Thursday, July 31, 2014

What colour is a paving slab?

Dorridge paving slabsI spend quite a lot of my time looking at things and wondering what colour they are.

Some are obvious, like locomotives. Some can be bodged with a bit of dirt, like bauxite colour railway wagons for which I always use red oxide spray primer.

Others are a mystery and in to this category, I consign paving slabs.

Some are grey(ish), some cream(ish) and others beige(ish). Looking at the photo taken from the overbridge at Dorridge, there are many different shades, all simialr but not the same.

Lighting plays a big part - the picture was taken aroun 8:30 on a warm and sunny morning.

Anyway, the answer comes in the form of this handy on-line tool. Loading my picture in allows the grabbing of individual colours along with suggested paints.

Model Master fabric tan is apparently pretty good for the browner slabs. For grey at the bottom of the shot, try Tamiya flat aluminium - I'd never have through of this.

The range of colours is huge however. Why can't these things just be grey?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: British Rail 1948-83 A Journey by Design by Brian Haresnape

Let's start with the cover - an arresting design that grabbed my eye as I walked by a second hand book stall. The cover is based on a poster by the Danish artist Per Arnold and is part of series of BR posters from the 1980s.

Inside we have an introduction from Sir Peter Parker (no relation) where he pays homage to the place high quality design has always held on the railways but also includes the words:

It is perhaps unfortunate that much of railway hardware tends to last a long while - rather too long in present circumstances with restrictions on new investment. But herein is a challenge; good design will likewise last a long time, so we must never relax our efforts to apply the highest standards of design.

The railways in Great Britain have always had access to the highest standards of mechanical design - even if they haven't always been allowed to use the - but this book covers the visual impact and design.

Starting off with a little history, we quickly get on to the late 1950s and establishment of a Design Panel who do their best to turn the ugly early diesel duckings in to something akin to a swan. Sometimes they succeeded, the Hymeks being particularly attractive, other time the start point was beyond saving such as the CoBos. There are also the inevitable conflicts between the engineering and operating sides of the business and the design panel. An example given id the Class 50 which suffered from a lumpy headcode box and face festooned with cables.

Much of the book concerns the HST and APT programmes and it's an excellent reminder just how design-lead the APT was. Rea efforts were made to produce something modern. Several design studies are shown, most well know now but it does show just how much effort went in to the process.

We also look at the Leyland railbus project (another fascination of mine) and as a reminder that railways are more than just trains, Sealink vessels and buildings. We tend to forget just how much detail there is to look at. Staff uniforms, class 20 cabsides and advertising material also appear on the page.

The most fascinating design study, apart from the bubble dome highland observation car, has to be this one. Captioned, "A tentative deign proposal for a double-deck suburban carriage with APT-type four wheel suspension; seen in the model form developed by the Design Panel in 1976 at the request of the Research Department."
Imagine this - a double decked Pacer or "Nodding Donkey". That would have been an interesting idea! It does have a striking look not unlike the Class 67 diesel of today.
This book is an excellent addition to the shelves of modellers or railway enthusiasts. Sadly, as far as I can tell, it is long out of print, my edition dates from 1983, it's well worth looking for on those pre-loved book stands and shops.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Honda T360

Finished T360

Job done. A cute little vehicle. The colour suits it very well.

Lesson learned - much better dust protection is required. I thought I'd got away with it but close scrutiny of the photos and then the model shows all sorts of microscopic stuff in there. On a shiny model you could probably polish this away with T-Cut but I prefer the satin look. Some weathering might also help but I'll leave it clean for now.

Apart from that, it looks very nice to me and joins the collection of my Dads custom car kits from the 1960s in a cabinet. I'll admit, I'd quite like to see a real T360 now but I don't suppose there are many in the UK.

Mind you, it's a good job I didn't look on eBay before starting as the kit is (apparently) worth 4 times what I paid for it. But then, plastic kits are for building, not collecting so I've done the right thing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

T360 chassis and interior

Chassis built

Neat bit of design inside the T360. Vehicle interiors can be a bit of a nightmare for plastic kit makes. Ideally you want to attach them to the insides of the body but then fitting the glazing becomes tricky. Worse, the job has to be carried out upside down so the body can be plonked on to of the chassis.

If the car is a monocoque then matters only get worse. I must build one one day to find out how they do it.

