Monday, September 30, 2013

Shiny, happy, motor cars


Spotted at Scaleforum this weekend (full review of the show coming on Saturday), right on the front of an otherwise excellent layout - straight from the box diecast cars.


This is a pet hate of mine. Why spend hours building super-dooper finescale P4 track and then decide that simply plonking vehicles in a state the yoof would call "box fresh" in the car park?

The solution is simple - take them apart by drilling out the rivets in the base. Spray the body with matt varnish. Reassemble. Job done.

Look at a real car from a distance, the sort of distance that means it's about the same size as a 4mm model. Can you see it shine? No you can't. It's probably doesn't look dirty either. Weird that.

(Yes I know I can be worse than most with unfinished jobs on layouts, but this is a common source of annoyance to me as lot of layouts do it. And it's my blog so if I want to grumble, I will)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mr Ben in Model Boats magazine

My second cover photo in a month!

This time it's Model Boats magazine that does the honours with a photo of my little boat Mr Ben occupying the bottom corner.

Inside, I run through the process of building a very traditional wooden boat from a Vintage Model Boats company kit

It's a very nice boat although since the article was written I've re-waterproofed the hull as the sanding sealer and paint wasn't doing to the job quite as well as I would have liked. It's not essential but nowadays I would cover the hull with Deluxe Materials cloth.

At least the piece mentions that I didn't get the first attempt at the drive train set up properly. This fried a motor and resulted in me eventually ripping out the propshaft to get things working as well as I would like. To be fair, if you weren't trying to build it in a hurry as a Christmas present for my Mum then I'd have got it right first time.

Oh, and the name. The kit is called "Mr Tom" but the farm where we sail has a cat called "Mr Ben" who is lovely and often comes over for some fuss.

Mr Ben

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Daventry's unxepected model shop - CT News

It's amazing where you discover interesting shops. In Daventry I spotted CT News on the main street - it's a newsagents, book shop, hardware shop and surprisingly good model shop.

Inside there is an impressively large range of plastic kits, mainly Revell and Airfix. You can also buy paint and glue. Even a couple of external mix airbrushes were hung on a rack.

OK, it's not competition for the shop in nearby Northampton, but if you don't want to take one of the half-hourly buses in that direction or just need a pot of matt black, then it's the business. Anyway, you can't buy your newspaper as well as a model of HMS Hood in a normal model shop, can you?

Map showing the location of CT News

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cardboard window

Card Window Working on a little secret project (well, one I can't mention yet on the blog) I've been trying some of the laser-cut card windows from Truetexture.

Each one is made up of 4 parts nicely cut in card less than 1mm thick. The frames are lovely and fine and the extra thickness makes them look, to my eye, better than etched versions.

Assembly is simple enough using PVA glue and taking your time. Put the first one together without glue to get your head around the order the layers are placed in though.

The killer is probably the price. £4 for 4 windows isn't cheap. A Wills pack of plastic ones worked out a lot less money.

The advantage of these is that you get a lot more variety in styles but I think I'll keep them for foreground models only for the moment.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wonky Plasticard

Wonky Plasticard

I'm doing a little model building work, some of which involves brickwork. My standard method for making 4mm scale brickwork involves breaking out a sheet of Mr Slaters most excellent embossed plasticard and sticking it on the surface requiring attention.

Mr Slater being a parsimonious cove, keeps the cost down to the hard-pressed modeller by using a cheap guillotine to chop the larger sheets into A4 sizes. This isn't a desperately accurate process as the cut lines aren't normally along a single brick course. I know this and always trim the sheet to provide an accurate bottom edge by running a blade along the grove of a course.

The next stage for this building involved producing a vertical edge at right angles to the bottom. Carefully sighting along the vertical brick courses is usually the way to do this. However, on this sheet, I discovered that the vertical courses aren't perpendicular to the horizontals.

You can see the line drawn by following courses compared to the "right" right angle set by the square.

To be sure, I checked a couple more sheets and they also weren't spot on, but a lot closer than this one. These were different bonds so from different batches.

How did this happen?

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that the plastic is heated up, pressed to emboss it and then cools down. I suspect that the cooling process isn't happening at the same rate over the entire sheet thus introducing the error.

Now, this can be a problem. I'm sure it's lead to some wobbly building work from me in the past when I've assumed that I could cut square by following the courses. Insetting windows and doors in a wall, it is essential that they follow the courses rather than the absolute accurate square lines so how do you "square" this?

For the moment at least I know. Future sheets will be checked. Iffy ones relegated to less well seen areas of a model. I'll also make sure I keep a reasonable stock of the stuff to hand. Don't want to pull out the last sheet on a Sunday and find it's a wobbly one!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: The Great Western's Last Year by Adrian Vaughan

It must have been strange for the GWR board as they sat down for the first meeting of the year on 24th January 1947. By the end of the year they knew that they, and the company that they ran, would be no more. Nationalisation was coming at the start of 1948 and despite all the different railway companies protestations, there was nothing they could do about it.

