Friday, June 23, 2017

An exotic garden railway feature

Buying presents for my dad isn't easy. He doesn't do technology or flash stuff. No point buying sweets either since he went sugar free.

With father's day approaching, I found myself in Hereford Model Centre looking for ideas. No kits - like me he has a huge backlog of projects. I wanted something fun anyway.

 He's always been interested in birds, there is an aviary in his distant past as well as a couple of years working at a zoo. When I spotted the Playmobil Tropical birds set, it looked perfect and as expected, amused him greatly.

Now, we have a little garden railway project on the go and Playmobil products are about the right size, so could this live outside? Well, it's plastic so no worried on this score but that means it's light and would be blown away in the wind. That tree needs roots.

Like most modellers, I collect "useful" things and in the paintbrush pot are several swizzle sticks.

Breaking one in half, it fitted into a 4mm diameter holes drilled up the tree. Dipped in Plastic Weld, the paddle end soon stuck in place. That ought to be enough, but as I had more stick left over, I added a piece through the paddle.

Job done, the "roots" are pushed hard into the earth and the tree should stay put no matter how hard the wind blows.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Back to the 70s in BRM

I'm taking a trip back in time in July's issue of BRM. Presented with a Metcalfe card kit for a corner shop and told to do something interesting with it, inspired by a novel I had just finished, I've taken it back to the long hot summer of 1976.

I'm a big fan of card kits, but if I'm honest, built straight from the packet they can look just like card kits. I've made a few subtle modifications that I think lift this model a bit. Nothing huge, the kit is fundamentally very good, but just tweaks. The result surprised me. 

And the 1976 bit? If you can't see it, you'll have to buy the issue. You'll also find a photos of a VERY young me...

Should you be feeling inspired after my trip to the 7mm NG show last week, I've built a nice simple loco to get you started in the scale. Smallbrook studios "Hero" is a good model and well withing the capabilities of most modellers who can work a tube of superglue and pot of paint.

Next month we feature Geoff Taylor's Barmouth Junction, so this time I've interviewed him. His methods for constructing model buildings were well documented in a couple of books, both of which are now obsolete as he doesn't use any of them any more (OK, the methods still work, but Geoff has others now). A lovely guy, we had a good chat. It's very interesting to see how a professional model maker works.

This month really does feature the Ecclesbourne Railway as an extra on the DVD. Half an hour of slow TV with a trip along the length of the line chatting to the driver. 

(Sorry that I said this was last month. I'm writing this before I see a copy of the mag)

Sticking with the DVD, to tie in with a layout featuring canal boats, I'm building a nice, simple kit for a small live-aboard vessel. It's a cheap and attractive addition to any waterways scene. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Workshop doors

Workshop doors

There's not much to say about this week's photo. 

I spotted these fantastic 50s looking workshop doors in Loughborough. Perfect for a steam era onwards layout, they are the sort of simple, basic design, that you never quite think of when building a model.

See more on Google Streetview, including the nifty half Citroen's in the wall!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prototype for everything: Unconvincing water colours

I'm a bit picky about model water. In the UK, it should be brown. Not blue, or bright green.

So, imagine my surprise when I arrived at boat club last week to see this:

Bright, green water! 

Seriously - bright green!

It turns out that as part of out weed reduction programme, the water has been treated and one of the chemicals is a green dye. None of this harms the fish, but should kill off the floating weed the lazy blighters haven't been eating. 

If you prefer clear water, the a friend recommends a trip to Akri in Greece. 

Greek model boats

These boats are made from odd'n'ends by a local taverna owner and children from visiting yachts buy them as souvenirs.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Brandbright hopper in Garden Rail

Brandbright Hopper Wagon

It's time to get my hand back in with a quick review in Garden Rail 275. My subject is Brandbright's latest kit - a hopper wagon originally intended for the Campbeltown & Machrihinish Railway. 

The line closed before any where built, but a drawing exists and the design could find a place on most lines. 

Produced in laser-cut wood, as I explain in the article, there are some clever design features to make this an enjoyable kit. Mind you, I really need to weather my model!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

7mm Narrow Gauge 2017


When you recive a ticket for an exhibition through the post listing you as a "Special Guest" then you've really no choice but to along. (Thanks Neil)

Burton-on-Trent was the venue for the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association's AGM and annual exhibition. Featuring 13 layouts and a variety of trade, it's worth the trip even if you have to pay to go in.

 I like NG modelling as the lack of RTR models tends to push people toward interesting an unusual prototypes. Let's face it, if you are going to have to build everything then it really doesn't matter what you choose!
Loco lift

In my guest capacity, I was also taking photos for magazine use - hopefully for 2 different magazines. Sadly, this limits the number of pics I can use here, but hopefully these will prove interesting.