Anyway, here the sides fit in to holes in the floorpan and are separated by the dashboard. No representation of pedals is provided since you can't see them, but a handbrake lever is (it fits alongside the driver and must have got in the way when getting in an out of the door) and you can't see that either!

At the back, the exhaust wraps around the rear axle, a bit of a fiddle until you work out how to thread it through.

Biggest disappointment so far - the tyres. While rubber might be the correct material, when they have as much flash around the centre lines as these did, I for one would prefer hard plastic. Some work with a pair of curved nail scissors cured the worst bits but I'm not really happy with the results.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poppies in the four foot

Poppies in the trackwork

Following on from yesterdays post showing a Class 31 at Leamington, here's a rather less agreeable part of the modern railway scene.

Once upon a time, plate layers were allocated lengths of line. They were responsible for their allotted section and would maintain it in excellent condition, sometimes winning awards for their efforts.

Nowadays, people are expensive, and so is weedkiller. Pretty as these poppies are, I can't help feeling that growing between the rails on platform 2, a very busy road, doesn't say anything complimentary about Network Rail and it's efforts to look after the infrastructure they are responsible for.

Of course, modellers love this sort of thing. I look forward to seeing miniature versions of this on layouts in the future...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

31 601 goes to Leamington


Waiting for my train to Birmingham on Thursday, I was more than little surprised to see a Class 31 diesel run light engine through the middle roads.

As I wrote in the excellent, Modelling British Railways Diesel Locomotives,

"Although changes in traffic, not least the move to multiple unit passengers trains, have led to the withdrawal of many members of the class, some soldier on with private operators and Network Rail's own trains. "
which it appears is true. According to, the loco belongs to Hanson Traction Locos and live at the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.
It's quite a survivor, being built in April 1960. Most of its contemporaries have long since gone for scrap. 31 601 soldiers on, a relic from when real railways were more interesting.
Years ago, I suggested to a friend who works in a senior position at Virgin Trains, that when I come to power, control of railways will be handed over to people recruited from the ends of station platforms. He wasn't impressed by this idea as apparently it would result in Class 31s being stuck on heavy trains all the time. Well, the 31s are still around, they just need a train...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trailer movement

Another piece of advice from British Railways in 1961. If you have the proper appliance, you can move Scammell Mechanical Horse trailers by hand - if they are empty of course. 
I didn't know this ever happened. I can't recall ever seeing photos of it being carried out, nor anything on the hook device to allow it to be done.  Presumably this did take place or the booklet wouldn't mention it.
If anyone has more information, It would make an interesting little cameo on a layout.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Klear and transfers

Transfers on 1Time for a bit of an experiment. The paint on the T360 is matt and transfers prefer to sit on gloss - if microscopic air bubbles are trapped underneath you see a silver ghosting effect.

So, I did out the venerable bottle of Johnsons Klear and decide to try it out. A few coats sprayed over the bodywork and that matt paint is turning shiny. Quite nice really.

A good drying under the hair dryer followed by an hour in the box and I'm ready to apply what the manufacturer calls Decals. There is very little in the way of carrier film around the edge but some seem to be too large for their intended spots - especially the number plates and dashboard display. The latter is trimmed with a knife, hardly ideal but better than having it poke out of the binnacle.

Transfers on 2After this, some Micro-Sol products are plashed around to settle the transfers properly. This makes them cockle up a bit but no worries - I've seen this before and normally they pull flat again.

Not this time, the big H on the bonnet stays as wrinkly as a Tracey Emin sheet so it's more Micro-sol and some delegate prodding with a paintbrush. Eventually it's OK and the model gets to dry again.

To finish up, a spray with Humbrol Satincote brings all the sheen's together. I don't like high gloss models and this looks about right.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

T360 painting

Painting startsNice neat paint jobs start with restraint. Don't stick all the bits together than then try to paint them, splash the colour while they are still on the sprue. Then let them dry. Be careful with the glue when you do begin assembly too.

Anyway, chassis bits are painted with Humbrol matt black using a brush. This is normally a good brushing paint and so it proved again with a single coat providing excellent coverage with not a hint of brush mark to be seen.

For variety, the exhaust system is covered in Mr Hobby (a Japanese paint so appropriate) Dark Iron. This stuff prefers spraying but if beaten with a Tamya paint stirrer will Painting starts2condescend to brush. It's an odd colour, not black or dark grey and slightly shiny. Not sure really, but it's underneath so doesn't really matter. I can see uses elsewhere though so a handy test.