No matter what they felt, they still had to run things until the various branches of government took over. What they faced was trying to rebuild a system battered by years of war, suffering desperately from a maintenance backlog and starved of both materials and manpower.

Adrian Vaughan takes us through month-by-month telling the story of the last year. He sets the scene looking at both the national picture and some very detailed descriptions of incidents that took place.

One example is oil fired locomotives. poor quality coal supplies persuaded the company to investigate using a more consistent and reliable fuel than the traditional stuff. It worked but then the outside world intervened. Britain was forced to allow free exchange of sterling to dollars as a condition of America loaning us £3.5bn to help rebuild after the war. Oil had to be bought in dollars and the country had none as investors rapidly exited the UK and headed for the land of the free.

This is quite a wordy book but well written. What photos there are often come from the Great Westerns own company magazine. Their age is given away by less than stellar reproduction, not the fault of the printing process as a number of original photos are clear and sharp. There's also too much repetition, the picture of fueling a an oil fired loco is used 3 times, which considering the low number of images, seems excessive. Having said this, the pictures included are often fascinating and not the sort of thing you find in the mainstream press.

Overall, this is an interesting book. If you want nerdy detail, there is some. If you are more interested in the bigger historical picture, then it's here too. To me, this is the strength of the text. Placing events in a historical context that is alien to the modern reader helps us understand why things happened.

From a modellers point of view, it should influence the types of trains he or she runs (you can't have enough coal) as well as the state of the infrastructure they run through. If nothing else, it might tempt you to build a miniature of the jet-powered snow clearing machine!

Buy The Great Western's Last Year: Efficiency in Adversity from Amazon

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Missing links - O gauge coupling chain

LinksStuff that should be easy to find at a model railway show No.2 - Coupling chain for use on O gauge wagons.

You'd have thought so anyway. As it was, I searched high and low at Guildex a couple of weeks ago and found none on sale, at least none available as a spare part. You could buy coupling sets with it in but as the wagons I run already have hooks on the end, I didn't really want to pay a premium price to purchase something I wouldn't use just to get some chain.

Just when I was contemplating winding my own, someone pointed me in the direction of Parkside Dundas. On previous passes by the stand, I'd not seen any hung up on the racks and the guy running things was being spoken at by one of the crustier punters so I'd not asked.

Rectifying this a couple of hours later, I was able to order the chain. No, they didn't have it in stock on the stand, but for a few quid, I was promised some in the post. I did this and a couple of weeks later, 50 links arrived in the post.

Great stuff. Now I can replace the links that have fallen off 3 of my wagons.

I still don't understand why none of the 120(ish) stands at the show had something so basic in stock. Perhaps they all think someone else carries it and there is no demand?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Humbrol Arcylic primer

PrimedPeoplePriming metal is a pain. Cellulose primers work but they tend to be too thick to allow the detail to show through. The brush you use is toast afterwards too so you don't use a good one - which makes things worse.

Car touch-up primer is good and comes in tiny quantities in a pot complete with a brush, but it's still to thick.

Humbrol have just released a nice acrylic primer - Pot number 1 in the range.

Tested on some Monty's Models whitmetal figures, it works well. The detail is still clear and sharp despite the stuff being applied with a brush. To get this sort of result, I normally spray.

Tests on brass weren't quite so impressive. It's OK and no worse than anything else but the results show brush marks. I suspect some light abrasion and serious de-greasing is required to get best results.

It doesn't smell and best of all, the primer cleans off the brush with water, so you don't have to use something from the "past their best" pot.

Humbrol Acrylic Primer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

GMC wrecking truck

ArmyWreckingTruckDo you like including slightly random military vehicles on your model railway?

Are you slightly ashamed when people see it and you try to explain why the 8th Army is parked in your model of Homebase?

Worry no longer thanks to the Phil's Workbench prototype for anything research team.

This top truck was spotted from the top of a double decker bus a week ago. It's a GMC originally owned by the US army and not living at a garage in Warwickshire, somewhere near Southam.

I'm sure there is a kit available, Aifix used to do the truck but it seems out of production at present. I bet they aren't only ones and you can probably buy something complete with towing gear.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Horse Hearse


Funeral processions are a bit of a cliche on model railways - if you build a church then you, by law, have to fill the front of it with either people getting married, or someone getting planted.

But can you have a funeral without a church?

How about this little scene I spotted walking through town. A traditional horse-drawn hearse being prepared for someones final journey.

Finding a suitable vehicle might be difficult. My first thought was Dart Castings but while they have many similar items in the range, no coffin carriers. Langley Models have come to the rescue with a Victorian Horse Drawn Hearse kit.

To complete the scene about you'll need a horsebox and Oxford Diecast do an Albion that's probably too old for modern image modellers, but would do for the rest of us.

Set it all up around a funeral parlour and you're sorted. So, I want to see not more funerals on layouts now.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Model Shop, Northampton

The Model Shop NorthamptonA shop that does exactly what it says on the, errrr, sign.

10 minutes stroll from the Northampton town centre, past a Games Workshop, a not-Games Workshop but selling the same stuff and a comic stores that does a lot of miniature figures, is this little gem.

