Monday, October 31, 2011

Fitting the track - Part 1

Tracklaying Part 1

Because I'm rubbish at scale drawing stuff, even with the aid of a program to do it for me, I didn't actually know for certain if the track plan I hoped to use, would fit on the baseboard. No matter, with a micro layout and nice, easy to build PCB track, you can just make up your points and try it out !

The major piece of pointwork is a crossover and my Dad had already built this for Foxdale so we just plonked it on the new board to see how it looked.

The answer is, not bad at all.

Of course it helps to have sensible (read: easy to meet) design criteria. This is a test track so there needs to be enough space for a loco to traverse all the track. Headshunts capable to holding Caledonia and a wagon will be fine. The runround loop needs to be long enough for a coach and perhaps a wagon as well. In real life, Manx stations are surprisingly long with 12 coach trains being common in the heyday of the line, not here. If you really want to go all prototype then I'll point out we are on the Foxdale line where single coach trains were more the thing.

Or I'll point out that this is a test track. More to the point, it's MY test track. So if you aren't happy, clear off and annoy someone else before I stab you with a soldering iron.

Sorry, back to the trackwork.

I think I'll move the siding point back to the other side of the board joint. Then we just need another point for the near end of the model and some track to join everything up. And some method of operating the points. Then I can start testing rolling stock !

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beatties - 1975

1975 BagThanks are due to Christopher Rabson for this bit of model railway archeology - a genuine Beatties carrier bag from 1975, an even more impressive find than my 1980's example.

Looking at the addresses on the front, I thought I recognised the High Holburn one as a ModelZone shop but according to Google, it's now  McDonalds. The model shop is down the road a bit at 202.

Or is it ?

A quick search online reveals that the ghost of Beatties still exists:

What's going on here ? Spooky.

Anyway, does anyone recognise any of the other addresses ? Are any of them hosting model making related shops or they all fast food joints ?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Aiming for accuracy

Hinge FittingA folding baseboard only works if when you unfold it the tracks align properly. Before anyone starts shouting about baseboard alignment devices they read about in MRJ once, forget it, we don't use them as demountable hinges are better. Anyway, I want this thing to fold which precludes the use of dowels, the name for things you are trying to remember.

The hinge/clasp combination seems pretty reliable anyway. All I had to do was set it up properly with the board tops nice and flat from the outset. The best way to do this I figured, was to do all the work joining the boards on a nice flat surface.

In an ideal world, this would be a surface plate as used by engineers but getting something big enough for a layout, even a micro one, would cost a fortune. Fortunately, the next best thing can be found in all house - the kitchen worktop.

It takes real skill to bend an inch thick-slab of melamine covered chipboard enough to be a problem and when we fitted the kitchen, I took pains to make sure this didn't happen for just this sort of occasion.

Anyway, a few minutes work saw everything screwed into place and I can now open and close the board with everything remaining in alignment. I wonder if this is the sort of thing the advertisers are thinking of when they ask "What do you do in your kitchen ? We'll design the perfect one for you.". Something tells me "Building toy trains" didn't figure in the brainstorming meeting, or would make it to the telly advert !

Friday, October 28, 2011

Putting a big baseboard in a small box

Folding Baseboard

Ta Daaa ! A folding baseboard - That's how I get a layout 148cm long into a box half that length.

Construction is simple enough. 6mm plywood cut to size by my friendly local wood shop. Stripwood from the mouldings rack in the same shop is fitted around the bottom edge. Some leftover 2 by 1 from the shed slots into the corners through holes cut in the ply. The folding is thanks to a pair of brass hinges from the leftover hinge drawer in the garage. Locking from a pair of brass catches - I had to buy these as we don't have to hand.

Woodwork is made much easier thanks to getting the ply cut and owning one of those cheap mitre saw things from a DIY shed. It's nice to be confident that the cuts are at 90 degrees in the softwood. I was keen to ensure the baseboard tops were level at the join, so spent a bit of time making the hinge supports as near the same height at possible. Those supports should allow me to fit low buildings (did I mention this test track will probably get some scenery) as long as they don't clash when the board folds.
Corner joint
I'm particularly chuffed with the corners which are strengthened by insetting the 2 by 1 by thinning it on two corners so it fits nicely. The horizontal cuts were performed on the mitre and the verticals in a vice using a hacksaw with a metal blade - the finer teeth are great for this sort of job as they don't tear the wood - then finishing with a chisel using techniques I picked up on the woodwork course I attended a couple of years ago. Cabinet makers will scoff but this is a step up for my tree hacking.
The whole lot fits in the box tightly. I could have done to allowed a few more mm over the width for those catches or found some that folded flatter, but it works so I'll not worry too much.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A new plastic box, a new layout.

Plastic BoxLast year I bought a plastic box and built a layout in it. At this years Model Engineering show, I bought two more boxes. Which can only mean one thing...

Layout 1 is being built for a reason - while working on the Foxdale project, I'm concerned that persuading the rolling stock to work as well as I would like will require lots of testing. Now I could use the layout but it's going to be 5ft long and quite wide so not ideal to have set up all the time. What I need is a test track.

So, the plan is to knock up something that will fit in the box. It will have plenty of points and some bends. If a loco or wagon runs around on it, then it will be considered fit for the main layout. We learnt the hard way when building Flockburgh that untried rolling stock and an untried layout do not make for harmonious or pleasant modelling. I reckon any time spent on this project will be more than saved on the main one.