Bodywork should be baby blue, or invalid blue as it's called when applied to Volkswagens. I didn't know this when I started so used a pot of Humbrol 157 - Azure blue. To be fair, I'm not wildly out as the appeal of this pot was that the one thing is isn't is Azure blue. More a pale blue/mauve colour. Pretty but nothing like a pair of denim jeans, which is what I hoped to paint when I bought it...

Anyway, the body was sprayed along with some interior parts. Only after I'd done this did I realise that there is no positive fixing for the wing mirrors so they had to be fitted with superglue. And I got one in the wrong place and had to polish away the glue before touching up with thinned paint and a brush. I don't think you can tell.

I still like the colour though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1963 Honda T360 pickup

It's a busy time on the workbench at the moment with loads of exciting magazine'y stuff to do and quite a lot of Interewebby and novel goodness going on as well.

A sensible person would sleep a lot but I prefer to have a project on the go that's nothing to do with any of the other stuff. Something that is fun but doesn't matter. Thus, I've dug out a plastic kit I bought on a whim at the IPMS show a couple of years ago.

The Honda T360 is (according to Wikipedia, as much research as I can be bothered to do) was the first production automobile from the company, launching in 1963. 108,920 of the 30hp T360s were produced, all painted a pale blue colour.

The size was determined by the Japanese Kei car regulations intended to get the population mobile on 4 rather than 2 wheels whilst not requiring adequate parking is available - something owners of larger cars have to be able to prove and a very sensible thing too IMHO.

Anyway, I've always had a thing for micro cars and the box art sold the model to me even though I'd never seen one before. That and the kit wasn't expensive and I hadn't bought anything at the big plastic kit show that day...

T360 Kit bits

Inside we have white bits, clear bits and rubber tyres. Metal axles too and a nice set of decals (transfers but I suppose we use the American for a Japanese kit). Amusingly, in large print are the words, "For Japanese Use Only" by a set of Japanese characters. No idea what they say so I might be doing bad things that I shouldn't. Not my fault Gov, couldn't read the instructions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Danger, Phil Parker, Danger!

So there I am, merrily varnishing a new baseboard.

A cup of tea is presented to me - excellent news.

The tea is placed on the worktop.

You can see what's coming, can't you.

The next dip of the brush, brings up something a lot runnier than varnish. Fortunately it was only a tiny dip before I realised.


Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that the tea was wiped off the brush and work continued. I decided against drinking the tea...

So - today's advice. Keep tea and painting materials well apart. You don't want to waste a tasty drink.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SmallSpace Sci-Fi and a milestone

Yes - Since 31st December 2005, I've been posting about modelmaking, toy trains, radio controlled boats, old cars and other practical stuff. According to Blogger, this is the 3000th such post, so those of you who've only joined recently have some catching up to do!

It's tempting to start reminiscing about old posts, especially as I'm very busy at the moment and a bit light on interesting stuff to write about, but no, let's have a look at something a little different.

SmallSpace Sci-fi festival takes place in a Buckinghamshire village hall every year. I've been before and it's fantastic. This year was no exception.

In the car park, there are Daleks. Just as you get in, you find Davros. Inside, Matt Irvine has brought along the Liberator, ORAC and a Blakes 7 teleport panel you can play with. For those who grew up in the 1970s, this is fabulous.

Gerry Anderson Puppets 2

Around the corner there is a line-up of Gerry Anderson marionettes covering the spectrum (which is green) of his shows from Four Feather Falls to Captain Scarlet via Thunderbirds and Stingray. They aren't the only ones either. In the back room another figure makers has produced specials such as Alan Tracey from the weird dream sequence in "Thunderbirds are GO"

Eagle 1
Pride of place though, goes to all the Space 1999 stuff. A real, original and beautifully restore 44 inch long Eagle Transporter was to be found amongst some excellent replica models from Red Dwarf and Thunderbirds. Chatting to the owner/restorer, it seems that the models were pretty badly treated during filming so there was a lot of work bringing the model back to life.

In the back room, a replica Eagle the same size was surrounded by other models based on the series. Their builders were fascinating. It seems that if you fancy making your own Eagle, you need to pick a specific episode as the programme makers used to repaint and re-assemble the craft pretty randomly so they were always changing.

Cakes from the K9 cafe were excellent, as was the sausage bap. We were surrounded by people dressed as Dr Who, mostly Tom Baker, to make it extra interesting.