Established in 1937, this shop has a bit of everything. On the door frame there is the legend "Super Model Aircraft Supplies" as this was the main interest of fonder Ted Evans. A consummate aircraft modeller, he was involved in designing and building aircraft from the very earliest days of the hobby.

How do I know this? Simple, for the 75th anniversary of the shop opening, a book was produced and I bought a copy. Look out for a review in a couple of weeks time.

Anyway, the shop is modestly sized but stuffed full of stock. Aircraft, boats, model railways, slot cars and plastic kits. If it's miniature, then this is one of those places that either has it, or can get it. While I was there a customer was being helped with parts for an IC powered radio controlled car.

At the back of the shop in the railway section there is a healthy range of Hornby, Bachmannn and Dapol. Card kits from Metcalf and Superquick hang on the walls alongside Ratio plastic kits. There is even a small stock of Slaters O gauge wagon kits and Dapol 7mm RTR stock. Around the counter are myriad Peco products.

Paints and glues are stocked for everyone and since the shop caters for different disciplines, there's a good range of these to chose from. Lots of wood, plastic (nicely filed ranges of Slaters Plasticard) and metal sections too.

It's the sort of shop that makes visiting Northampton worth the journey!

The Model Shop Northampton

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stripping car bodies


First job on the O gauge cars - get the paint off them.

The plastic bodied Citroen needs a gentle strip so I used Precision Paints Superstrip. Now, I should have dunked it in the stuff for an hour or so. As it was, I just put it in a shallow bath and brushed the liquid over a few times. This didn't take all the paint off - the silver radiator was pretty resistant but then silver paint always is - but it certainly removed the worst of it. Given enough time, I'm confident that I could return the model to bare plastic, but what I have is near enough.

The diecast model encountered the more serious Nirtromore paint stripper. A good brushing with this quickly removed all the paint and transfers even if the work was a bit smelly. My rubber gloves weren't really thick enough either as the finger and thumb that held the model tingled a bit afterwards.

Next up, some reconstruction. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cars for Clayhanger

Car parts

Looking over Clayhanger Yard, I think I need another road vehicle tucked away. Looking around Guildex, I was struggling slighty - there are plenty of vehicles to chose from but they are either too late for the period I'm running the layout, or too expensive. I can't justify £30+ for a single vehicle for this particualr model, even when the kits looks so appealing.

On the back table ot the O Guauge Guild exectutor service I spotted a battered diecast that looked about right. This turned out to be by the firm Hobbcar - who I can find nothing about on the interweb. It claims to be a 1932 Ford which is the right era even though it looks a bit Anthill Mob.

Branded as a Fortnum and Mason delivery van, I had some hopes the prototype ran in Britian. Fot 2 quid, I grabbed it.

One problem was that a wheel had been damaged so I required a replacement. Next on the table I found a battered Traction Avant which looked like it had suitable wheels. 3 quid.

1934 Ford Model B (UK)The Ford turns out to be a Model B - a car that appears to have been manufacturered at Dagenham, so I'll get away with it.

On the running board, I found a spare wheel, ideal to replace the broken one if I only display the car with the depression in the wing hidden from view. Looking at the poster on the right, it may be that UK cars either didn't have the spare, hid it away, put it on the other side, or the artist just ignored it.

This is good because the Citroën is a nice model too and far too good to throw away just to use the wheels. An unidentified plastic kit, there are parts missing, as there are on the Ford, but I reckon I can save them both. Neither will be perfect, but they'll look the part and fill a gap on the layout.

You might think a French car isn't ideal for the UK layout, but as I discovered from a firend who owned one, they were produced in Slough, so mine will be a UK built model and this perfect for me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A big day for the blog!

Indulge me for a moment please - this is a big day for the Phil's Workbench blog and I can't resist getting a bit nerdy about it.

Look, it's a blog about building trains'n'stuff. Nerdy is what we do.

Anyway, like every other blogger, I watch the visitor numbers to my site. We all get excited when these go up. Well, for me, one of these counters has reached a milestone.

This blog now has 100 regular readers.

Among the 350 or so people who drop in each day, just under a third are visiting and reading this stuff on a regular basis. This is an important number as it only goes up if readers are enjoying what they read and come back for more. On the other hand it could just be that you are all bored at work and this is more exciting than a spreadsheet.

Mind you, it's taken me 2700 posts and over 7 years to get here!

OK, so compared to many websites, these are penny numbers, but as anyone who blogs will tell you, it's incredibly gratifying that anyone bothers to read this stuff at all. I'd like to thank each and every one of you who take the time to look in. Hopefully, I'm being entertaining at least some of the time.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dock in a box in Hornby Magazine

With lots of other work floating around, my contribution to the October issue of Hornby Magazine is a bit limited. On the other hand, it's one I've been keen to do for a couple of years - a small dockside diorama.

With the last couple of Parker's Guides requiring kits in the 3-figure price range, it's nice to do something that cost less than a tenner.