Sadly, I will have to do something clever with the baseboard design as at 74cm long, the box isn't big enough for a run round loop, but I already have and idea how this is going to work.

Layout Plan

Talking of plans, this one was run up using AnyRail 4, which looks pretty good especially as you can download it for free with a few limitations. My effort isn't to scale but it is easy enough to pull scale track sections out of the pallete and plan away. It's certainly good fun for those who just want to daydream a train set.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The 2000th post !

On Saturday December 31st 2005, Phil's Workbench opened for business. Now, 6 years later I've reached the 2000th post. Who would have thought it ?

This means either that I've lots of interesting stuff to say, or too much time on my hands. I certainly don't want to try and work out just how much of my life I've spent hammering away at the keyboard !

Along the way, quite a bit of stuff has been built, some of it successfully and occasionally not. A few people have been helped with their modelling or repairing old cars. Hopefully some of it has even been entertaining. For those that have been reading for a long while, I hope you've enjoyed it. If you haven't, are you just bored at work ?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rail-ex Taunton: The adventure

Taunton School

"B****y hell, we are exhibiting at Hogwarts !" was my reaction as we pulled up to the school that Rail-ex is held in. Taunton school is apparently one of the best in the country and it's products will doubtless be running the country for years to come. It's certainly one of the most impressive halls we've exhibited in.

The show is held in the sports hall at the side of the building and takes place in two large rooms. We were in the bigger one and found it had been carpeted and nicely marked with the layout name on some masking tape. The allotted space looked a bit small as the end of our plot appeared to be against the back of the layout around the corner. Once set up, and with no sign of our neighbours, I left a business card with my phone number on our control panel in case there was a problem. My worry was that the space allowed was sufficient for the layout but not enough for a bunch of corpulent operators to wander about behind.

Another worry was a lack of barriers. Maybe I'm going all prima donna but I like something between the crowds and the layout. As it turned out, this would have been a good thing, but more of this later. Finally, we hadn't tested the model since the last show and so it was out with the soldering iron to deal with a couple of dry joints and a lose switch rail. Arriving before 5 gave plenty of uninterrupted time to handle these niggles.

Accommodation was on site. The boarding students had been turfed out for half term and we were each issued with a key and swipe car to stop in their rooms. On the plus side, everyone got a single room (I was Max Kroppen) but this was at a price of shared bathroom and worse, communal showers. The rooms were clean but basic. I wish I'd taken a small radio to provide a bit of background noise, and several other operators said the same. We had access to a common room with billiards table and coffee making facilities which a few people sat around in for a chat.

Saturday started with an excellent breakfast in the school canteen. Full English and plenty of it. I'll forgive accommodation a lot for decent morning grub. We didn't have far to stroll to the show either, in fact we could have arrived on Friday and not left the site until Sunday night if we'd wanted to.

Arriving behind the layout, after a quick track clean we wandered around to see what had arrived since the previous evening. Most people were comfortably in place. and there was plenty to see. We caught up with a few old friends including, just after opening, by the man I'm named after, an old friend of my Father. Guess who got to do an extended operating session while they chatted ?

About the middle of the morning we had our one duff moment - a scruffy bloke decided to push past a lady watching the layout. She was about 2 inches away from the board and there was plenty of space behind her but he shoved by anyway. As he passed he managed to give the end leg an almighty boot - enough to move the entire layout slightly. Certainly enough to shake up the track and dislodge a lump of lead from inside a locomotive. Of course he didn't apologise, just looked around grumpily and scuttled off. If by any chance you recognise yourself from that description site, please sod off my blog and don't come back.

Chocolate BrownieLunchtime arrived but the quality of the food had drawn an audience. There was no seating left in the canteen and a queue of people outside waiting with trays of cooling food for a seat. Luckily that breakfast meant we weren't hungry so settled for tea and a delicious (and cheap) cake. Chocolate brownie or muffin, both yummy and enough to sustain us until the evening.

A stroll around town on Friday evening had shown that the delights of Taunton were limited, and sitting around the accommodation didn't appeal, but a trip to the seaside was an option. Thus, we took the quick and well signposted trip tot he station and hopped on one of the regular trains to Western-super-Mare.

Western station is about ten minutes walk from the sea by which time we'd worked up nearly enough appetite for the enormous fish and chips we bought. The sea was out (is it ever in ?) and out of season, the town was pretty shut up but as we say on the station heading back, listening to an Elvis tribute act in the platform pub, this was definitely a worthwhile trip. I've spent Saturday night at shows in the pub with other modellers but if I have the chance to do something different, it's taken. After all, we spend all day in the show with them !

Western-super-Mare pier

Sunday, the layout worked a lot better than the previous day. Both days had seen a lot of chatty punters in the door and only two smelly ones - one of whom probably wondered quite how long the train was going to stay in the platform, the answer being "Until you go away" ! Apart from the grumpy bloke the day before, the crowds were really well behaved as well with very few finger marks on the water in the quayside.

The main question asked was about the scale. Loads of people were interested as it's unusual and they wondered how we managed to build everything. The nice man from Bachmann was nearly persuaded that they should start some RTR in it !

