Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Plastic fun with a radar reflector

Radar reflectorSome things are so much fun to make that it's sad when they go together properly first time as I'd like to do them again. Such it is that the radar reflector on the Brede is attempt number 1 but I might do another one anyway.

"Corner reflectors" work by reflecting the radar signal back at the source but "shifted" because the signal has bounced off three surfaces - or by magic/witchcraft if you are a Daily Mail reader.

The real devices are fitted to boats too small to generate a good radar signature so other vessels and the coastguard can spot them. Should you feel the need, you can can buy one from Amazon. Probably not a good thing to dangle from the rear view mirror on your stealth fighter.

Anyway, my version is made from 3 plasticard disks cut by running a pair of dividers around on the sheet surface and then finishing off with a sharp knife. Slots are cut into two of the disks and they slide together. The final disk is split into quarters and fixed in place with liquid glue. Overall diameter for the Brede is 20mm.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Scratchbuilt Brede Lifeboat


Producing a model of a Brede Lifeboat has been on my agenda for a few years now. Regular readers will also know that I've been trying and trying again, to very little effect. Until now.

Thanks to several late nights and a looming deadline, the 1:20 scale Brede took to the water for a few photos on Saturday evening. The sun was out (lucky, there had been hail earlier in the day) and shining at a nice low angle just right to bring out the best from the Volkswagen orange paint.

Completely scratchbuilt apart from the radar dome on top and mechanical bits inside, I know it's not perfect, any hopes I had to making a mark on the Model Engineering competition later in the year are long gone, but even though I know the faults I'm still very happy with it.

A fuller description of the build will appear in a future Model Boats so watch the magazine rack at Smiths to find out more. For now, I'm going to bask in the smugness that of actually producing a model and look forward to the first post of the new year when I finally won't have to mention the Brede in the uncompleted section of my annual report.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What's he fiddling with?

Another picture from the Boy's World 1967 Annual that we saw the cover of yesterday. This painting is captioned "An emergency squad of British Railways at work at the scene of a crash." and is in the "All Action Trains" section of the annual.

What I'm wondering, and hoping that blog reader can put me right on, is:

What's that guy doing fiddling with the handwheel on the side of the crane?

I think that if there is a handwheel there, it's for applying the brakes. Now, I might be wrong, but one thing you really don't want when trying to lift a crumpled coach, is for someone to let the crane brakes off!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

That looks a bit Battlespace to me

Cover Picture: The drawing on the cover of our Annual is an artist's impression of what the Triang/Hornby Strike Force 10 train set might look like in a real life situation. These "Battle Space" train sets certainly add excitement to your model railway layouts.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fred and the A35

Fred inspects the A35For a project I'm planning, a small 1950's motor vehicles is required. It has to be suitable for O gauge and preferably not a Morris Minor or VeeDub. As I'll probably repaint the model, something intact, but second-hand would be ideal.

With this in mind, I headed off to a local car boot sale. Several traders could help and I chose a Vanguards model Austin A35 van.

Boxed but second hand - a fiver. Similar models can be found on ebay for a tenner including postage. You'll pay a bit more if the seller has included the word RARE in the listing. As it was, I had my pick of about 20 different models for the same price.

Opening up the box, the little van looks very nice. Compared to photos of the real thing it's a really accurate model. The charismatic front end that I'm sure caused it's appearance in the Wallace & Gromit series, it looks good and with all those curves, would be a challenge to scratch build. New, there would be separate wing mirrors and number plates. My model has these fitted by the previous owner although the spare plates and mirror sprue are still in the (slightly tatty) box.

All in all, good buy. Too shiny of course but that's fixable. I'll be repainting mine so that doesn't matter.

What struck me was that a perfectly normal although reasonably large car-boot sale, I had such a choice. Were I in the market for boxed Lledo diecasts, I could have filled the back of my car for very reasonable money. 3 boxed vehicles for a fiver signs were seen on a couple of descent sized piles.

All this is lovely for me but must be dispiriting for a collector. When you look at a stall that bears an uncanny resemblance to the cupboards in your collecting room and you realise that you paid full price for the contents, how do you feel? Can you avoid the realisation that collecting things sold as collectables isn't the road to riches you might have thought? Might it even persuade you to release your little cars from their boxes and enoy them?

To cheer everyone up after that, here's a random picture of a different Austin I spotted while booking the car in for its service.

Austin 40

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Corrugated corner


I spotted this unassuming but character-full corner view over the weekend and couldn't resist a snap with the phone.

