada asks: Do you know know a good way to get letters off rolling stock ?

Excellent timing Harry. The very same question has been exercising the minds to be found on the Double O Gauge Association mailing list (you have to be a member to join but it is worth it).

The answer is, there is no "one size fits all" answer. It all depends how the manufacturer printed the lettering.

On Bachmann stock, for example, a cotton bud (Q-Tip for US readers) soaked in turps or white spirit will probably work. I know I've weathered locos with a wash of thinned paint and looked on in horror as the stupid numbers vanish.

Acetone (nail varnish remover) will also do the job. Again, apply sparingly and test on an inconspicuous part of the model first.

For more stubborn print, T-cut (a mild abrasive car polish) or Brasso allow you to polish the stuff away. The resulting bodyside will be shiny though so you'll need to varnish the model after re-numbering.

Finally, I favour the fibreglass pencil. This tool allows burnishing the numbers or letters. The photo shows a PO wagon I attacked with one to remove most of the letters, just leaving traces as though they had weathered off. It takes a little while and can leave a shiny surface but is very controllable and at least is dry so you can't drip anywhere.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Cutting board

Old cutting board
I knew it was time for a new cutting board when at the Southampton Model Railway Exhibition - but it wasn't until I compared the old and new boards I realised just how bad the old one was !

Most modellers own a self-healing cutting board nowadays. The rubbery surface is great as it stops whatever you are attacking with a knife from slipping around. The surface doesn't show the slices either so you are usually working on something flat rather than a wooden board covered in nicks and bumps.

Mine shows the results of attempts at using a bow pen, the little lines around the edge, when I need to see how wide the line produced will be. I normally have more luck on the board than the model, perhaps I should paint my models with rubber rather than paint !

Of course there is the normal dirt from weathering powders and spilt paint - I know, I should do this work on a wooden board and not rubber but sometimes I can't be bothered. At least I remember to move it when soldering. Most of the time anyway.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Going around the (sharp) bend

On30 test trainAfter seeing some tight curves on an On30 layout at Southampton, a little test track was in order for my Father and I's own model railway layout in that scale.

He found a bit of Peco flexi-track and bent it to a 17 inch diameter curve, held in place with drawing pins to a softboard sheet. The width of curve was forced on us by the width of the wood, not some desire to get locos around corners.

The test wagon ran OK so we powered it up with some croc clips and an old H&M controller. Amazingly, the locos all seemed to run fine. Even the Porter pictured which I worried about thanks to it's long wheelbase if you include the pony truck.

The only thing we have that doesn't like this curve is a Bachmann Shay and even this should be placated by an extra inch or so (as the actress said to the bishop).

OK, so the couplings won't join up on the curves but that won't be a problem. Better still, looking at the plan, we won't need curves this tight after all. Still, it's nice to know.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Seeds of Change

As you are reading this blog then you will be familiar with Phil Parker the writer on model railways, boats and even aged VW's.

However for various reasons I've branched out with a friend into fiction. We've written a book, called "Seeds of Change". It's very funny (oh yes it is - think a mix of Tom Sharpe and chick-lit) and now we are looking for a publisher. Sadly the ones who've published me so far aren't interested in this sort of thing.

Anyway, here's the back of the dust jacket:

The BMW 3 series pulled into the underground car park beneath one of the classier apartment blocks in town. Kate Smith, managing director of KOD Associates, was tired but instead of leaping out of the car she turned off the ignition and stared into space for a moment to take stock of her life. Great job – tick, great flat – tick, great wardrobe – tick but something was missing.

Kate Smith, a woman with the world at her Jimmy Choo clad feet has almost everything – a successful change management company and an impressive wardrobe. There are just a few things standing between Kate and global domination – including a business partner, Gareth Forthington-Williams, who holds the business purse strings.

Along comes HIA – the Horticultural Investigation Agency, a motley collection of scientists and ground staff whose enforced unemployment the Minister, Sir Desmond Barrington MP, hopes will give him a leg up within the government.

Can Kate and the team at KOD survive closing down HIA to keep the Ministry happy and give Kate her financial independence. As the boffins fight back, moles surface, giant cabbages take suicide leaps and the entire cast of Friends are rampaging in the fields. It’s every man, woman and legume for themselves!

As the HIA staff leave her wardrobe in tatters, Kate has one other problem to deal with – her old flame. Can she save her precious shoe collection and get her man?

By now you are gagging to know more, well don't worry, there is a website:

where you'll be able to read about how the book came about and get regular updates on our efforts to get it turned into a printed form, and not just a load of pages from ProntaPrint !