At the end of the weekend we packed up and were on our way after about half an hour. The trip home was uneventful apart from the least competent Little Chef ever and we got the stuff back ready to put away. I have a lit of jobs to do before Warley in a month so watch this space...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rail-ex Taunton: The photos

OK, so we are back from Taunton. The layout is unloaded and needs to be packed away. That can wait for tomorrow, as can writing a decent report on the show adventure.

In the meantime though, here are some photos:

Aldbury Town Station

Aldbury town is a GWR micro layout. I loved it despite all that copper-cap greenery going on. It's a great example of a layout anyone could built. Every building is easily identifiable as a well-known kit - at least to proper model railway anoraks like myself. The skill is in building and then blending the elements together to produce a coherent whole, something the builder has done very well.

Dagnel End Station

Dagnall End deservedly won the public vote. It's full of life, has loads of detail and really seems like a bit of London. Admittedly, one compressed into a small space but all the features are there. You even get a tube line underneath, and buildings that have been sliced in half and modelled with interiors. Not perhaps something to appeal to the hard nosed railway fan, but the sort of thing loved by the human members of the visiting public.

See more of this model on the Redditch MRC website.

Zeplin Railcar

Finally, spotted on Eurobahn Zwel, a Zeplin Railcar. Powered by it's propeller, the model was vibrating rather than racing along. Yet again the plucky Brits showed the Bosh how to do this sort of thing years ago with the Triang Battlespace Turbo car !

See all my photos from the show on Flickr

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hellingly Hospital in Maquetren

Another print outing for the Hellingly Hospital Railway, but in a first for me, the magazine isn't English. No, you can now read about Hellingly in the Spanish mag, Maquetren.

Needless to say, my Spanish isn't good enough for this sort of thing but the English text was translated by Alberton Herrera who appears to have added a few extra web links in from my website for good measure. Actually, he could have written anything he likes as I can't read it either but no matter, I think I can trust him. Mind you, if anyone reading this fancies having a go at translating the PDF...

The 6 pages look really good and I even made the cover ! Foreign magazines always seem to look different to my eyes, not better or worse, just an indefinably "different". Maybe it's the mix of real and model trains, something that is only normally practised by one mag in the UK, Continental Modeller.

On my novel website, I describe myself as an "international wordsmith of repute" and so now I suppose this is really true. I'm sure a tour of the Continent can't be far away now.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Confessional handrail

Back handrailA first for me with the C15 locomotive kit is a section in the instructions titled "About this kit - the confessional" where the manufacturer points out all the minor cock-ups in the model that might trip up builders.

Mostly these are things to watch out for to make the build easier but at the back of the model there is a mention of the rear handrail. There aren't any holes, you have to drill them yourself. It seems that there is a discrepancy between the GA drawings and photos. According to the former, there is no handrail or step. The photos show a handrail but no step. Another drawing shows both.

Measurements are provided for the holes and since a rear handrail seems logical I've drilled them . Getting these in the right place requires careful work with the ruler and then a drill. Making holes in brass isn't that easy - the bit tends to skid on the surface before digging in. Engineers would use a centre pop to make a depressing to locate the drill in. Belting things with a hammer is a bit vicious on the thin brass but pushing a sharp scriber (a good nail would do) into the location of the hole gives enough location to do the job.

The handrail is brass with split pins acting as handrail knobs. Lots of flux and solder applied from the inside means these will look OK, although my preference if funds permit, is to use proper turned knobs. Mind you, once the thing is painted and on the layout, I doubt anyone will notice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting ready for Taunton

3mm Stock Tray

We are back on the road again this weekend. All being well Flockburgh will be appearing at Rail-ex in Taunton.

This being the case, it's time for a quick wheel clean in the loco stock box. Then we just have to try and remember to pack all the bits'n'pieces in the car before we head down the M5. Our plan is to arrive early at the show to allow for plenty of debugging time. For a change the layout hasn't been erected at home to test it. Hopefully this won't prove to be a bad idea.

A full report after the weekend. In the meantime, visit the Rail-ex website, and then if you are in the area - drop in and say hello !

Thursday, October 20, 2011

7mm Kadee couplings

7mm Kadee gauge

I've fitted a few Kadee couplings in my time, but never to O gauge stock. However, the model railway that the C15 is destined for is all Kadee'd so it needs hooks. John supplied me with suitable couplings and lent me his height gauge and a wagon. I just had to work out how to attach the things to his loco.

7mm Kadee BackAt the back matters were complicated by the air cylinder and the decision to hack the back end of the chassis off. I started by shortening the off-cut so the bogie could swing freely. After a little measuring it became apparent that the draft box could be bolted to a plate fitted to the bottom of the chassis part, which was then attached to the body.

One compromise required was the soldering up of the coupling hook - the loco retains these so it can be used on more conventional layouts - as the spring would get in the way of the fixings.

With the parts re-assembled and check for height, I chopped a big hole in the tank and fitted it. We had agreed that it was essential for the look of the locos back end but that it would need to re-locate against the buffer beam, a move of just under 4mm, to keep it out of the way. Not too bad a compromise if the model will be happy on the layout. A hole in the curved part of the tank allows access to the retaining bolt.