The first thing that caught my eye was the weathered corrugated iron. Presumably once painted black with a bitumen paint, this has worn away over the years to leave a mix of bare metal and surface rust. In model terms, I suspect the later could be dry-brushed on but it wouldn't be the Humbrol red stuff, nor one of the orange versions that are so popular with people now. It looks dark brown so I'd be inclined to go with Track Colour, perhaps with a hint of orange if you really must.

The roof is asbestos sheet but instead of being the traditional creamy colour, it looks very much like pale grey - Number 64 I think. Sprinkle some Humbrol smoke (other off-black powders are available) on this and it would probably look about right.

The brickwork is 1970s I think and stretcher bond. A bit orangy again but mostly red. Despite its age, the mortar is pretty clean but then the building isn't near industry and this bit faces onto a car park. The window is a typical steel-framed unit. Scribing lines onto plastic and filling them with No.147 (very pale grey) ought to do the job. I'd paint the door at the same time.

The shrubbery - you're on your own with that.

For those who are interested, the building is Whitnash Sports and Social Club, this side is near the  petanque courts.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Monorails of the 19th Century by Adrian S Garner

Monorails have been the future for a very long time. Right back to 1821 according to this book.

Adrian Garner has been interested in monorails for a very long time. I remember his excellent models of the Listowel & Ballybunion railways from model magazines a long time ago. Because of this, you'll not be surprised to find that this line and the other Lartigue monorails occupy a sizable chunk of the book.

At a whopping 287 page though, there is a heck of a lot else in here. This is a well-researched and scholarly work but even if you just enjoy looking at the pictures then it's worth a go. The author has unearthed photos showing lines from around the world. Photo credits tell of a long and extensive search. Additionally, there are clear drawings that would be a boon to any modelmaker who fancies something very different.

Some, if not most, of the schemes are a bit crackpot in the way that Victorian inventions are wont to be. I love the idea from Mr CW Stewart to run an underwater monorail that would lift ships out of the Mississippi to save the effort of dredging it.

There's a real line up Mount Vesuvius and Captain Meigs amazing looking steam powered contraption. The delights keep on coming.

It's easy of course, with the benefit of hindsight, to spot the duds but since the inventors and investor didn't have this, they ploughed on with the oddest of schemes. This means we get to enjoy and learn from them in this book.

Not everything has vanished. Some of the machines are now preserved and of course there is still the Schwebebahn in Germany available to riding.

A fantastic book for anyone with an eye of the off-beat. I can see a number of projects I'd love to have a go at in model form. For the price, it's a bargain and I look forward to a follow-up for the 20th Century, if it appears, there will space on my bookshelf.

Monorails of the 19th Century from Amazon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lifeboat window development

Window Development

Over at the Brede build, the "joy" of scratchbuilding has been allayed by hitting a bit of a challenge. Lifeboats have quite complicated looking windows with two layers of metal and a thick inner rim. To make matters even more interesting, the corners aren't sharp but very obviously curved. To add to the pleasure, the Brede has 16 windows, only 6 of which are identical and square. Several of the other are sloped along one edge.

Oh, and there are half a million flush, but visible, fixing bolts on each frame.

Obviously this sort of challenge is the sort of thing that gladdens the heart of your true scratchbuilder. The looming deadline for this build only served to increase my joy once I realised just how much fun I was going to have.

To cut a (very) long story short, I developed a method for making windows that would satisfy me without going completely mad. The finished products might be lacking in detail but on the water anyone peering over to see will be sufficiently unbalanced enough that a quick shove will provide them with enough problems without worrying about my boat.

The final version of window making will appear in the article to accompany the build but I though I'd run through the thought process and development here. Because it's my blog and I can do that.

Starting top left you see a window made of three plasticard layers. Producing the outside edges is a simple matter of filing the corners by eye - plasticard cutters don't seem happy making reliable 10mm diameter curves but you can usually mark them and do the rest with knife and file. The inside corners were the big problem. Efforts cutting them with a leather punch didn't work and drill bits just tear the plastic apart.

Moving right we find a 2 layer frame drilled and cut inside. It sort of works but consistency isn't good and the job takes forever.

Far right and we are nearly there. The thick frame is made by lining the inside of the punched and filed hole. This neatens the job up as the plastic solvent pulls things into line and fills tiny gaps.

Finally, at the bottom we're gone for a single layer of 1mm plastic, the prototype layers are almost flush with each other anyway, it's cut with a plasticard cutter and then lined with a 2mm wide strip of 1mm thick plastic.