Using Scalescenes kits, mainly the free warehouse, I made up a short diorama in a box file. Obviously, if you have more space then you can build a far longer scene, but this is enough for my purposes.

Dock Diorama

The magazine is a lot fatter than normal this month. The reason is that you get a free layout inside!

OK, so not a complete one, but the trackplan for a very buildable station and yard. Future issues will contain the kits (again, from Scalescenes) to complete the scene. Just add a baseboard, some track and trains. Best of all, if you don't want to build the layout, the structures will still be useful.

It's great to see this model. The idea for it developed over a year ago at a get-together with the main contributors. I have a feeling that I may have been instrumental in coming up with the idea although I can't claim all the credit. Nor can I claim to have done any of the work to bring it to fruition. It's still nice to see it happen though. Let's hope a few people actually build the model. It would make a great little layout for anyone looking to move on beyond the trainset oval.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

RIP Modelzone

So, Modelzone is no more. The last stores have closed and a brave attempt to build a national chain of model shops has died a death.
Doubtless the shops themselves will now be boarded up and the landlords will get no rent. I always wonder if they wouldn't have been better to have worked with the administrators to try and keep the group alive and bring in some income. I wonder if Deloite could have understood the business better and done some deals, or did they just want to kill of a chain that that didn't understand as quickly as possible to collect the fee?
Modellers will moan a bit but then head back to Hattons to buy their goodies. Some of us will lament the ability to pick up a pot of Humbrol on the high street (not my high street, I'm all right in this respect) but then you can't build a business on the back of a few pots of paint and glue.
I wandered in to the Birmingham branch on Tuesday and left with a bag of knock-down prince materials. It felt like picking over the bones of a corpse and I really felt for the staff stuck being nice to punters but knowing that next week they would be standing out in the cold. I wish them luck.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guildex 2013 - Please bring food

I don't know why I didn't book the Friday night.

I mean, I always book accommodation for the Friday night of a show. Except this time. Maybe I though I was being clever. Maybe I reckoned that the M6 on Friday afternoon would be worse than a 6:30am start on Saturday morning. Whatever, it was this that we did and to be fair, the M6 was pretty quiet.

Arriving at the hall, there was a quick circuit of the 1-way system to get us to the correct entrance but by 8am, we were in and the car parked up for the weekend.

Perspective Modelling

Operational by 8:45, we had time for a quick look around the show before heading back to be ready for the early entrants at 9:30. There were some superb dioramas on the LNWR stand including a breathtaking piece of perspective modelling. You don't often see this but this was worth the look. Being there early and showing an interest, I got to see the top view - the model is very shallow but you can't tell this from the front. Quite how you go about starting a model where nothing is square, I don't really know.

Photographing the Heljan WesternI also managed to borrow the new Heljan Wester diesel and railcar. The later could have happily stayed as it was a gem, although £400 seems a bit steep. Big locos aren't really my thing so the Western went back before any more bits dropped off the pre-production model!

Anyway, we awaited the first punters for quite a while. This is a show with 120+ trade stands so obviously the early birds were there to catch the 7mm scale worms. Eventually though, they found us and started to watch.

And chat. Buy, did we chat to people. The Clayhanger Yard build has been serialised in Hornby Magazine and an awful lot of people seem to have been following this. One gentleman had even come up from London especially to see the model - fortunately he was pleased with what he found!

By lunchtime, the early start and constant talking was catching up with us. The problem was that the show was so busy, attempts to get lunch we doomed to failure - the queue was out the door. We survived on Kit Kats and biscuits until mid afternoon when I managed to bag some chicken wrap and a portion of chips from the very depleted cafe. Luckily, we acquired a couple of guest operators who kept the layout moving while we talked.

By the end of the day, we sloped off to the hotel which is next to the hall. A look in at the social event didn't last long as the single member of bar staff was struggling to serve the 50 or so people who had turned up at the same time.

Not fancying the restaurant much we headed off to a Beefeater only to find it closed.

Telford is a "new town" which means a lot of roads and very little town centre as far as I can tell. This is all great if you know where you are going but we didn't. Had we not been quite so knackered, perhaps a trip to Kidderminster or Bridgenorth would have been on the cards but neither of us felt like being adventurous.

Dinner ended up being a Twix and shortcake biscuit from the vending machine. Even that wasn't easy as the one on our floor was broken and I had to search out a working one. To be fair, the room was very comfortable but to be honest, I think we'd have slept on the floor at this point.

The "Full English" breakfast in the morning turned out to be under-cooked bacon in a bap. To accompany this there was cereal, and toast from a machine capable of making stale bread or charcoal and nothing in between.

Locos on shedGetting back to the hall, we had a quick clean up and then took a load of photos of the layout. While I have plenty of building shots, finished ones are a bit rarer. After this, we got our only other look around the show. There were some superb layouts and amazing trade. I even liked the big GWR model which was well made and featured stock of a quality I'll never match.

Anyway, the doors opened and we started work. Almost immediately, we discovered that the mechanism under one of the points had failed.