7mm Kadee frontAt the front a simple L-shaped bracket supports the draft box but I found a different problem. The front bogie axle rubs on the box and lifts the loco wheels off the track. With a piercing saw I removed the cover and this seems to have sorted things. I suspect a touch of glue to hold the spring that centres the coupling might be a good idea though as I've already lost one (John let me have spares of those as well since he suspect I might need them) and we don't want to pepper the layout with coils of wire do we ?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Built the Bismark ?


See this ? By conventional wisdom, it can't exist.

For those not into model boats, this the Bismark. The model has been built using the "Build the Bismark" part work. The one that lots of people leapt on to the web and slated saying it was too expensive and these things never complete the run leaving people with half-built models.

Not this time it appears. I took the photos of this model at the Model Engineers show because my Dad has the same boat under contruction, from the same source. He also has all the parts to the series.


The thing we have been most impressed with during the build, is the quality of the etched brass parts. They are easily as good as the ones supplied for model railway items, not always the case and in this case, high praise. As they are designed to be assembled using superglue rather than solder then it's all the better.


I'd go so far as to say this is probably the most detailed battleship model I've seen. There are many built but this one seems have a density of detail that is particularly impressive. I'm sure it's not the best but for a model aimed at beginners, it does seem very impressive.

Whatever, it does give lie to the idea that part works are all rubbish. Excellent news since Dad is now spending my inheritance on the HMS Hood follow-up !

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hattons - A big business

Check out this article from the Liverpool Post on Hattons

Fascinating - or at least it is to me. I mean those of us who read the popular model railway press can't avoid the massive adverts they take in all the magazines, but it certainly seems to be paying off with an £8 million turnover.

This is pretty good for what people keep telling me is "a dying hobby" with aged enthusiasts dropping off the perch at every opportunity. Maybe the key to the success is encapsulated within this quote:

“A lot of our customers,” she said, “are older people whose finances are more settled."

Basically, the market is made up of old blokes buying toy trains. And there is nothing wrong with this. After all, who can complain about a business that keeps 44 people in work simply selling stuff that no one really needs ?

It's years since I visited the shop when exhibiting at Liverpool. They were in the old premises and I remember the shop area was tiny but when you peered over the counter, the warehouse ran off into the distance like the one at the end of the first Indian Jones film. A telephone was constantly ringing, these were pre-interweb days, and the stock was exactly what you saw in the advert. While we watched a train set was broken up so the loco could be sold. The unwanted coaches were quickly stored in an appropriate cubbyhole for sale later. I guess that train sets are cheaper than individual items and this was a way of getting product at lower prices.

Now they are busy commissioning models. There can't be many people who haven't heard of the Beyer Garratt that will join the range in a year or so. I remember Dapol threatening to bring this out in the 90's but when that project died (the chassis was tooled but no the body once they decided it would never sell) I'd assumed that that was it for RTR Garrats. Now I have to worry what to do with the kit I have stashed away !

(Hat-tip to David Brown for spotting the article and telling me about it)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Model Engineering Show 2011

Miniature Steam EnginesLate summer sunshine greeted the annual Model Engineering Exhibition in Warwickshire. The ice cream man was doing good business as we looked over the cavalcade of miniature engines in the grassy area behind the hall.

The show itself seemed to be a familiar mix of trade and display. There are people selling machine tools heavy enough to require moving by forklift truck.Others purveyed tools that I didn't recognise, odd shaped bits that I suspect fit in the aforementioned machine tools. Once you had all this there were endless metal and castings to have a crack at.

On the display side I couldn't see many models entered in the competition itself but elsewhere there was plenty to see. My favourite thanks to shear ingenuity, has to be the model of a Mamod traction engine. The builder has re-created the toy in 30" to the foot and 6" to the foot scales and display the original toy alongside it's larger and smaller siblings.

Three rollers

As usual I was part of the Knightcote Model Boat Club stand. We loitered around the display of our models for the day trying to strike up conversations - mostly unsuccessfully. Model engineers are less communicative than early morning arrivals at a toy train show.

Mind you, there were a heck of a lot of them. Even on Saturday three coaches were in the car park and numerous mini buses. Plenty of tanoy announcements reminding people to return to the bus or be left behind too !

More photos from the show on Flickr

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A new use for a stadium

Oh dear, it seems that the footballers are throwing hissy fits over the Olympic Stadium again. Apparently they can't agree on exactly which bunch of over-paid pansies should be allowed to play games in a building that the hard-warking and underpaid tax-payer has had to cough up for.

Enough is enough.

The truth is that there are plenty of football stadiums. Every team seems to have one but only uses if for 90 minutes every other week. If they put a bit of effort in, games could be scheduled in the both morning and afternoon thus halving the number of ground required. If there is a problem, well jumpers for goalposts in the local park is just as good isn't it ?

Likewise running tracks. There are several of those and judging by the number of people lumbering around the streets near me, they aren't essential either.

No. What there are none of is national model boating pools.

So, we just need a digger to make a hole where the grass is, let it rain and we have one. Better still, around it is the new national radio control car track. And with a bit of planning around this we can have the national miniature steam engine track.

So there you have it; 3 excellent facilities for the country for next to no cost. Lots of very happy people and some top-notch promotion of Great British Hobbies.

Vote for me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Good Shed in Hornby Magazine

I'm at the buildings this month for November's issue of Hornby Magazine.