Finally, how about a knitted Dalek? Behind a stand of superb modelling, I think this caught most people eyes. Well, it's certainly different, quite a challenge in that display!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tysely open day

No1It's years since I visited Tyseley loco works. Back when I was in short trousers and it was all fields around here, the fledgling railway centre was planning to restore locomotives and build a roundhouse.

Well, they are a flourishing business restoring locomotives for people but there is no sign of the roundhouse, all turntable action being alfresco.

Not to worry, having parted with a tenner for entry, I was greeted with both crowds and many large steam locomotives hissing away. I'm not sure that most preserved lines could muster 4 express passenger types and a three shunters in steam at one time. The lack of running track makes this either more impressive of mad in a good way.

When I arrived, a saddle tanks along with a shunters truck and brake van was on the magic roundabout playing to an audience of camera toting enthusiasts.

Working my way through the buildings, there were second hand books aplenty - many at stonkingly bargain prices. Had I the shelf space and the strength to carry them, bound copies of Railway Magazine at £2 each would have been very tempting. As it was, my rucksack was pretty heavy by the end of the day with several volumes that I haven't seen before.

In the workshop 2

The main shed was chock full of locomotives being restored. This makes sense to me. Skills required to make a steam loco work are rare. Rarer still is the equipment needed to do the job properly. Handing the job over to professionals will be quicker, if more expensive. Raising money isn't as hard as finding people willing to do mucky, dangerous and heavy work for many years.

Past the shed, we could see the end of the site where the shuttle train terminated. This ran with a London Transport Pannier Tank on one end and the chuffer from Harry Potter on the other. This might seem over-powered but not nearly as much as the two GWR tender engines (sorry, didn't note the names) and Duchess of Sutherland coupled up to each other and running up and down.

This is what happens when you give enthusiasts big trains to play with. It is a good thing.

A few days after the event, I was in my local model shop and one of the regular was moaning he didn't go because it was too crowded and you wouldn't be able to take a decent photo. This is probably true, but then I'm not sure but I think there are already photos of all the locos there already so does anyone need another?

Barrow crossing

Me? I took some of those pics but I also snapped the rather more interesting and modelable barrow crossings and shed detritus. This is a proper, working steam shed after all so there is loads of stuff that would have been there in steam days. Far more useful - or maybe that's just me.

Photos on Flickr. With some steam locos.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don't fall out of the warehouse!

Another illustration taken from "Your personal safety - Cartage and Handling Staff". This one is particularly pertinent to me.
The back of Melbridge Dock features some large warehouses based on those found at Gloucester Docks. In one of the doorways is a docker helping guide a load being hauled up on the hoist from the ground.
First installed in 1988, I've never got around to providing him with the essential safety strap that the chap in the cartoon is so pleased with. Mind you, his feet and hand are well glued in place - not something you can do to real people, especially if you expect them to do some useful work!
Melbridge Dock Warehouses

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Capstan shunting safety

I love old booklets produced by the railways and recently picked up one called "Your Personal Safety - Cartage and Handling staff". Published by British Railways in 1961, it's full of informative safety information for those working in goods yards.
To illustrate the important points, some excellent cartoon drawings are included. Many of these explain fairly mundane tasks for the staff that will be of interest to railway enthusiasts for whom they are exciting and unusual since we don't do them any more.
First up, we have shunting using a powered capstan. To move a wagon, a rope is attached to the buffer beam and wrapped around a powered bollard that is operated with a foot pedal. I've modelled several of these on Melbridge Dock as they were quite common in yards for hauling vehicles out of warehouses. If the same move was required at the same spot, why employ a locomotive?
Anyway, you can see how they should be operated from the picture, and if you are curious what a prototype capstan looks like, here's one I photographed earlier:
Shunting capstan

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mystery clamp

Mike writes:

Hi again. It's that loon who's slowly working backwards through your blog posts again...

I'm down to Saturday May 12, 2007. Being curious to see what this fret table or clamp tool looks like, I went off and hunted on Squires website. All I could find are mini Fret clamps. These look like a G-clamp but with a flat section opposing the screw portion rather than the curved section with a descending bump of a G-clamp. I tried Google images for "fret table" and "fretwork table" but that just produced... well, lots of tables and nothing that seemed to match what you were doing.