And of course, if you have any contacts or can help get us into the bookshops, then please get in touch.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

165DS Progress

165DS Progress

I've not mentioned the Ruston 165DS locomotive for a a little while but I've not been idle. The model now has handrails around the bonnet. This and the cab have been mounted on the footplate below which various boxes have sprouted.

Aligning the cab is made easier by 4 holes in the floor and footplate through which you can fix 0.5mm wire. I soldered the wires in the footplate and then slid the cab in place. A simple but effective system.

The same thing can be done with the bonnet but I didn't bother. With the cab in place as long as the nose is equally spaced between the sandbox fillers then all is OK. I just tacked it in place, ran a square over it and then soldered wherever I could. Along the front edge 100 degree (lower than normal) solder was used along with lots of flux. There's a bit of detail I don't want to flood and several etchings that could easily come unsoldered if I have to use too much heat.

And my delicate fingers holding all this metal as it gets warm.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Industrial Birmingham

Warehouse TowerA couple of weeks ago I went looking for a building in Birmingham. To be specific, this building which used to be a warehouse for builders products. It has a wonderful tower complete with Munsters/Bates Motel style roof. I thought I wanted it for a future project but as it turns out, the building wouldn't be right for what I have in mind.

However, the trip did give me the opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a while - go for a stroll around the industrial areas of south Brum, often seen in the BBC Series "Hustle" pretending to be London, and take some photos. Seen from the train there are some fantastic and very modelable buildings on offer. At ground level this proves to be the case. I particularly like anything with a precast concrete window lintel - 'cos it's a lot easier to build than those with curved tops !

Anyway, it's Friday so why not have a look at the full set of pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Apple eating youth

Boy eating appleFor the On30 project model railway I need some American figures. At the weekend I had another look at the range from Falcon Figures becuase he has introduced some suitable.

The picture shows the teenage eating an apple. Thanks to a lack of cash machine and the fact the things cost 4 quid each I had to chose between this and a child bawling his eyes out. I went for this one because for some reason I can't explain, he just looks American. Or at least how I imagine an American child would look like before they all started wearing baseball caps and box-fresh trainers. Maybe it's too many cowboy films...

Anyway, the figure comes as an unpaited pewter model. This is a lot harder than whitmetal as I discovered when trying to remove the mould line on his hat. I don't normally prime figures but wonder if I should have done so this time. Paint coverage is OK so I'll live with it for the time being but might change my mind for future models.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Buffer scene


At the station on Wednesday, I spotted this very modelable scene.

Firstly, you have a buffer stop - the Peco version would probably do the job for this although since all the rails it's made up from are straight I can't see a big problem with scratch building. The paint job is novel - did someone have too much time on their hands ? Notice the red lights and electrical trunking on the face. The siding is unused by multiple units which don't have light-squashing buffers.

Behind is the cleaners store. There is a big plastic bin (Skaledale) and a pile of buckets, jerry cans a other bottles. On the top of the bin is a mop and beside it a hose. You'd need to scratchbuild these but that's easy too.

Behind, notice all the tubular handrails on steps and the edge of the platform. Most of these are down to modern Health & Safety requirements but I some are to restrain badly parked cars to the tarmac and not into the space for trains.

This isn't a big scene and on a large layout you probably wouldn't notice it, but I like this sort of modelling and would be happy to while away a few hours recreating it if I had a suitable layout.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Further thoughts from Southampton

Yesterdays post was written under the influence of still being tired. It probably wasn't the most fulsome or coherent of posts. Mind you I did include celebrity muffin pictures (chew on that Google) so it wasn't all bad. However I had some more thoughts:

PortchullinYou can do model railway sounds properly.

Watching Portchullin, the diesels (Class 25s I think) sounded really good. It's not that I actually know the difference between a Suzler engine and Deltic (no really, I wouldn't. If it's not air-cooled then I probably won't be able to tell) it was that the volume had been turned down so you heard it as though the engines from the sort of distance you would be at if they appeared 4mm scale. The effect was enhanced by being in a quiet-ish room. Or it would have been if there hadn't been an American layout bellowing from the other side of the room.

Haven Hill JunctionTight curves and locomotives do mix

You can get an On30 locomotive around a 9 inch radius curve. In fact if it's a 4-wheel locomotive, then 6 inch radius will be sufficient. This is important for our future American narrow gauge project. Now we know how wide it has to be for a continuous run.

Wibdenshaw scrap trainScrap metal doesn't have to include an Airfix Pug

No really. There was a fantastic scrap metal train on Wibdenshaw. Each wagon was full of unidentifiable bits of metal. Just like the real thing. I looked but I couldn't spot any Pug, or bits of die-cast road vehicle. Or obvious bits of etched kit leftovers. The only oddity was a model flamecut cabside number that I suspect may have been included to wind up a member of the team who built it !