The first of the structures I built for St Stephen's Road appears - the rest will be in Yearbook number 4 along with the rest of the layout. It's a relatively simple structure but looks very impressive once complete. The one bit of advice I would give to prospective builder is to pre-paint at every stage as it' will be difficult to keep the stuff off the stonework if you don't/

This month though, its a Ratio kit for a goods shed that I'm building. Alongside this is a little loading dock which I previously described getting lost in the post. Amazingly, the vehicle parked beside the model in the magazine photo is a VW van. Who'd have expected that ?

Goods shed

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: Along Main Lines by Paul Atterbury

Another book from the prolific Mr Atterbury pops up on the shelves of my local WH Smiths. When he's not appearing on the Antiques Roadshow, I assume the man must just spend his time wallowing in piles of old train photos. Well, that and buying sports jackets with patterns based on seaside rock.

On the dust cover, the blurb runs Paul Atterbury offers a rare insight into the mainline story all over Britain, using little known or hitherto unseen photographs, postcards, ephemera and other evocative railwayana, drawn from his own and other private collections.

Which pretty much sums the book up. There are lots and lots of photos, all captioned, and most of them aren't the traditional three-quarters view of a train. As an example, eight pages are given over to carriage interiors. Outside of a serious carriage book, I've never seen so much space. Since I'm not sufficiently interested in coaches to own serious books, this will do me very nicely. In addition, another eight take care of restaurant cars including the wonderful tavern cars complete with faux wooden beams in the ceiling. Sleeper cars only qualify for half as much but then who models the interior anyway ?

After a miscellany section, the book is split into geographical areas: Southwest England, Southern England, Wales, Central England, Eastern England, Northern England and Scotland. That's handy if you want to focus on a particular area. Those wondering why the split isn't the tradition Big Four companies need to remember that the world carried on after 1948 and this book has lovely shots of diesels as well as chuff chuffs. The two Leamington Spa shots for example are a large logo class 50 from the 80's and the wooden train planters that are still a feature of the station today.

Diesels actually make up a significant number of the images. If you love a Deltic or a Western, there are pics to drool over, the former being lifted in works is particularly nice. Maybe this is because pretty much every steam engine photo has been published, or maybe it's just that the author wanted to give a fully balanced view of railways and understands that there is a quite a lot that has changed even after the last steamers in 1968. As someone who remembers the 80's railway scene a little, I look at the pictures now with increasing nostalgia - once upon a time we used to think a Class 47 on a train wasn't that exciting. Now I wonder why anyone would bother to spot trains as they are mostly motorised coaches.

Anyway, the photo reproduction is excellent. For the most part, the designer has been restrained and not gone all arty with effects or overlaying images to obscure the best bits. Of necessity, most of the images are black and white but there is plenty of colour too, some of it quite ancient.

Best of all, there is an Index. Why so many books that purport to be reference works leave the publishers without one I don't know, but here we are with something many enthusiasts will dismiss as coffee table material and we have a comprehensive four pages of it.

More on this book from The Hobby Warehouse.

The full range of railway books at The Hobby Warehouse.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Manson tablet catcher

Tablet Catcher 1In my pile of projects, I've got a Class 26 to detail. In the cab side is a recess for a single line tablet catcher. Filling this with such a device seems like a good plan but finding out what these things look like is more of a challenge.

Fortunately, last weekend I went to the nearby Great Central Railwayana auction, and guess what I found ?

The device is listed thus:

A Manson tablet catcher locomotive arm. Manson's tablet exchange system was used on the Caledonian, Highland and Great North of Scotland railways. This loco arm came from Inverness but is not marked with company initials. Examples such as this are relatively rare.

Tablet Catcher 2It sold (to someone else, I wanted the Isle of Man poster, which I was also out bid on) for £50.

Now, I know very little about tablet exchange apparatus but since I know I know very little, a couple of snaps taken with my mobile seemed like they might be useful and I present them here. The catalogue is included in the shot to give an idea of scale, it's a standard A5 sized booklet. You can draw your own plans from this.

Automatic tablet catcher on loco 5126 at Thurso, 1973The head is a pretty complex item that would suggest resin or whitemetal manufacture rather than etching.

Needless to say, it's of mo use to me. What I need is a much flatter device like the one shown in this photo taken by Tom Burnham at Thurso in 1973.

Anyone got a drawing ?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Letter spacing

I'm not a big fan of on-line games. To be honest I'm not a big fan of computer games generally, either they are too difficult for me to get in to, or they are brilliantly simple and addictive so I have to stop myself playing them. However I'm going to make an exception for this one.

Kern Me is a simple puzzle that might help modellers with one of the toughest challenges we face - correct letter and number spacing.

I have putting transfers on a freshly painted model. There's always a whole lot of poking and prodding to get the things centred and level. Then I move on to numbers and have all that fun again with the added joy of trying to get the spacing correct. I swear the things move too - more than one model has been decreed correct only for mt o spot an obvious error a few hours later.

Kern Me has the player dragging letters around to get the correct spacing. I'm not saying that it will train your eye perfectly but it's not bad. I scored 75 on the first go which is better than I might expect. With only 10 rounds, it doesn't eat up too much of your time either.