If you get time, please could you either enlighten me with a picture of this useful sounding tool, or point me to a catalogue name?

No problem. Well, I say that but it's only because I managed to put my hand on the aforementioned device the moment I rooted around in the cupboard.

Fret clamps are, as you say, flat sided G-clamps designed to hook through a wooden fret table and hold it down to the bench.
It took a bit of digging in the Squires Catalogue but eventually, I found that the correct name is a bench pin and anvil. The wooden part being the pin and metal part the anvil. Catalogue number WB1341 and WB1342 (Page 81) although there are lots of other supplies according to Google. Try this range from Cousins tools for example.
Like so much of our model making toolkit, the tool harks from the jewelery making world. I'm pretty certain that it was never intended for hollowing out the windows on a model boat!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Armoured Train

Finished Train1

Job done. One 4mm scale armoured train ready for action.

The SGT's Mess resin and whitemetal kit is easy to assemble and price-wise, very reasonable. If you want to quibble, it should have been designed for 6 and not 9mm track but I'm not going to fuss over 3mm here.

There is plenty of potential for detail freaks to get excited about. I made a few changes to the locomotive with new smoke deflectors/cylinder protectors. A thin plastic cladding might look better than the casting but you'd need to make a really good job to improve on what is supplied.

The carriages are detail free inside but some of the photos show riveted plates in there that might be a nice and not too difficult addition. Since these vehicles were converted from bogie hopper wagons, I can't tell if the ends should be flat (as per the model) or retain their sloped ends. This doesn't show in the photos and while I suspect the kit is right, it wouldn't surprise me to find different. Not that I'd be bothered enough to modify things now but others may feel different.

All in all, I've enjoyed the project and am happy with the results. If I can find a way of motorising the loco, I'd do it all again...

Finished Train 2

Monday, July 14, 2014

Armoured train finishing touches

BackheadNearly done with the armoured train - just a few finishing touches for the model.

Despite being all but invisible on the finished model, there is some nice detail work on the backhead. I decided that even on a wartime locomotive, the driver would probably spend a little time polishing his brasswork. Besides, it's easy to pick out the pipes with a tickle of brass paint and they look nice. Some red on the regulator and white on the gauge glass finish the job.

All this is hidden because the driver figure is standing up and leaning on the cab roof. To see the interior you will have to peer around the side of him!

I quite like this touch. The manufacturers know this is being sold as a static model and as such, have modelled it in this way. Guns are drawn and searching the sky for the Hun. The driver could sit around but he'll be keeping an eye out for places strafing the beach and risking his boiler even if it is armoured.

At the back, of course, we have some nice real Welsh steam coal in the tender. This step is so common, it probably doesn't warrant a mention in articles any more but if you leave it out...

Coaled tender

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Anthony's Roller

Wallis Roller

Ahhh, the memories. Victoria Park in Leamington Spa has been a favourite spot for generations of children. I remember as a kid playing in the pipes set horizontally in the ground, climbing over the concrete covered blocks (this is nice than it sounds, they look like giant lumps of yummy shortbread), playing in the paddling pool, "driving" the steam and diesel rollers stuffed and mounted on the grass...

Now, only half the blocks and a paddling pool are still to be found. Everything else has long since gone. Admittedly there have been more modern replacements but I can't see why the big pipes had to go.

Anyway, obviously the rollers are long gone, but one of them returned last Saturday. It's owner is an old friend of mine - Anthony Coulls. Now a bigwig at the NRM, he saved the roller for the nation, getting it running with the help of some friends.


Restoration to its full glory came later and it now normally lives at Beamish museum.

He was persuaded to bring it home after a request from his old school. While here, it seemed a shame not to return it to the spot it had been when he first encountered it. I'm sure if the depot it had worked out of was still there, a visit would have been paid too.

As it was, at 10am, a group of us gathered to watch the roller fire up. A photographer from the local paper arrived to record the occasion and then Anthony set off on his transport through a couple of Leamingtons busiest roundabouts at a steady 4 1/2 mph. Later in the day, it reached the school where it was awarded a prize as the exhibit most likely to be injurious to heath!

Apparently this was pretty much right - 11 1/2 miles of trundling wasn't a lot of fun I'm told!