On Clayhanger, this is a problem. Because it's aimed at beginner, the model sits on a paste table so there is no access to the underside of the baseboard. Fortunately, the failed point was at the fiddle yard end so by sliding the table along while holding on to the baseboard, I could see what the problem was.

Point operation uses piano wire on to which are fitted the brass bits from inside electrical chocolate block. Wires soldered to these head up through the points to operate them and it was one of these that had dropped off. Fixing it requires the wire to be dropped off the board and a new wire soldered in place. Easy to do with the layout on its side. Nearly impossible with it set up.

In the end, discretion won out and we fixed the point in position so most of the model could be used. Being the first point on the board this dramatically reduced operation.

As it happens, by shear hard work we got away with it mostly. Every punter was talked to. Problems were explained and most seemed far more interested in finding out how we made things rather than worrying about seeing models move much.

The other blessing was that the show was a lot quieter. I reckon that the attendance was about 30% of day 1. We even got in to eat at lunchtime to get some very nice food. Of course, just as I got back, the Fowler loco arrived but my burger stayed warm in its box while I took photos...

Knocking down con-incided with the roar of heavy rain on the metal roof. Getting the car near the door was tough too. I should have moved it to the nearer parking in the morning as despite being a proper exhibition hall, access for vans involves a huge queue at the back and I got stuck in it for a while.

An hour after the show closed, we were just setting off. Another hour and half and the layout was back in store.

So, one of the tougher shows. We talked ourselves hoarse but that's what we were there to do. If I were invited again I'd go on Friday night and make sure I brought in some food like the team whose layout backed on to our did. Checking out the local eateries for Saturday night in advance would have been a good idea too. None of this is the fault of anyone but me - hopefully this will help someone in the future.

The show itself looked very good. Neither of use saw much but then that's what happens when you build a layout like ours which is about the chat rather than hiding away behind the scenes.

Anyway, what photos I took are on Flickr.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Watching a Pug shunting

Pug shunting

Clutching his copy of "Industrial Locomotives of the West Midlands", Bob Baker watches LMS Pug No.11234 shunting a couple of loaded coal wagons to the boiler house at Clayhanger Yard. In a few minutes, stokers will climb aboard and unload several tons of nutty slack onto the ground, digging though the pile with shovels and the sweat of their brows. Fortunately, the weather is kind today, a cool and dry morning.

It's 1947 and the loco will be transferred into ownership of the new-fangled British Railways. The livery will remain the same although the tank sides will sport the ferret on a unicycle emblem. Sadly, the loco won't survive onto preservation, being scrapped in 1961.

By this point it won't be needed to shunt coal anyway. The boilerhouse will have been converted to oil firing. Fuel will be delivered by tanker to be stored in a new facility built where the pile of coal currently sits.

A few years later and the yard will finally close down and disappear into history. Now, there is no trace of the railway at Clayhanger although several lines still pass close by.

Note: All of this is of course, completely made up. Clayhanger Yard exists only as an O gauge model and Bob Baker is a whitemetal figure permanently staring into space, although in this respect he's like many railway enthusiasts I have seen...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A pair of Fowlers

Pair of Fowlers

It's a common complaint that as soon as you start building a locomotive, along comes an easier option to produce the same thing.

Scratchbuilders see kits appear. Kitbuilders see Ready-to-Run models appear. Clumsy RTR buyers find models in easier to open boxs pop up on the shelves.

So it was with the Fowler shunter. There I was, happily browsing the trade stands at Kettering show, and there was an announcement from Ixion that they would be producing the loco as a RTR model in O gauge. My first thoughts were to a half-built kit lurking in a cupboard. My second involved burning down the factory to stop this happening.

Anyway, fast forward a bit and I get my hands on the first pre-production, painted version of the RTR model (Thanks to EDM Models) to plonk on Clayhanger Yard. In the stock box is my still half-built kit, so it seems natural to compare the two.

I should point out a few things. The painted loco is due for revision before it goes on sale so the dodgy font will be fixed. My model represents the LMS version, hence the different donkey engine size and position. I'd love to do the GWR version but my painting and lining skills aren't up to it.

The kit is a lot heavier than the plastic version. The cab sides of the later are finer but overall, I don't think there is a huge amount to chose between them. You can decide for yourself whether this is good or bad. I think that it means a well-assembled kit next to a bought in model will look fine. No need to bin hours of construction work, nor feel that there is a better option than buying the Ixion model.

Will I hand of the cash for a RTR version? Nope. I don't need a fleet of these things, one is plenty, but if anyone wants to send one to me, then I wouldn't turn it down.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review: Haynes Tornado manual

It used to be said that every Haynes manual was based on a complete strip down and re-build of the subject vehicle. This one is very different - it's based on the build of a very special one.

For those who don't know, Tornado is the first main line steam locomotive since 1960. A stupendous achievement, the book provides a full history of the project from inception to the end of the locomotives first year in service.

Along the way, the team have to deal with a railway system in turmoil thanks to John Major's incompetent privatisation. Standards bodies come and go and they have to change design features to comply with new regulations for anything running on the main line.