Play Kern Me


A post on a model making blog about letter spacing - can I claim the prize for most anoraky addition to teh Interweb today ?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Model railway on a door

Layout on a doorEvery so often, someone talks to me at a show and says something along the lines of "I don't understand why you people don't built your layouts on doors. They would be excellent.". They usually expound on the idea telling me that second hand doors are cheap, ready made and wooden. Apparently all these are desirable attributes for a model railway baseboard.

My reply usually involves pointing out that as far as I am concerned, plywood is much better. Doors are heavy, thick enough to make fitting point motors impossible, have no where to hide the wiring and most importantly, not made of wood. Unless you consider two skins of hardboard separated with pine spacers to be wood. Real wood doors tend to be paneled and thus provide a truly rubbish base for track what unless you want to base your model on a particularly dull roller coaster or perhaps the Docklands Light Railway. Oh and because they are door sized, difficult to get through normal doorways.

Apart from that they are perfect.

Not to be detered, Keith Bristow has made a railway on a door. It's quite nice too with a continuous run track plan - admitedly this requires very tight curves - and sidings and loops just like a proper train set. There's quite a bit of scenery and a couple of buildings. That bus should be on a bridge really (it's a model railway tradition) but if you were looking for something for your kids, it's got a lot going for it. I'd have been quite happy with it when I was a kid. You can run trains around and shunt, more than the majority of proper, grown-up model railway layouts can offer !

Monday, October 10, 2011

R101 or R127 crane

Hornby R101

I'm not really a collector of model railway stuff, but I do have a soft spot for the operating accessories. For some reason though, I'd never acquired one of Hornby's operating cranes, even though I quite liked the model. This changed thanks to doing a deal a week ago at the Beaconsfield clubs second hand stall. For £15 I picked up a Pacer (another model I've always liked), this crane and a book of stationmaster memoirs.

First introduced in 1962 when it was listed as R127, this model have been in the range pretty much constantly since then apart from a spell in the 1980's. Now released as R101, this is the "modern" version which is moulded in yellow plastic rather than red and nicely labeled for the engineers department. A nice touch is the cranes number is the same as it's Hornby code !

Looking at the model, it's actually pretty good. The real thing has a bit more detail but not much as this rather good photo shows:

The biggest change you could so would be to replace the chains on the model with string or thread. Chop off the operating handles, although they are only stubs so you could ignore them to make it easier to pose the crane in scenes. Round off the counterweight and ad some overlays and rivets. Paint and weather to taste and it's a rather smashing project.

I think I've seen photos somewhere of the same (prototype) crane on a fixed base. I know the model has occasionally been offered in this form.

My model will go into the collection and stay as mint as it is. Somewhere along the lines it's had a close encounter with a bag of green flock which now won't entirely brush off. It can sit among the Giraffe cars and Battlespace goodies. I still don't have the big breakdown crane but it can only be a matter of time. Mind you, a second one for detailing looks quite appealing too. These etched bits look very handy.

More details on the Hornby Collectors Website

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Trams and model boats on film

This is a truly fantastic film. Leytonstone in 1938. You don't see many general street scenes from this era on film and very few taken in colour. Mr Redburn was a member of a cine club in London and had contacts in the trade to give him access to the very earliest UK 8mm Kodachrome colour films which he used in a Keystone Camera. Standard 8 was intruced in 1932 in America and presumably arrived on our shores a few years later.

The obvious excitement is that there are trams in the street scenes along with loads of lovely old cars. The streets look completely different too. The shops have awnings, the signage is much more subtle. Adverts are hand painted rather than printed and there are the sort of building sized permanent displays you don't see any more. There used to be a Bass beer one in south Leamington which has only recently disappeared.

Towards the end of the film, there's a lot of model boating, a hobby that has almost completely changed now. Councils rarely provide suitable lakes, sailors don't don wellies and walk through the wet stuff, yachts rarely get pointed into the wind and left to guide themselves and no-one is that smartly dressed.

It's quite a poignant scene too. The lingering shot of the war memorial reminds the modern viewer that in a couple of years there would be another great conflict to add to the list of those being remembered.

Hat tip to the Wood End and beyond blog for this one.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Corgi Mallard and Boris Bus

Corgi Mallard

A recent trip to ModelZone in Birmingham saw me poking around at some of Corgi's prototypes for new models due this year and next. The first thing that caught my eye were models of Mallard and Flying Scotsman. These are 1:120 scale, although being solid diecasts, they aren't really suitable for motorisation. The end result would be interesting though as you would be working in Continental TT gauge - in the UK we prefer 1:100.

The models look pretty good with nice separate handrails and fine valve gear. Must more interesting were the prototypes for the models. These, the rep explained, were machined from the CAD files and used as approval models. They appeared to be a nylon-like plastic, it was hard but a little soapy. The cutter marks were evident, something not seen on the finished models.

Corgi BorisBus

Another prototype on show was for the modern "Routemaster" bus for London. Apparently Corgi have been told in no uncertain terms that these are not to be referred to a "BorisBus" despite this being what people will call them in real life. This prototype was decorate but still prototyped in an opaque plastic. I'll admit I quite like the look of the design. It's not un-Routemaster like whilst being modern in a way that the future was painted in happy sci-fi books 30 years ago. The large window curving around the back up the stairs is sure to be a popular feature too - with men watching anyone in a short skirt heading for the top deck...