OK, there are limitations, it's still touch to make consistent windows. There is no fixing screw detail - again, if you can see if from the bank you'll be swimming with the carp. However the method doesn't allows modellers to make windows that look OK (IMHO - and it's my blog remember) with hand tools. Obviously if everyone had milling machines or laser cutters then we could do it all differently but they don't. A better option would be to work in 1:12 rather than 1:20 where perfectly acceptable windows can be bought as resin castings.

But that would take the fun out of it.

Windows in

Monday, April 22, 2013

Prime Time

Shiny BrassIt seems a shame to cover up all the nice brass on the Y6 with primer but I guess it has to be done.

OK, so the metal is a bit tarnished from sitting around uncovered, but there is something about a kit "in the metal" that appeals to me. This model is especially special as you can peer through the doorways at the insides, something not normal on a steam engine. Even diesels, which have "insides" to peer at tend to provide only little portals to gawp through.

I'm not alone as anyone who has seen a collection of Korean brass engines owned by an American, will see yellow metal and only very rarely a painted engine. I know those things are expensive (and lovely) but it seems a shame that they often never get painted to fulfill their potential as excellent models.

Anyway, the first problem I hit was that folding the draw hook back against the buffer beam and soldering stops the chassis from being removed. A proper modeller would have spotted this, or at least do something about it. I've just masked the visible mechanical bits.

After that it's a quick blast with etching primer from Halfords and then a good look at the model to see if I need to fix anything before paint.

Primed Bits

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Industrial Train

Industrial Train

Despite being a bit of an anorak for indsutrial railways, I've not seen very many real industrial trains.

Last Sunday, on the way to the National Model Boat Show, we were heading along the A511 and came across the flashing level crossing lights that indicated an approaching trains. Unlike most people, I thought, "Woo hoo!" and was happy to sit and wait.

As you can see, the train is powered by an 0-6-0 diesel, a Hunslet I think, and consists of 15-20 (we lost count) bogie hoper wagons. The line is slightly downhill at this point but even so, there must be some power in that engine! Speed was a fast walking pace. I think it took around 5 minutes to cross.

The train belongs to Aggregate Industries and you can find the location on this Google Map.

One final thing. If you are stopped at a level crossing, put the handbrake on and don't dazzle the driver behind with your high-level brake light. It's not hard to reach down and will save the muscles in your leg. Thank you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

National Model Boat Show 2013

VikingArmed with a great big shopping list, we headed off to Coalville to the second National Model Boat show.

Held in the Hermitage Leisure Centre, the approach isn't great. The council decided to build the thing at the end of a poky side street with 2 lanes of traffic and parking down one side leading to some "interesting" decisions about whose right of way is the single line of available roadspace.

Inside, the hall didn't seem as busy as last year. One of the larger traders wan't present and a seating area replaced some of the model boat displays. Despite this, there was loads to see and after a couple of hours we'd collected everything we had expected to find on the shopping list.

Chatting to one trader, it seemed that the Saturday had been busy and good money was taken. Any reservations I might have are more than outweighed by the simple fact that this is a show that the hbooy needs - timed ahead of the sailing season and ideal for anyone wishing to pick up bits to finish winter projects or tidy up boats being brought out of store.

Lighter No 7If you were after a new project then there were plenty of kits on sale and a fine selection of ready built models. These were all priced to sell and I was surprised how many were left by Sunday lunchtime. The same couldn't be said for the vendor hoping to off-load a 40mhz 4-channel set for only a fiver less than a brand new 2.4ghz set would cost you - and you wouldn't need to buy crystals!

On display were a fine selection of model boats, many of which I don't recognise from other shows. Perhaps because of thier protability, there were more work boats than warships but that's fine with me a those are the models I like.

One ommission was a pool. Apparently there was one outside that had been used on Saturday but I was told it was empty on Sunday. Persoanlly I didn't care much. A pool in the hall would have been nice but no one seemed to miss it and this makes me wonder just how essential water is in a model boat show.

Worth the trip as far as I am concerned. If you are a model boat trader, I'd recomend booking space there next year. If you like taking money that is.

Photos from the show on Flickr.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Roof detailing

Roof details

According to the Drifters, Up on the roof you only have to wish to make it so.

This is rubbish although the reality isn't too difficult, at least on the Y6 roof anyway.

The steam condenser (the bit with the pipe) glues into place with only a hint of cleaning. The chimney benefited from the attentions of a 4.5mm drill top open it out a bit but again it fitted well. Be careful to chose the right me - early Y6's had spark arrestors but these seemed to disappear due to be useless.