Having said this, that element provides a lot of interesting text. This is a modern steam loco and as such includes many refinements, all of which are explained along with the reasons for them. There's a heck of a lot of new electrical equipment to be fitted and most of it makes complete sense. This is the 1930s and so light on engines make sense. Fitting a "black box" recorder, cab radio and AWS too.

There is so much detail in this book that it's a fantastic read. None of it assumes you are a serious enthusiast - maybe this won't appeal to anyone who thinks they know it all, but I certainly picked up lots of useful info. Steam locos are complex things and yet this book tells you how to build one - sort of. At least you will understand what goes on in the smokebox and be able to explain "hammer blow".

OK, so you can't build an express engine by reading this book, but you can get an idea of the efforts that are required to do so. I enjoyed it immensely and can't see any obvious improvements. Maybe there could be more technical stuff at the expense of the story of how the trust was formed and ran, but I prefer the more rounded story. This shows how horribly complicated modern railway are and just how tough it is to run a railtour.

Along the way, tribute is rightly paid to some very hard working people. It's also a tonic for anyone who believes we've lot all the tradition skills to do this stuff. OK, the boiler came from Germany but I believe that even these can be made here now.

Non-car Haynes manuals tend to be horribly gimmicky. This one might not tell you how to fix anything but it is a fantastic read.

The A1 Locomotive Trust.

Tornado Manual at Amazon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Collectable soldering iron

12V Soldering iron

I picked this little goodie up at Guildex last weekend for a couple of quid. It's a 12v Antex soldering iron that dates from a long time ago.

Fitted with a couple of croc-clips, the idea is that you stick it on a 12V supply and heat some metal. For railway modellers, this probably means the output on the back of your H&M controller, or the track with said controller wound up to the max.

According to the instructions, this is Model B and capable of 12 watts. Presumably this means I could solder electrical stuff with it and not just low-melt. Using the variable output on a controller should bring the heat down but I doubt the cut-out on the power source would like an extended period of what is effectively a short-circuit.

From tip to the start of the lead is 16.5cm so it is a dinky little tool. Sadly, the lead is damaged, the previous owner obviously touched it with the iron and melted the insulation. While this might not be original, I'm going to find some suitable wire and replace it. While I'm not planning on using it much, the standard Antex 25w with a 10foot long lead I have for exhibitions is more useful, a faulty soldering iron is no use to anyone and I feel I want to make this one better.

Still, as a complete iron with box and instructions, it can join my collection of interesting tools. I'm probably alone in this but maybe, one day, the rest of the world will realise what they are missing out on.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Nailing paint to plastic

My Dad is a bit of a tram fan. Normally he sticks to British prototypes but at some time in the past he's spotted a Japanese model kit from Hasegawa and added it to the collection.

In the box, the mouldings are very nice and have assembled well. The transfers are brilliant too resulting in a very colourful model.

To display it, a length of track is included and I fancied it as a pleasant painting job. Nothing difficult but the moulding is very fine and ought to come up a treat with careful brushwork.Since complicated painting falls to me, I knew I'd be looking at it eventually.

Anyway, I painted it with Humbrol enamel. These were left to dry overnight and then I applied the finishing touch, a wash of dark grey between the stones.

Suddenly, the paint crinkled like I'd poured Mek-Pak over it. For a while I kept and eye on it hoping the wrinkles would settle out. They didn't so I patted them a bit with some kitchen towel. That just removed the paint so I rubbed the rest of the piece and pretty much all the paint came off.

Was there mould release on the part that repelled the paint? That would be odd as injection moulded items don't normally require this and if they did, the manufacturers would wash it off. The part hadn't been handled much so I don't suspect finger grease. Maybe it's the material itself.

Anyway, a spray of Halfords grey car primer and more paint solved the problem. Sadly, while the real thing looks great, for some reason, the photo looks rubbish. You'll just have to believe me on that.

One final spooky thing - I can't find a mention of this kit anywhere on the web. Hasegawa Kit No. EC1: 1200 - a while bogie Japanese tramcar. Sadly, the box doesn't have much English on it so I don't know the correct kit title.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Peugeot 206 Rear Light Replacement

It's embarrassing to fail an MOT on faulty light bulbs. Checking before the test takes no time at all, especially if you have a helper, and the fix is usually quick and cheap. Needless to say, I have been too busy and lazy to do this do this so the latest fail sheet gave me a face as red and glowing as the lights should have been.

Rear lights matter, or at least they do if you don't want anyone driving in to the back of you at night. I once worked in an office where a colleague had a bit of a rant one day because the Police had pulled her partner over due to none of the lights on the back of his car working. I'm sure she would have been just as happy had she run into someone in the dark because of their similarly working illumination...

Anyway, here's how I changed the bulb on the back of my 206. This works for both the rear lights and brake lights as they are the same bulb. The indicators are in here too.

Pull the plug

The cover inside the book is held in place with a plastic bung. Pull the centre of this out and the whole thing should then be removed. You might need some small pliers to do this. Don't lose it as you'll put it back later. Pull the covering away so you can get at the back of the light unit.