Picking a "layout I'd like to build" is difficult as there were elements of several that I really liked. I think I'll probably plump for one in the wrong scale - Black Cat Mine is designed as a showcase for the Pepper 7 range of kits. G scale, but running on OO track, it looks the part and is full of detail. 

Black Cat Mine

One bonus I hadn't expected was a new (to me) cake. Served up with tea, the Nelson's square is a couple of pastry layers sandwiching some mincemeat. Very nice it is too. 

Loco servicing - US

I enjoyed all the layouts but was especailly interested in the competition dioramas - 1ft square displays with a loco servicing yard theme. Small, but achievable modelling, perfect for the space-starved who just want to have a go at something. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Film club: R186 signal box

It's Fathers Day tomorrow, so I hope you are all rushing out to purchase something suitable for your aged parents. 

Of course, if your parent isn't Mr Bennett from the TV show, Take Hart then you might decide to buy them something else. At the very least, you will probably wrap the present up rather than just handing it over in the paper bag from the shop. Mind you, what does he expect if he won't let the lad play with the trains? 

Nowadays, you'd do well to find a model shop as well stocked with Hornby stuff as this one. According to the YouTube comments, this was filmed in Potters Bar but I can't work out if the shop still exists. There IS a shop on Google Sreetview which does models and scuba gear, so presumably the Hornby display is long gone...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Hereford Society of Model Engineers

Walk the loco

With my new Engineering in Miniature role looming, it's time to get out and about a bit. My first trip out was to Hereford Society of Model Engineers.

Based on a 5 acre site just outside the city, about 10 minutes drive from Hereford Model Centre even if you get stopped at every traffic light, the society has grown over the last 20 years to enjoy two tracks, a boating pool, workshops and clubrooms. Over 90 members take part in club activities including regular running sessions.

Howards Halt

My invite for was for the regular Tuesday work session. Over 25 (sorry, I didn't count) men turned up to do all the important maintenance jobs the site requires. Grass was cut, re-sleepering took place, fences were painted and construction of a new archway continued. So many people turn up to do this every week that a local buttie van stops off to sell sandwiches and cake to keep them all going.

Chocolate cake

All this effort shows in well-maintained grounds that look fantastic. The group are fortunate in owning the site, having effectively been gifted it by the local council. That's not quite as generous as it might sound - the land floods in bad weather thanks to its close proximity to the river Wye. And floods properly. See the flood board on the tunnel entrance in the photo above? The water has been up to the top of there.

Santa Fe loco

Fortunately, flooding can be anticipated and 4 days notice is usually given. This allows for locos and rolling stock to be hoisted, using a crane built by the members, onto supports in the especially tall engine shed, out of harms way. Other infrastructure is either removable or can stand getting wet. Water usually creeps up and recedes slowly, so it doesn't even disturb the ballast. Replacing wooden sleepers with plastic is an ongoing project that makes sense though. 

Turntable and loading ramp

When dry, there is nearly a mile of ground level 5 and 7 1/4 inch track. In addition, a separate raised track supports 3 1/2 and 5 inch gauges. Both tracks have turntable facilities that both rotate locos and allow engines to be rolled out of the back of vehicles. I always wondered how this happened, now I know!

A modest boating pond is available and I certainly fancy giving it a go in the future. In fact I don't expect this is the last visit I'll make as I was made incredibly welcome by all the members. If you live in the area and are interested in model engineering, or just fancy taking the family for a train ride, check them out.

Hereford Society of Model Engineers website. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Delving inside a Peugeot door mirror

I've owned my Peugeot 206 for around 8 years now.

When I bought it, the most obvious fault was the passenger side door mirror being wrapped with black tape. Not idea but certainly not a deal breaker for me. Years before, I'd changed the same mirror on a 306, so I didn't think it held any worries.

Needless to say, the black tape didn't look too bad, and it worked OK so I left well alone. Part of the problem was that the 306 replacement mirror had been an aftermarket one. It fitted perfectly, but had a black shell, not maroon to match the car.

I decided that I preferred tape to a non-matching mirror. Anyway, it worked.

Well, it worked until recently. After all this time, the tape had started to let go. The final straw was when I knocked it while washing the car. Time for new tape. I didn't have any proper gaffa tape to hand so used some stuff from Wilco. Black and smooth, it looked great. Sadly, the glue gave up after a couple of days.

Unhappy, I decided to use silver gaffa and cover it with the black. First, I peeled and cut away the old tape - at which point I realised that the problem wasn't as bad as feared.

Basically, the mirror plastic was complete, but some fixings inside had broken. The tape tied the plastic down to the metal arm.

Spotting some star-topped fixings in the bottom, I started to take the thing to bits but it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a fiddlier job than expected. Better done on the bench.

Removing the mirror unit is simple. 