Lots of pictures on Flickr

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A hidden Garratt

Garratt on shed

During the cold war, the government was concerned that in the event of an enemy attack, supplies of oil would be significantly reduced and the electricity supply would be almost non-existent in many areas of the country. To keep the rail network operational, small numbers of steam locomotives were removed from service and stored at discreet locations around the country. The so called "strategic reserve" have remained hidden to this day, awaiting the call to action.
Garratt number 47992 found itself moved to the Hellingly Hospital railway which as a private line was considered ideal for keeping rolling stock away from prying eyes. The staff were sworn to secrecy and any patients who told people what they had seen would be swiftly dismissed as madmen, which of course many of them were.

This is of course, rubbish. If there is a "strategic reserve" then it remains well hidden despite the best efforts of railway enthusiasts. I can be certain that the Garratt wasn't hidden in the shed for a couple of reasons; firstly it was far too short. You'd not get half a power unit in there. Second, the shed was demolished in 2006 and I think a large steam engine would have been spotted!

The model loco ran surprisingly happily along my tiny layout and fitted in to the shed very well. I'll not be using it in the future as it's over a quarter of the length of the scenic section...

Friday, July 11, 2014

P Class at Hellingly Asylum

What might have been

Late in 1962, P Class tank engine 31325 drops off a couple of loaded coal wagons on the weighbridge at Hellingly Asylum. It is the usual practise for each wagon to be weighed both in and out of the hospital as the governing board are concerned that suppliers might take advantage of the health service to under supply.

Of course this never happened, but had the hospital railway survived past 1959, it could well have done. At the time BR were concerned about the state of the trackwork that their wagons would be travelling over and had forced some to be upgraded to make a point.

Assuming the electric locomotive wasn't available, the only alternative that could have been hired from the main line was an ex-SECR P class tank engine. The class with a 10 ton axle load was passed for the line even though none ever ventured up there.

The scene is shot on my model of the Hellingly line and is the first time I've ever been able to put it together as the layout normally lives stored away and hasn't been out since I've owned a suitable locomotive - built from a Wills Kit. The wagons are Parkside kits.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beer Festival in BRM

Cheers! It's time to raise a glass to the August issue of British Railway Modelling!

My main contribution this month is a model beer festival - well this is the summertime magazine and what could be better than spending a few hours sampling different brews at a country beer festival?
Research involved many years of visits to the Harbury Beer Festival which takes place in Harbury at the village hall. Around the building is grass and a car park on to which drinkers spill out to enjoy the summer afternoons and evenings.
Since there was already a suitable building in my stash from a previous BRM project, as well as a couple of ready to plonk alternatives in both the Hornby and Bachmann ranges, I had thought this would be a quick and easy job.
To make matters more interesting, some animated drinkers have been included. The biggest challenge with these being the covering up for their traditional German drinking costumes.
As it turned out, the hardest job was making strings of scale-sized bunting. After a few trials, I came up with a slightly fiddly method that seems to work. I look forward to seeing loads of layouts bedecked in the stuff now.  

Beer Festival
Elsewhere, I'm wiring up a layout, stripping paint from plastic and trying out electric glue. You also have an extra feature alongside Howard's etched brass 7mm signals where I take a look at a rather cheaper plastic 4mm version - lack of space has led to this being over on the BRM Blog - so many good things to fit in!
All the above, and more, is in the standard magazine. However, if you take a trip to WH Smith, you can try out a special "Premium Edition" of the mag for £4.99. In addition to all this good stuff on the page, there is a BRM TV DVD with specially filmed content for you to enjoy on telly.
Some things are easier to explain on film than they are in print. Electrostatic grass is a good case in point. Every magazine has mentioned it in projects but if you are wary of getting your hands dirty, you can watch me create a patch of grass in front of your eyes.
Not only do I make the grass, I'm explaining how to go a step further and turn it in to scruffy undergrowth.
Being filmed is an interesting new experience for me. I have watched the results through my fingers (how do people manage to watch themselves on TV?) and it's not too bad. I fluff my lines a couple of times but that's because I didn't write a script before hand, preferring to work in the same way I do talks. It's not too bad and the camerawork is very impressive - you can really see what I'm doing. Do let me know what you think though.  

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Armoured painting - Part 2


Puzzling on how I might finished painting on the RH&DR armoured train took a quite a while. The problem is that the real thing wouldn't have had time to get properly dirty but neither would it have been clean.

At one point I seriously considered airbrushing the model with some light hazy colours but this seemed like too much work and likely to end up overdone.