Undo the light unit

First, unplug the electrical connection. Push the lump on top of the plug and it should then pull away. Next, undo the plastic wing nut and put it somewhere safe.

The whole unit is then pulled away from the car. It will take a wiggle and be careful not to drop it.

Get to the bulbs

I was following the Haynes manual to get this far but at this point it just tells you to put the thing back in the car. That's not going to fix any bulbs...

Anyway, to get at them, undo the nut on the back. Small pliers help here. Put this in the safe place.

Inside the light cluster

A bit of a wiggle (these bits have seals to keep the muck out so they should just fall apart but gentle pressure did it for me) separates the bulb and lens units.

Taillight bulb

The tail light bulb is a bit clever, it lights up for both brakes and rear lights and so has two different filaments (the bit that glows) in each one. On the sides are two projections at different heights (you can see this clearly on the Halfords website) so when you replace the bulb, it should be possible to put it in only the correct way. In aged VeeDubs, that doesn't always work but on the 206 it seemed OK. If you aren't sure, take a good look at the old bulb before you take it out and put the new one in the same way.

Bulb Testing

Before putting it all back together, I plugged the unit in and tested it. This isn't an essential step but it's not a bad idea as it saves you taking things apart again if you've put the bulb in wrong. Test the rear lights, brake lights (same bulb, different filaments) and the indicators too while you are at it.

Reassembly is the reverse of the above. Unplug the lights, put the covers back on doing the metal bolt up as tight as you can manage with fingers. Don't go mad as breaking the plastic would be easy if you screw it on too tight. Put the complete unit back in the car, plug it in and test again. If all is well then put the cover back over the lot and push that bung into place, finishing but pushing the central pin back in to hold it.

Tail Lights On

I used Halfords HBU380 bulbs. Since I only needed one, the other lives in the car for emergencies (on the road, even if you call a breakdown service, it's not a bad idea to have a spare in case they don't). The old bulb in my car looked OK but was faulty as its replacement worked fine. To be honest, these bulbs are so cheap you change them if you aren't sure.

Legal note: This is an accurate description of what I did. I am not a professional mechanic and these notes are offered for entertainment only. If you chose to follow them and things don't work, it's not my fault. Sorry. If you are at all unsure then get a professional to do the job. The car used was a 1996 UK spec 206, other models may be different.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Peugeot 206 Numberplate lights

Who knew modern cars had two lights aimed at the rear numberplate? All my old VW's only have 1, so when the MOT man handed me a fail with both nearside and offside lights mentioned, I assumed it was an error.

It wasn't though, there are 2 on the back of a Peugeot 206 and in my case, neither was operating. While not quite an dangerous a fault as some, it's both enough to fail the annual test and also provide a handy excuse for a Policemen to pull you over if he feels like it.

Anyway, replacement is pretty quick and easy. No tools are needed.

Unclip the cover

First, remove the black plastic cover inside the tailgate. It pulls away, uncliping around the edge. I started at the top, behind the high level brake light. Be careful to pull the cover and not the light!

Unclip the light

Squeeze the clips either side of the light housing. A bit of a wiggle and the light should pop out of the outside of the boot lid.

Plugging in

Unplug the connection. There is a pushable clip on the top to release the plug, you can see it nearest the camera in the photo above.

206 numberplate light

Carefully lever off the clear cover started in one end. This should come with fingers but gentle pressure with a small screwdriver blade might be needed, I used one! Be careful as it would be easy to crack the plastic. On both my lights, I found one end flipped out easier than the other, probably die to dirt ingress.

The bulb pulls out and the replacement pushes in. Cleaning the cover isn't a bad idea at this point as you aren't likely to have the thing apart in a hurry.

Re-assembly is the reverse of the above. Put the light unit back together, push it back into the tailgate and plug back in. Do test the lights before you put the cover back on though.

Lights on

I used Halfords HBU501 bulbs. Time taken - about 10 minutes, 15 to do both lights.

Legal note: This is an accurate description of what I did. I am not a professional mechanic and these notes are offered for entertainment only. If you chose to follow them and things don't work, it's not my fault. Sorry. If you are at all unsure then get a professional to do the job. The car used was a 1996 206, other models may be different.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Off to Telford for Guildex

Y7 Shunting

Off to Guildex at Telford this weekend - how exotic is that?

Seriously though, we'll be standing behind Clayhanger Yard for a couple of days and trying not get tempted by any of the lovely kits on sale. Difficult, as there are always some fabulous models that I really, really want to build.

Hopefully I will have packed at least 1 new shunting pole to try out. We're planning to get there early to look at a little electrical issue with one of the points too. It's not big enough (read: I could just ignore it) to bother setting up the layout at home.

Please do come along and say hello and bring us cakes. We're always keen to chat to people, after all, this is a little layout and we need the entertainment. Don't forget to remind me that I don't need to buy any more kits too!