Unclip the inner plastic panel. Undo the big white electrical connector and then use a T15 star headed screwdriver to undo the three bolts arrowed. The unit can then be wiggled off from outside and the thing taken to the bench. 

To be honest, detailes of my repair won't help anyone much, but some general notes might.  

There are two T15 bolts in the bottom but you can't release the plastic with the mirror in place. It's held with a spring clip which is difficult to fathom out but if you swing the mirror so the outer edge is as far forward as possible, a small screwdriver can flick the wires out of the clip. You can see them in the photo above which should help.

Incidentally, the brown wires are for the heater. Heated wing mirrors - how cool is that? 

Removing the  plastic casing is made easier by releasing the motor unit using a T10 star screwdriver. It stayed intact for me with the three long screws removed. 

Inside the mirror, at the bottom, there is an odd shaped flappy thing not obviously attached to anything. From the 306 experience, I know this to be the exterior temperature sensor. I know this because the aftermarket mirror didn't include one and I had to hack the old sensor into the new wiring...

Anyway, using copious amounts of epoxy glue, I repaired all the broken bits of plastic and my mirror looks as good as a 19 year old mirror can be expected to. Sensible people would of course just bin the unit and replace it whole - a primered version can be bought for 30 quid.  Painting the top would take longer than swapping the units over. 

The moral of the story is that some jobs aren't as complicated as they might appear. I could have done this years ago!

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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Burton pipe bridge

Burton pipe bridge

Stepping off Burton-on-Trent station last weekend, I couldn't resist taking photos of this pipe bridge.

Yes, I know, I'm weird. I should prefer the over-restored brick warehouse. Everyone takes pictures of that (I know I have) so here's the uglier but more interesting bits nearby.

Lots of detail here for modellers. I wonder why the pipes are covered as they cross the railway. Safety in case anything drops off? Protection for the metalwork from evil diesel fumes?

Whatever, that ribbed covering would be a pig to make.

Burton pipe bridge detail

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bassett-Lowke lever frame?

Thinking caps on again please. Spotted on the same stand I bought my tube train from, who made this rather nice lever frame complete with interlocking?

Bassett-Lowke was the only suggestion the stallholder could come up with, and that was a best guess. The loco behind is certainly from that famous stable.

I had a quick play and the level action is lovely and smooth - testament to quality construction. Interlocking works perfectly too.

Did anyone produce something that would need to be bespoke? Could you buy the levers and set up your own interlocking? Would many people nowadays know how to do this?

Lack of cash and a rare flash of sensibleness stopped me adding this to the collection. I'd certainly have enjoyed playing with it for a few minutes, but what next? Unless your layout conforms to the same plan the interlocking would need re-building completely, which would be a shame.

A fascinating item though, I wonder if it sold?

Monday, June 12, 2017

All the gear, no idea

At a recent show, I suddenly noticed that  the hall had got a loot brighter, and the "sun" was coming from behind me. Turning around, I was momentarily blinded by an mass of LEDs while someone took photographs of a layout. 

This struck me as odd. I've been on plenty of magazine layout shoots and never seen a light as bright as the one being used. Even in the days of photo floods, there was less illumination. They weren't pointed across the hall at about 5ft above the ground either. 

I'm not an expert photographer, but I manage all right, and I have had the benefit of meeting plenty of people who are experts. As a general rule, if the layout's own lighting is OK, they use that. Quite a lot of the time, a long exposure will sort things, no need to bring in a portable sun. 

If you are using an SLR mounted on a tripod, there is even less excuse, although, as I've pointed out recently, something more modest is often more than adequate unless you feel the need to impress your mates at the camera club by boasting about the size of your lenses.

Here's the setup I used for photographing the DOGA competition entries. 

The background is a sheet of white card fixed to a handy bin to form a curve. At one end, paper blocks any stray direct light from a window. At the other, white card bounces light into the "face" of the locos. 

Light comes from above, fluorescent strips, and from one side through the windows. 

Camera is a Nikon D5000 sat on a beanbag. I'd have preferred a G12 but on balance I decided that although it cost more, if the SLR was nicked or damaged, I'd be less worried that the same happening to my only G12. 

Several exposures were taken each time and the results stacked for full depth-of -field. It's time consuming but the results are worth it. Or at least I'm happy: 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Judging time in London

Last weekend, I was down in London running the Double O Gauge Association's annual modelling competition. 

As usual, we had a fine selection of models submitted and these were judged by the members who voted for their first and second favourites in each category. It's good fun and relies as much on a model being appealing to look at as it being rivet-perfect. 

Allowing entrants to explain what work they have carried out on the entry form also helps. A J72 with significant modifications scored very well even though not the most obvious in the class. 