With a nice matt finish though, weathering powders came to rescue. The posts mine came in site in a plastic tray. This sits in a slightly larger tray (they are supposed to be a box) over which I do most of my "powdering". The leftover dust collects in the tray and mixes to a pleasing brown colour.

Dusting the model worked very well. Vertical strokes from top to bottom look good and replicate the way rain washes dirt. Mixing the brown shades results in a nice subtle variation in colour - rather more subtle than the photo shows to be honest.

To finish, some sooty black around the chimney  and we are ready for final assembly.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Armoured painting - Part 1

Part Painted train

According to the photos, the RH&DR armoured train was grey. To be honest, they are black and white photos so of course it's grey. I think that was the colour in real life too though. Don't be fooled by the replica train. This has brown wheels because (I think) they didn't want to repaint the loco, just plonk a body over the top of it.

Anyway, painting starts with a blast of Halfords grey primer. To add a bit of variation, this is dry-brushed with Humbrol 64 pale grey. Chassis bits are painted black and the wheel treads and flanges, silver.

I think this model is going to need some light weathering to bring it alive but I can't imagine the prototype had a chance to get properly dirty.

The crew are ready to go after painting. I'll not go in to this much other than to say I have used a couple of tricks to be revealed in a future BRM.

Painted soldier

Monday, July 07, 2014

Upstaging a Garratt

Garratt being upstaged

If you know my layout collection (and if you don't, look at the lovely links down the right hand side of this blog) then you will realise I don't have a layout suitable for a large articulated locomotive. Not to worry, I took the model down to my local railway club and asked politely if it could enjoy an outing on Duxbury.

The team agreed that there was no problem and cleared some track for me. What I didn't know was that the week before, another Garratt had broken down while being run and I suspect that just wanted to see how long mine would last.

Anyway, off it went around the circuit. All seems to be well with the loco running properly in both directions without falling off the track.

You'd expect that such a large chuffer would be the most eye-catching thing on a layout, but not that night. This prize has to go to David Roots and his scratchbuilt model of a 1700HP double locomotive built by Armstrong Whitworth in 1932/1933.

The prototype entered passenger service with the Buenos Aires Great Southern Railway in 1933 and was retired in 1960 because service parts were no longer available. It was scrapped in 1965. The model is scratchbuilt on to Lima chassis based on information in a book about Armstrong Whitworth diesel loco developments.

Strictly speaking, it should run on scale 5ft 6in tracks so it's seriously under gauge on 16.5mm but no matter - it's a fascinating model.

Armstrong Whitworth Argentinian Loco

and just to prove my Garratt runs, here's a very short video.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

APT nearly looked like this

With all the excitement about the Rapido APT-E, I thought you might like to see a photo of the very first design for the new train. The picture comes from the Railway Society Winter Handbook published by the Eastern Region Staff Railway Society in 1970.
At the time there was much enthusiasm for the future of rail with an opening article by GF Huskisson, Western Region Passenger Manager explaining how rail could counteract the motorway challenge from the soon to be completed M4 and M5. Wider carriage doors, electrification and faster trains were all to be part of the fight.
I've wondered in the past what happened to this model and now there is a RTR APT-E on the horizon, I wonder if I ought to think about building the earlier design study. It would certainly be different!

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Man sized tools - Reciprocating saw

Reciprocating saw

Time for some proper tools for real men. Last weekend I was playing with a reciprocating saw as we had an old shed soon to be replaced by a nice new one. As both needed to be carried through the house, they have to be small enough to fit through a door. New shed will do but old shed was built in the usual shed-sized lumps.

Cutting up the old shed could be carried out with a hand saw but I have a life and didn't fancy spending a week of it sawing away at a slightly rotten old building. It was time to head to the hire shop and get a proper tool.

If you've used a jig saw then you have an idea how a reciprocating saw operates. Imagine that your jig saw and a pneumatic drill were left alone one night and had a baby. That's what we have here. At the sharp end, a blade comes in and out. Further back the operator does his level best to keep his fingers out of the way. It certainly is a beast of a tool.