The bell is a whitemetal casting that has to be drilled to fit a wire hoop. Working out the shape of this is difficult as the photos to hand weren't clear. I went with the square version show in the instructions. At one point I considered allowing it to swing but couldn't see an easy way of holding it in the centre of the loop and not bash the sides. It doesn't ring anyway and I'd probably bung anything up with paint so superglue does the job.

The rope is fine thread superglued in place and then covered in the same stuff to make it stiff. If you don't do that it won't hang properly - rope is heavy and sags whereas thread isn't and frequently won't of its own accord.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lamp irons and the RSU

Lamp IronI don't like lamp irons. They're a fiddly detail that I never take any notice on on real trains and couldn't really care about on models.

7mm trains really need more detail than 4mm ones (Yes, I know that 4mm ones get lamp irons but only if I don't think I can get away with it. Stop being picky) and so somewhere to hang your lamp is a necessity.

2 sizes are supplied in the kit. After a bit of thinking, I realised that the longer ones were intended for the middle top position where there is a handy locating hole for the extra tongue to poke through. All are bent up in the same way although I think the half-etched lines are on the wrong side. Not that it matter if you take a moment to look at a picture of the real thing.

Fixing is a messy job with a conventional iron so out comes the RSU. The parts are tinned on the back and zapped into place with a dose of Resistance juice. No cleaning up afterwards and a good deal less bad language make the tool worth every penny.

This is fine for the side irons but by the time I'd tinned the middles, the tongue wouldn't got through the hole. So I cut it off and soldered the same way. Well, it saved me cleaning up the excess metal inside the cab didn't it?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Wisbech & Upwell Tramway by Chris Hawkins & George Reeve

Final detailing for my Y6 tram engine will be greatly assisted if I look at a few pictures and since the line the engiens were at home is the Wisbech & Upwell, then that's the book to get down from the shelf.

Looking at the Interweb, it seems that of all the books covering the line, the Wild Swan publication is generally considered the one to go for. It's an excellent book that is at its core a trip along the line. Each station or depot is described, you get a lovely clear trackplan and then there are photos. Lots of 'em.

Dating back to 1982, the reporoduction would have been superb for the day and it's still not bad now. Perhaps the exposure is off on one or two but I can live with this as these tend to be the very early images over 100 year old. Later stuff from BR days is sharp as a pin.

I find this sort of book frustraiting because as I look at the pictures I want to be there very badly and I know that unless someone markets a time machine, I can never see those scenes for myself. This is a world when railways would run trains specifically for fruit and veg crops when they were ripe and ready for market. This happened at a days notice

The pictures aren't boring enthusiast shots showing three quarter views of the engines either. The line was a railway in the landscape and that's what we see. For all the similarity to today's world, these might a well be on Mars. Of course old films mean we have a world of perpetualy sunshine, vicars and (probably) cycling district nurses. I imagine that the scenes must have had a bucholic quietness about them in real life without all the noise we "enjoy" today.

If I have any critcisms of the book it's the lack of drawings showing buildings and rolling stock. The back cover features a nice plan for onf the coaches but theres nothing for the engines inside. Also, these are treated very quickly and perhaps would benefit from a few more pages. Mind you, this is a book about a railway line - the locos were covered in other publications so you can go looking in there.

The biggest problem is reminding myself that I don't need to build another train set and certainly not of this line - it's been the subject of quite enough already. Mind you, there is always the chance for a sligthly different take on it...

Depite being out of print, the book is available from Amazon 2nd hand.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doorway detailing

Doorway detailing

Detailing time on the Y6 Tram and that starts with handrails. The good news is that we don't have any stupid curved things encasing boilers in nigh-on-impossible to bend flowing curves. We do have 8 cab door handrails which aren't the most fun things in the world to make up since they all need to be identical.

Soldering them in is made a lot easier by the manufacturer half-etching guide marks inside the tram body. Poking the iron in through the doors is less than fund though and I have a nice burn mark on my little finger where I tried to prod the wrong thing.

Having said that, they are all in, perhaps a little further into the doorway than on the makers model but not bad according to some photos I've seen. Once painted black I don't think anyone will spot this and I am not going to adjust them all again. Done that already.

The scissors are the answer to the question, "How am I going to remove the half-etched supports that kept the doorways square?"

Curved nail scissors from Boots, they are proving very handy indeed for model making. Sharp and strong, you can get them into all sorts of nooks and crannies. They will trim very thin metal and plasticard flush to an edge. I dont' think anyone sells a "proper" tool for that.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Upright glue bottles

New and Old Humbrol Liquid PolyOver at Iain Robinson's blog, there is tell of a disastrous accident involving some liquid plastic glue.