Corgi 106

The invite for the event said that Corgi would be taking requests for new vehicles so while I was there I suggested a 1971 Beetle (not a 1302 or 1303), Bay window VW camper and Peugeot 206. Basically, all the cars I own, none of which are to be bought in toy form. As you can see, they have done a 205, an iconic supermini so maybe I'll get lucky.

Seeing the raw castings shows just how much hand finishing each model requires. All those runners have to be ground off by someone with a power tool, then the casting is cleaned up before all the separate bits are fitted and the model heads for paint. Several prototypes on show were a mix of metal and plastic parts. This allows for several variants to be produced simply and extend the sales of a model.

Sales matter of course and one snippet I picked up was that the ranges of all the diecast manufacturers will be pointed at the unusual because that's what people will shell out for. In 4mm, it will be a while before we see any modern cars for example, but the Ruston bucket shovel will be on sale with shovel, dragline and crane fittings. So, if you want to change this, write to the makers today !

Corgi website

Friday, October 07, 2011

Big time chassis modification

Chassis mods

Finescale modellers should look away now. If you want a long wheelbase chassis to traverse a 7ft diameter curve, this is the sort of work that has to be carried out on the chassis.

The driven wheels are fine. No problems there. These start when we want to get the radial truck to swivel, or rather, swivel enough to stay on the track. The chassis as designed uses a pony truck within the frame sides to replicate what can otherwise be a complicated item to build. I suspect that the designer hadn't envisaged such tight curves, although he did narrow the frames a bit at this point to assist. Not everyone can build a model where the track is very nearly straight after all !

Anyway, it wasn't enough for the home this locomotive will be heading to so more drastic work was required. The frames have been chopped where the pony truck starts using a piercing saw to just leave the flat part that screws to the body. Behind the pony, everything has been removed and will be mounted on the body after suitable modification to keep it out of the way and let me insert a draft box into that tank.

Back on the layout, the mods worked well. Apart from one area of fiddle yard, the loco trundled around happily and the problem area was most likely a track issue rather than a rolling stock one.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The C15 takes to the layout

Loco at Leith

I don't have an O gauge model railway layout. Once upon a time I planned to build one but it got as far as baseboards and then stopped. While this isn't a problem most of the time, when I have a 7mm scale locomotive to test, I don't have anywhere to do this.

Not to worry, the guy I'm building the C15 for only lives 12 miles away. Or 19 if I get lost on the country lanes.

So, off I toddle to try the loco on Leith. I've seen the layout before. It's U-shaped around three sides of a small room. As befits a station, there is quite a bit of pointwork to tangle with and since the room is small, the curve at the end is tight. Tighter than the loco could deal with as it turns out. This thing has a long wheelbase and while I allowed enough swing at the front, the fake radial truck at the back can't move enough and keeps flopping off the track.

Less of a worry is that I've wired up the model back to front. It's too light too, some serious lead in the tanks looks like a good plan. And I've got to fit it with Kadee couplings, which will be interesting.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A crowd pleasing shunter

Percy shunts the dockVisitors to a model railway show normally follow a strict pattern. First thing in the morning will see the appearance of the Serious Modeller. He (always he) will stand in front of the layout and silently inspect it for inaccuracies. Once complete, a process that normally takes about 15 seconds, he will move on without saying a word.

Beconsfield was different. Withing minutes we had families with children in front of us. Real people. People who ask questions and aren't just using this as an opportunity to expound their latest theory about toy trains. Within half an hour of the door opening, there were 4 well-behaved children present, all wearing Thomas the Tank t-shirts. It was too good an opportunity to miss and so our crown pleasing shunter was deployed.

Yes, folks. On a finescale(ish) layout, we ran a model of Percy.

Not any Percy you understand. This one has been got-at. The Hornby innards have been junked in favour of a Mashima motor, 2-stage gearbox, Romford wheels and Gibson cross-heads. All this work means it runs like a dream. At least as well as anything else in the loco fleet.

Percy shunts the brick warehouseSo, sometimes we run it exactly the same way as any other loco. No charging around for us, proper slow speed shunting is the order of the day. Basically, we have a loco that just happens to be an unusual prototype. Just like the Garratt or petrol engined shunter. Admittedly the colour is a touch brighter but if you know the books then you know that for a dockside, Percy is the appropriate loco.

Needless to say the crowds were delighted. Does anyone else have crowd pleasing ideas they like to use ?

Oh, and did I mention there is an article on Percy in my book ?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nice neat breaks

BreakagesBeconsfield model railway exhibition wasn't just about scoffing cake and wilting in the heat. Obviously we had to play trains all day as well and this wasn't entirely without incident.

Early in the day I brought a train into the fiddle yard. While re-marshaling it ready to go out again, I spotted that one of the banana vans was missing it's coupling bar and one of the buffers. A quick search of the layout found these by a buffer stop and the wagon was returned to the stock box upside down.

A few hours later, my Dad was having problems shunting and realised that the same fate had befallen the LMS dock tank. As you can see, the coupling bar has pulled off and taken a buffer with it.

Fortunately, the buffer was attached with suprglue. Normally I solder these to the locomotive but this kit was a bit more difficult than normal to assemble and by the time I'd got to buffers, there was a lot of plastic involved, not a soldering friendly material. If I'd not used glue, the components would probably still be attached.