A few handy hints for the beginner:
  • Blades come in long and short versions. Buy a pack of both. We bought long and found there were occasions when hacking up the floor when the blade kept hitting the slabs underneath.
  • The tool operates of 110v so a transformer is required. This weighs about half a ton (OK, not that much but it is b****y heavy) and the lead from this to the tool is around 7ft long. Personally I'd have preferred twice this as it would make it a lot easier to keep the cable out of the way. You can't flip it over your shoulder, or at least you can't if you are 6ft tall and the transformer is on the floor.
  • For some reason, power tools are fitted with a button on the side that when pushed, keeps the power on until the trigger is pressed. The correct name for this should be "The button of death". Quite why you want a cutting tool to operate if you'd dropped it or otherwise lost control is a mystery for me. As much as a mystery as to why it has to be put where it's so easy to press with a gloved hand.
  • If your shed is 10ft by 14ft including veranda, you can just about get it in a 5 cubic yard skip by cutting the bits up small. Should you have some rubble that you also want to get rid of, get the standard 6 cubic yard size.
Like all tools, this is perfectly safe if you are sensible. I still have all my limbs after all the chopping. The spare blades are blood-free so that that is a good thing. I've done more damage to myself with model-making tools.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Yakking at Daventry

Last Friday, I was honoured to be invited to give a talk to the members of Daventry Model Railway club.

I assembled some electronic slides showing my progress through the model railway hobby hobby. Basically, lots of pictures of layouts I've built with me standing in front of the screen explaining why I built them and where I went wrong.

All this seemed to go down well with the 15 or so people present. At least they said nice things and gave me a round of applause. I stick a Q&A section in at the end as people usually have something they want to ask and this went on nearly as long as the "proper" talk. We had a great time!

Looking around the clubrooms, it's not a huge area but looks great to me. Based in an industrial unit fitted with a mezzanine floor, there is layout building space in 4mm scale downstairs. On the upper level what would normally be an office is home to the N gauge crew and outside this is the meeting room and kitchen.

It's all good and friendly - just the sort of group you want to join if you live in the area and are involved in the hobby. There are people like this as the piles of model railway magazines in the local shops go down every month far faster than the membership alone could buy them!

After this, we headed off for a delicious Chinese meal to chat about real trains, toy trains and other stuff. I left at quarter to twelve having enjoyed a great evening. Who says this isn't a social hobby?

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Garratt arrives!

Garratt helicopter shot

Yet another locomotive I never expected to see in RTR form is now in my possession - the famous (and infamous) Beyer-Garratt commissioned by Hattons and manufactured by Heljan.

Many years ago I talked to the original David of Dapol (as opposed to Dapol Dave who is a completely different person) and he explained that despite promising to make one, after tooling up for the chassis at a cost of £100,000, commerically it hadn't made sense to move on to the body as the final price would have been over £100 per loco. Back in the early 1990s, this was a massive amount that no modeller would contemplate. Except me. I'd have paid it like a shot.

Which is why I forked out twice that for the loco you see above. I've seen a pre-production model in green plastic (it was broken) and an earlier version in LMS colours (it was broken) but I knew I needed to own one.

My choice was the rotating bunker version in clean BR colours. I have the K's kit for this loco but I was never happy with the chunky bunker they produced always planned to build mine with the (IMHO) more attractive standard bunker. I still will one day. Heljan have done a better job with their plastic version and it looks pretty good to me. As for weathering, I'll dirty it myself than you.

Some people have had problems with their models. Hitting the price point has (IMHO again) been at the cost of some niggles and fragile parts. I'd have been happy to pay and extra 50 quid and seen these resolved but then the Interweb would probably be full of moaning modellers if that had happened. Oh. Hold on...

First up, I unpacked the model and gave it a done of 1960s H&M power. Straight from the box running is excellent. All the waggly bits waggle and the loco moves with plenty of apparent weight. Someone has engineered that bit well as it trundles far more like a real loco than a model.

Niggles? Of course there are a few but nothing I can't fix:

What is this screw and why can I see it? Is there a filler cap missing or something? (Update: Yes there is. It had fallen out as was in the packaging)

The pony brakes hang in mid-air rather limply. At the very least they need to be brought closer to the wheel, possibly by replacing the plastic hangers with wire. First though, I'll check they were present on the real loco as I think some were removed.

The coupling chain. What on earth is going on here? 5 tiny links? Someone was told to add chain and no-one thought to explain what it looked like. Those steps look a bit random too.

Apart from this, at the moment I'm very happy. I have a great big chuff-chuff that runs well and looks great all for less than a kit of the same thing would be. I don't buy much RTR as my tastes tend toward things available in kit form, but this is a great addition to the cabinet and eventually will make a fantastic shunter on the layout!

Garratt back end