Liquid plastic solvent is nasty stuff - it has to be to do its job - and knocking a bottle over is a nuisance that nearly every model maker has experienced. Normally the problem is a bad smell and the annoyance at wasting some useful glue. Very few of us have (thankfully) experienced Iain's catastrophe.

Anyway, this got me thinking. On my bench are a couple of glue bottles. The older one on the right contains Slaters Mek-Pak. I decant this using a pipette from the man-sized bottle bought over a year ago.

The brush seems to stand up to the solvent, something that couldn't be said for the old nail varnish bottle (pinched from my sister, honest) that I'd used before. Cosmetic companies just don't think of modellers when they do their R&D. If they did then the applicators would be made of sterner stuff and not fall apart after a year or so.

The advantage of the nail varnish bottle was that while it wasn't that stable, if it fell over, there wasn't that much liquid to spill.

On the left is a modern bottle of Humbrol Liquid Poly, complete with child-safe cap. I don't know how many years separate the two packaging examples but obviously in the old days children learnt the hard way that drinking plastic solvent was fates way of telling them to STAY AWAY FROM MY AIRFIX KITS.

Testing the bottles using the same technology they use for London double decker buses, both bottles were happy to stay upright to 40 degrees of lilt. Hopefully enough for most of us, and meeting the legal requirements for carrying passengers too.

Glue selection

In fact, most of the glue to hand seems to be fine apart from the vicious ancient bottle of Daywat which is in one of those narrow brown bottles. These are the ones that magazines love as you get to run articles telling modellers how to make a holder out of wood or plastic sheet every few years.

The Limonene bottle will tip before the others but since the smell is pleasant I don't care quite so much. Mind you, it's heavier so more stable when force is applied dynamically by a careless knock.

All this of course isn't solving Iain's or anyone Else's problem. What we need is a container that can't be knocked over. Luckily, this has been a problem for others before us and the solution is simple.

Put the solvent in an inkwell.

Nice big base. Lid to contain the smell. Glass liner that won't be affected by chemicals. Gentlemen and Ladies, this is what we all need on our workbenches:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brede Bathtime

Brede first sail

The Brede Lifeboat has sailed!

OK, so it's the traditional test in the bath, or as it is invariably reported in model boat mags, "place in the domestic test tank".

Basically, you have to put a model boat on the water sometime and where better than in a handy bath? The water is clean, it's easy to get at and there are towels to hand for drying the hull.

Best of all, when the hull leaks like this one did, it can't sink into the murky depths. If you've filled it with clean water it can't anyway.

Leakage was initially tackled by dripping Zap green into anywhere I thought a micro hole could possibly be found. Seams along the chine line and keel were filled both inside and out. Eventually though I spotted that the Araldite blobbed around the exit holes for the propshafts hadn't sealed the hole properly. Spotting the problem required holding the hull at an odd angle then peering at the suspect area.

A few more epoxy blobs and the job was done. No water inside the hull and we are ready for test sailing on the pool. Just in time for the better weather.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Struggle with etched brass? Try this wonky bus shelter.

Bus Shelter

The trouble with etched brass kits is that they can be a bit fiddly and sometimes you bend the bits and can't strighten them out again.

Sometimes though, why bother?

This bus shelter at the southern end of Leamington Spa appears to have been assembled by a cack-handed builder. I think it's more likely to be the result of a gentle tap by a double-decker full of students a couple of months ago.

Friday, April 12, 2013

1P and Goods Shed in Hornby Magazine

May's issue of Hornby Magazine is where I finish off building the Craftsman ex-LMS 1P kit. It's a good looking loco that could well have been announced as a forthcoming RTR model by Bachmann as they seem to be into tank engines at the moment. We were worried that this could have happened as the new catalogue appeared while the articles were "on the books" but not yet published.

Fortunately, this didn't happen so if you want a pretty 0-4-4 then it's off to the workbench for you with a hot soldering iron and some chip forks!


Clayhanger Yard continues with building a Skytrex small goods shed. Tempting as it is to go for a massive model, the layout will look better if we use a small structure. I liked the corrugated iron and slightly industrial appearance anyway.

Goods Shed

Elsewhere you'll see the first appearance of the L&WMRS layout Duxbury in print. An interesting model put together by a team of relative novices.