All is not lost though, superglue breaks nice and cleanly so a dot on the buffer beam and another on the end of the bar and the parts are restored. So neat is this that there isn't even a need to repaint anything, another good reason to glue vulnerable parts in place. Or be more careful while shunting.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Beaconsfield 2011 - Torture by chocolate cake

Chocolate CakeBlimey it was hot. Outside the temperature reached 29 degrees, in a school hall with glass walls, hardly any drawn curtains and only a couple of doors for ventilation, it was hotter still. I bet the exhibition team couldn't have believed their (bad) luck when the weather forecasters started predicting a late burst of summer for the weekend and a Saturday that would see records shattered.

The trip down was super - all but 5 miles was a straight run down the M40. The show location couldn't be much better. We drove through a landscape cloaked in early morning swirling mists hovering just above the fields. I wished I could have been on the train as it was the sort of morning where you can't stop gawping out of the window at the beauty of it all.

On arrival we quickly unloaded and set up Melbridge Dock. Thanks to a testing session the day before, everything was working OK. Next to us was a nice N gauge layout, Kings Green Wharf. The other neighbour being Grove Park, another good looking model but one suffering a few gremlins. They didn't have the worst problems though - from one end of the hall was the unmistakable sound of a minidrill grinder working on some metal object.

Strolling round the four halls I alighted on the second hand stall just as it was opening. Very quickly a Hornby Pacer, crane wagon and interesting book were returned to the boxes under our layout. Back on the wander we reached the refreshments and enjoyed tea with bacon sandwich or Victoria sponge. All before 10am!

The show opened to very little rush. Maybe the the punters had made for the second hand stall rather than our hall, but sadly I suspect it was more a case that the outdoors beckoned rather than a model railway show. Chatting to one of the trader later confirmed this, she said it's normally difficult to get around in the morning. Later the organiser confirmed a 25% drop which is pretty impressive considering the other options unexpectedly available. To be fair, the numbers picked up through the day.

Despite the lack of people, we had some great interest pretty much from the start. As usual, the principle interest seemed to be the puffers and couplings. The Clayton no longer raises any interest since you can buy the thing RTR.

Everything was running OK until a dry join developed in a place I couldn't ignore. Prodding at the track caused a short section of rail to fall over so it was out with the soldering iron to sort things out. Maybe the heat played to our advantage as the repairs worked well first time. I don't think we disappointed too many people either as after they had completed a circuit of the room we were operating again.

While buying the sponge cake at the start of the day I had ascertained that chocolate cake would be available later and my Dad, who performs tea boy duties, was under strict instructions to keep an eye open for it's appearance. Early in the afternoon, he returned with tea and two slices. I operated the model while he consumed his. Then he "quickly" wandered off to have a chat with a trader and I found myself stuck playing trains while it taunted my from it's plate in the fiddle yard.

Eventually he returned and I was about to head off for a chomp. Then Chis Nevard pitched up at the end of the layout and politeness dictated that we should have a chat. Which was nice. Eventually, I managed to bore him enough so he cleared off for a bit and I could stuff my face. Thankfully the cake was worth the wait. So good in fact that we had another slice later - just because if we didn't it would have had to be thrown away you understand.

Thanks to the weather the crowd was made up of more people wearing shorts than I've ever seen at a toy train event. Fortunately, standards were maintained by one gentleman wearing a tweed jacket, v-neck jumper, shirt and tie. The later item had a train logo that I didn't recognise but hats off to the gent for maintaining sartorial elegance.

Beaconsfield MRC website

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Autumnal colours

Autumnal Colours
TV news channels are banging on about the unseasonably warm weather we are experiencing. Apparently we can look forward to some rich colours on the trees this year thanks to this last blast of warmth.

Maybe this will encourage railway modellers to set their layouts in the later months of the year instead of the traditional high summer. This little diorama by Margaret Insley shows the sort of thing we could look forward to if this happens. Copper coloured foliage, perhaps with some vestigial greens and a few browns for those leaves about to let go of the branch. Sprinkle a few of these on the ground and the scene is complete.

Should anyone fancy a go at this, check out American model railway magazines as those across the pond (or on the other side of the street if you are reading this in the US) seem to do a lot more than we British in this respect. Maybe we don't like to be reminded of the coming winter !

Saturday, October 01, 2011

A flotilla of articles in Model Boats Magazine

November's Model Boats Magazine is a bit of a bumper bundle of Phil Parker articles.

The main piece covers painting miniature figures. Prompted by a mention in the April issue that paiting people was a new venture for one of the more experienced magazine contributors, I thought it was time for us railway modellers to show those miniature water wallahs a thing or two. The feature has also given the editor a chance to roll out my byeline picture where I'm wearing a spray mask. I can't work out if I should send him a new shot for the next one or forever be known as the man in the plastic mask.

Elsewhere we have a review of the the Leonardo da Vinci paddle boat I made up a few months ago. MB doesn't normally cover plastic kits unless someone stick a radio control unit in and sails them, so getting this peice in is pretty good going. Strangley, this is the article that garnered most comment at the lakeside the morning following publication. Of course I'd forgotten to take it with me but there is always next time.

Finally, the Scalescenes ISO container kits appear in the reviews section. For anyone embarking on a container vessel, these would be a godsend. It's also likely to be a new market for the vendor so I hope he gets a few sales from it.

Vsisit the Model Boats Website.