Guildex Website

Thursday, September 05, 2013

3-link coupling hooks - Part 2

Coupling hooksAfter struggling a bit with the 3-link couplings on our 7mm scale layout Clayhanger Yard, I came away from Midland Railex with a whole lot of helpful suggestions to make the hook we were using better.

The main improvement would be to lengthen the wire. Working between vans proved very difficult as the torch often hit the roof before the hook reached the coupling.

Thinner wire was suggested but I've stuck with 0.7mm brass as I don't fancy anything finer making it through the weekend without needing replacement.

Less for a curve on the hook is the second change. About 3/4 of a hook seemed to be the consensus.

My plan had been to test a number of hooks but and still stymied by the lack of small torches available locally. I'll keep looking as I'd like a selection to play with. I suppose the lighting up bit isn't essential, we didn't use it at Railex but then that was quite a bright show. Under the NEC sodium lights, I think a bit more illumination might be required.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Industrial Locomotives of the West Midlands

Industrial Locomtives of the West Midlands 1947An interesting purchase for a couple of quid at a recent exhibition - The Birmingham Locomotive Clubs (later, the Industrial Railway Society) "Industrial Locomotives of the West Midlands" spotting book.

Covering central England, it lists the loco fleets of 140 different concerns using both standard and narrow gauge machines. The editor of the 44 page booklet is Eric S. Tonks.

I'm staggered at the range of business, a few that caught my eye:

Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd (Harbury)
Austin Motor Co,. Ltd (Longbridge)
City of Birmingham Electric Supply Dept
Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd (Small Heath)
City of Coventry Gas Dept (Foleshill)
Foleshill Railway Company
Haunchwood Brick & Tile Co. Ltd. (Stockingford)
Morris Motors Ltd (Courthouse Green, Coventry)
Wolseley Motors Ltd.
Hill Farm (Brockamin, Leigh)
Birmingham Canal Navigations (Norton Canes)
Crosse & Blackwell Ltd (Burton-on-Trent)
Samuel Griffiths, Scrap Dealer (Willenhall)
Midland Tar Distillers Ltd. (Oldbury and Chesterton)
Priestman's Depot (Brownhills)
Royal Ordnance Factory (Bescot)

and that ignores all the collieries. I'd take a bet that none of these businesses has anything to do with rail transport now. Some are fairly close to where I live so I might do a bit more digging to find out more about them. At a guess, we have over 1000 locomotives listed.

Inside Industrial Locomtives of the West Midlands 1947

As well as spotting lists (well marked in this copy) there are a few photos. Quite an achievement at this date for a low-volume publication.

I like the stamped number on the cover too. Presumably this is so a particular spotter couple identify his (let's face it, it was HIS) book in the even of a mix-up.

If you want a re-print of this book, you can buy it here.

or the modern equivalent here.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Volks Car No.1

Most readers will be familiar with the Volks Electric Railway in Brighton. I was recently reviewing Volk's News, the journal of the Volks Electric Railway Association, for in which there is a fascinating account by historian Barrie McFarlane of the original car number 1 from the line.

Apparently it was replaced very early on in the lines history by a larger capacity vehicle. Electric motors being rare beasts in 1883, Volk transferred the one in Car 1 to the new car leaving the old carriage powerless.

At this point, it seems that instead of being scrapped, it might have been moved to a short-lived line at Aston Hall in Birmingham running in 1885.

As part of the review, I naturally linked to the Association website, and what do I find there? Only a free-downloadable model of car no.1.

The model should be printed on to card and makes up to a roughly 7mm scale version. However, I'm thinking bigger. If you wanted something a bit different in the garden, as a 2ft gauge prototype, you could re-create it in 7/8th scale and run the car on LGB track. Construction would be in wood as per the prototype, with a single axle drive.

Now, I don't need any more projects, but if this sparks (pun intended) anyone off, then do let me know. As a starting point, get hold of Volk's News 48 (Summer 2008) which apparently has the most detailed drawings and description.

Update: For some excellent photos of the Volks Railway as it is today (well, a week or so ago), head over to the Wood End and Beyond blog.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Factory ends and Bridges

Another photo from the Hornby Magazine Facebook feed. This time showing the new bridge and factory ends I've built fro Twelve Trees Junction.
The bridge is a 3mm thick plywood deck with plasticard sides. While fiddly and time-consuming to make, the worst part of these was marking them out. My best guess was that the radius of the top curve should be 24 inches.
Finding something to draw around proved impossible. Using a length of string and pencil as a compass might work, but I tend to find the string stretches slightly as you draw the curve which would look odd.
The solution was to mount a couple of 24 inch SMP point plans on a bit of cardboard and cut around the inner curve. This was them used as a template to draw the line. The job took no time to do but a heck of a long while to think about!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Coventry Festival of Motoring

Tin Snail line-up

Not much to say about this. There were lots and lots of classic cars - sadly quite a lot of which I remember seeing on the road as normal cars. Sunday was better than Saturday for exhibits apparently and the Wall of Death was the best thing I've seen in a long white.

Anyway, head over to Flickr for the photos.