They've done a good job though with a particularly impressive townscape made up entirely of cardboard buildings. It all goes to show that everyone can have a go at railway modelling and produce results they can be proud of.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Weathering a bridge

BridgeworkOver at Clayhanger Yard, things are proceeding apace. One of the jobs I've carried out recently is to weather the overbridge at the entrance to the layout.

The bridge itself is a shortened Skytrex item. The main girders are resin with whitemetal uprights holding the brass wire handrails. Nice bit of detail and slightly different from a plain girder or brick built item. I have a feeling that a photo taken from the fiddleyard into the model will look nice.

After painting with Humbol 64 (I didn't bother priming the metal as it's not going to be handled) and leaving it to dry thoroughly, a quick wash of Precision Paint Track colour put some dirt in the edges.

Finally muck comes from Humbrol weathering powders applied with one of their new Stipple Brush sets. These are quality bristle brushes intended for those 'orrid jobs that will ruin a decent brush. At a quid each, assuming they stand up to some abuse, then they aren't bad. Certainly much better quality then cheapo children's art bristles. I didn't spot any hairs falling away as I poked at the "metalwork" and worked the powders into the surface.

You could argue that I probably have plenty of knackered old brushes for this sort of job and you'd be right. If I wasn't the owner of these though, the Stipples would be a godsend.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Making Models In Card by Micromodels Ltd

This little book, and it is little at 19 X 12.5 cm and 33pages long, is one I've been after for a while. Long out of print, acquiring it has been a game of watching eBay and waiting for one to appear that hardly anyone notices. The going rate is around 15 quid but I did a bit better than that.

To start with, I ought to explain that Micromodels were tiny card kits. Each one is supplied on a series of 9 by 13cm cards. You have to cut the bits out, form them and stick everything together.

A couple of years ago, I failed to build a lifeboat kit from the range.

Popular in the 1950s and 60s, they were killed off by Airfix kits which were a whole lot easier to assemble and looked better when you'd finished them .

Despite this, there is a following out there for the kits. I suppose it's mostly collectors trying to hoard original examples for some reason, but I'm sure there are builders too and that's who this book is aimed at.

The book opens with a potted history of the range along with a few words to explain how wonderful they are. By page 6 though, things have settled down and we get some goo practical instruction. For a start there is the simple but essential point that you cut down the middle of the black line around a part. With models this small there isn't much scope for error and being the right side of a 1mm wide line matters.

My efforts with the lifeboat might have born fruit if I'd read the part on forming card around warmed and slightly damp tea spoons. Apparently the warm spoon helps set a curve in the card - it will cockle but this can be flattened with the same spoon.

While a scalpel is recommended, there are also instructions to help the reader make tiny knives for fine work from cast iron knitting needles. No, I didn't know these existed (plastic or wood surely?) but if I find one, I can now sharpen it and then heat and quench to produce a hard cutting edge. To be honest, I think I'd probably have to practise a bit here as I can't anneal metal properly never mind heat iron up to straw colour.

Some of the work is terrifyingly detailed. Rigging a galleon 10cm long looks like hard work but it would be a lot easier if you make stiff threads by hanging them, covering in glue and letting dry and finishing with sandpaper. That way they stay straight but don't have to be under tension.

The makers aren't too proud to suggest replacing card bits with alternative. Rubber tyres from electrical insulation anyone?

All in all, a fascinating little book that despite its age, is full of useful tips that most modern modellers won't have ever heard of.

Try The World of Micromodels website for more info and pictures.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

MyHobbyStore, Nuneaton

Editing MREmag.com I have some affiliation with MyHobbyStore so it was interesting to go an see the premises for myself.

Proving it is a small world, the proprietor used to run Modellenium, a model shop specialising in diecast vehicles in Warwick. I knew the shop well as it had the best stocked Humbrol paint rack in the area and since I worked about 5 minutes stroll away, when I needed paint, it's where I used to go.

That was years ago and now the premises are on an industrial estate on the edge of Nuneaton. At least they get some parking outside the shop this way!

Behind the unassuming door, there is a modest, but well stocked, model shop. Now with a range of railway models in addition to the diescast cars, it's worth a look if you are in the area. The Humbrol rack is still available and during my visit, it was well stocked too. There are also scenic accessories and even little Peco items.

Visit the Modelfair website.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Goods shed in Airfix Magazine

A few months ago, I tripped over some MiniArt building kits in a model shop. The Goods shed looked very interesting. Just the sort of anonymous building that is required in the background of a scene but is actually quite difficult to make. The tendency is to produce a special building without the requisite amount of bland.

For £18.99, compared to a similar size (292mm by 80mm) resin building, it's not expensive either.

Despite being 1:72 instead of 1:76, the model would fit on most layouts. However, it would sit even better with correctly scaled military models so I've built it, fixed Airfix Model World magazine in my crosshairs, and given it a shot.

The result appears in the May 2013 issue, sharing space with a Vampire Jet and the Monkeemobile. It seems I am headmaster at the "Skills School", my parents will be so proud...

MiniArt Goods Shed

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Flint arrowhead

Flint ArrowheadThis is easily the oldest thing I've posted on the blog. A flint arrowhead.

According to the label in the box, it dates from 3000BC making it a whopping 5000 years old!

Handling the object, I'm fascinated by the quality of the workmanship. Using only bits of rock, the maker has knapped this lump to a fine point. I suspect if I tied it to an arrow and fired the thing at someone, from close range it would still do them a mischief.

More than that, I try to imagine someone making this all those years ago, and I can't. It's just too far for my little brain. The best I can do is examine it with the same care and interest that they must have all those years ago, carefully turning it in their fingers and whacking the edges with skillful strokes to produce the desired result. A result that could mean the difference between life and death, not something that worries us today with our modelmaking (the deeper recesses of RMweb aside that is).

On the other hand, I am showing it to you using technology that they would have thought of as magic. I live in a world so far removed from their hunter-gatherer experience that it might as well be on a different planet.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

York 2013

Off to sunny but freezing York this year. Passed lots of snow but luckily, none of it on the motorway. First stop inside, the cafe for an average cup of tea and very nice slice of lemon cake, well you need it after a two and a half hour drive don't you?

There was, as usual, a lot of chat. I spent some time discussing colour theory with Aiden Campbell and admiring the incredible miniatures he produces. Robin Hood on a pin head is pretty impressive!

Layout wise, I don't think I could pick a "Model Phil would like to build" as there were several.

Albion Quarry was experiencing major electrical problems but it didn't matter much to me as I thought it looked fantastic. The colouring of the stone was very good and the rolling stock just the sort of thing I like.

Yellow diesel

Anyone feeling like I did could have bought the model as it is up for sale. I suspect the gremlins might have put a few off but they shouldn't. Re-wiring would be easier than the model making!

009 Stock

Corris reminded me of Pete Kaizers larger scale version. It's a very well presented model with a fascia that looks like a platform awning and some nice model making. Peco 009 RTR stock was being tested with an impossibly small Ruston loco. Fortunately, most of the trains were genuine Corris stock. The compact nature of this station makes it an attractive model, especially with the curves over the river.

Whiteoak Boat

Whiteoak is also narrow gauge but 016.5. Massive buildings surround the scene and give the layout real presence.

Colyer Street

Colyer Street station is based on Minories and has plenty of  1970s atmosphere. The number of blue diesel period layouts present was noticeable. Maybe the trainspotters of that era have grown up and can afford to model the period they fondly remember from sitting on the end of platforms.

Bramblewick Station

Finally, I must mention Bramblewick. It's last outing may well be remembered as much for the difficulty viewing due to the crowds as the beautiful scenery.

One feature this year was the number of chunky DCC controllers in use. Many small layouts seemed to be operated with them and I'm not sure that they are helping. There's a lot of button prodding to operate the correct points and select locos. Maybe it's me, but I still prefer a proper DC panel with a mimic diagram.

An excellent show as usual. There's more photos, some of which see me playing with the sepia filter when the lighting didn't help me out with the correct colours.

York photos on Flickr.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Screw couplings

In O gauge, I'm using 3-link couplings at present. This might change on the future but for now, the couplings on the rolling stock have to operate.

As supplied, the screw couplings in this kit have a whitemetal centre section containing the screw bit and etched strips with eyes for the loops. The eyes slip over projections on the middle. All this hangs on an etched hook.

I didn't fancy this much. The loops would undoubtedly unbend and fall off. I could replace them with lovely versions from CPL or another supplier but I can't be bothered or wish to splash the cash. My plan was much better. If I inserted a brass rod through the whitemetal section, the loops could be soldered to this.

Coupling Building

Drilling for the rod was easy enough. Soldering less so. The whitemetal bit was covered in CD marker, oiled and then wrapped in tinfoil to stop solder creep. The ends of the loops were tinned so the bare minimum of soldering would be needed to attach them to the rod.

Deft work with a hot iron and plenty of flux and you know what? It worked. The coupling swing properly and should be usable for running trains. I'm a bit chuffed. The job took over an hour for a pair of couplings, I'd get quicker if I did it again, but the results are very pleasing.

Coupling Fitted
Pedants will point out that it would be better if the handle bit of the coupling swung to the side, or that if it can't (it can't) then pointing forward might be better. I disagree - this way will be far easier to catch with the coupling pole, if not quite as prototypical.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


FlooredBecause I've been messing around with the tram loco, the etched floor parts aren't quite right. I could have modified them but instead decided to make something new.

My first though was to do the job in real wood. It's authentic but to be honest, I doubt anyone would notice and plastic sheet is much easier.

Before this, I remembered to solder the chassis retaining bolts in place. I'd hoped to use the electric iron but there's a bit too much brass around for that to work quickly so I blobbed them into place and blasted the solder with a gas flame. As hoped, it melted before anything else had the chance to get hot and fall apart.

The sharp eyed will notice that the treads are covered in CD marker and oil, which seems to have stopped the fixings soldering up into a solid lump. Hurrah!

The floor was cut and scribed from plastic sheet and then cut down to fit. To be honest, there's more been cut away than used but them's the breaks.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Book Review: Building Model Locomotives by Roche & Templar

Since all the cool kidz (if you can call Iain Robinson and CF that) are reviewing old model railway books, I guess I'd better join in with one from my archive.

Young Phil didn't have much cash but he did enjoy access to Leamington Library where he discovered Building Model Locomotives by FJ Rocje and Col GG Templar. On the basis that it was cheaper to make everything myself, I reasoned that despite being old-fashioned, it assumed there was very little available to buy so you had to scratchbuild.

The book is based on a series of articles published in Model Railway Constructor between 1947 and 1951. The book itself appeared in 1968 although I have the 1970 edition. The text was revised before publication by SW Stevens-Stratten FSRA who had his work cut out with it being 21 years old by the time he started. Once example of the changes is the removal of "Spirit of Salts" for soldering in preference to multi-core solder. There's no mention of plastic not 2-part epoxy so even then the text was treated as a bit of a museum piece.

As well as explanatory text there are a wealth of drawings showing prototype bits like firebox doors and chimneys that don't always appear in detail on normal plans. There's a lot on valve gear too with all the main flavours drawn and described.

There are some assumptions that date the work - the models tend to be O gauge and any mention of motors includes the massive devices of the time.

This is a book for the unashamed scratch builder. There's an awful lot of good solid information in it and for the modern modeller a lot you might struggle to find elsewhere. Geoff Holt's recent book does this now but I don't see any problem owning this as well. Put it next to the Guy Williams books on your shelf.

I'll be honest, like Geoff's book, the idea I could follow this and produce anything as detailed or properly engineered as anything on the pages is a bit of a myth BUT that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the read. Young Phil was persuaded that even with no money he could make things, mainly in 16mm narrow gauge, which kept him modelling where believing that everything had to be bought in might not.

Building Model Locomotives through Amazon resellers

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Time out to tidy up

Tidy Up

Making stuff is one thing. Every so often though, I have to tidy up.

The worst things to tidy are completed etched kits. Left on the frets will be several goodies that looks too nice to throw away. There will also be lovely straight strips of brass. Gotta keep me some of that. Just not too much and carefully cut into strips for the little "handy bits of brass" drawer. I really have to stop storing whole empty frets.

Then there are bits and pieces from the chassis. Leftover Romford crank pin washers for example. Very handy and not cheap to buy but fiddly to file in the appropriate jam jar. Picking them out from the detritus of the kit box isn't fun but is necessary.

Then there is the box itself. I paid good money for it but do I really need all those boxes? Maybe a couple of the "big enough for a loco" variety but surely no more. On the other hand, the flat ones are useful while the kit is being assembled and they are so well made...

Monday, April 01, 2013

Shaving plastic

Plane with plasticWorking on the plastic fantastic Brede, I've been trimming the sheet along joins.

Rather than cut everything to size perfectly, where two parts met, I left one of them oversize and planed it down with this handy little device called "Zip".

Dating back to the 1960's or even earlier, the blade is a single edged razorblade held in place with the wingnut you can see in the photo.

Sadly, the fixing isn't sophisticated enough to allow for depth adjustment, unlike slightly better block planes. Who cares, with practise, the pressure can be adjusted to carve more or less plastic away.

Those little curls mounted up as I worked my way around the boat. I did find that the best way of working was to get nearly to the join and perform the final trimming with a file and sandpaper as it is all too easy to cut too far. However, the speed at which the plane cuts away excess plastic encouraged generous overhangs which made marking out a lot easier.

Top tool.