All I had to do was add up the marks and announce results once the AGM finished. It was tight, we had two dead heats decided on number of 1st placings, but I just squeaked in in time!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Film Club: Tram modelling

This week has seen the European Tram Driver championships take place in Tenerife, so let's travel back to the days when trams had only just been eradicated from UK streets and people wanting their fix of street transit had to build models or join the nascent National Tramway Museum. 

Since this is such a short film, here's another in a similar vein. Well, you can't get too much of this sort of thing can you?

Friday, June 09, 2017

Wickham trolley - done

IOM Wickham trolley

ON and off, I've been carrying on with the Wickham Trolley last mentioned here an embarrassingly long time ago. 

Most of the effort has gone into painting the model. A bit of a challenge because it's a bit of a weird choice of prototype. I'd originally thought it would be running on Ramsay pier, but then realised that the floor is covered with rather nice detail, all of which shouldn't be there if it's carrying tourists from a ship. 

So, now I think it was running on the pier, hence the fancy paint, but has since returned to the MER where the crews have been dumping stuff under the seats. 

Yes I know this is contrived, I'm doing my best. 

After painting, glazing with Bayer Extrudierte Copolyesterplatten fixed with Deluxe glue'n'glaze. The Bayer stuff is incredibly clear, far better than perpex but without the issues of glass. 

So, job done. A bit of a silk purse from a sows ear if I'm honest but the finished model looks OK. Now all I need to do is built a 7mm scale Isle of Man to go with it!

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Tinplate tube train

Vintage tube train model

£20 well spent?

Spotted on a stall at the recent G1 event, I couldn't resist this interesting 3-rail tube train. My first thoughts were that it is scratchbuilt but I couldn't be sure. There are no identifying marks and despite being a similar vintage to the famous Ever-Ready model, it's not that one.  

Assuming I'm right about this being scratchbuilt, the modeller  was very skilled at producing a press to stamp holes in tinplate as the work is very neat. I like the window-top vents too, made in acetate. 

Power comes from a very professional looking bogie.

Trailing bogies are a bit cruder but perfectly serviceable. The wheel profiles are fairly fine and if I were to convert it from 3-rail, would probably work on Code 100 track. Mind you, that conversion would be a challenge if I didn't want to replace the wheels as they are of course, uninsulated. 

Vital statistics:
Length: 203mm
Height from rail: 43mm
Width: 36mm

Casting around for more information, I sent some photos to DOGA's Colin Snowdon, always a font of all knowledge on ancient things made by people.

 I've had a close look at your photographs: The motor bogie is a rebuilt Romford. The end screws and nuts give this away (there are three ball bearings in each end cup. Take my word for this don't look as it's murder to get the shaft centred in them again).

The wheels in the bogies look to be Nucro or Acro

The model is based on 1927 standard tube stock. spot the cranked frame over the power bogie and the above frame equipment compartment.However the clerestory has been left off

It is most likely scratch and not bad considering there were no drawings available at the time and modelling the tube was as unlikely as Wallace & Gromit's moon rocket.

I'd date it around 1953

Pat Hammond doesn't recognise it as a RTR model so that seems to agree with Colin's opinion.

Can anyone tell me more about this model?

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Colby station

Colby Station

With the TT races currently on, it's an excuse for me to head back to 1993 and my first visit to the Isle of Man. 

Despite shooting on film, I photographed everything I could, including Colby Station on the steam railway. According to Wikipedia, this building is actually from Bradan Bridge, the Colby station having been demolished years before. 

This is certainly a very pretty building and would make a lovely 16mm scale model. 

Question: Behind the fence, is that a Yugo or a Fiat?

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

16mm scale Ruston


With my new role at Garden Rail in mind, I need a 32mm gauge railway. And for that I need some 32mm gauge rolling stock.

Fortunatly, I happen to have some in a plastic box in the shed. With trepidation, I opened it up and unearthed the first loco.

Eccles (named after a cat) is a Saltford Models kit. Powered by a 6V motor with batteries in the engine bay.

Eccles side view

Amazingly, after over 10 years in a box, in an unheated shed, the little locois in pretty good conditions. Those who don't remember the Saltford range won't know that basically what you got in the "kit" was a pile of whitemetal castings and plans for parts to be cut out of 2mm thick plastic sheet. 

These were then assembled, motor etc added followed by castings. It was cheap and low-tech and great fun. Your locos were a bit home-spun and only as good as your modelling ability but they were from an era of home building that still exists in many ways in the 16mm (or SM32 as Peco would call it) scale community. 

Sadly, Saltford kits are no more and if you want to pick one up on eBay, you'll pay a fair bit for it IF you can find anything to buy. I'll admit I'd love to do more. The nearest successor would be IP Engineering, and even they make it easy by supplying the parts ready cut!

The sharp eyed will notive that the driver is modelled on Ford Prefect from the 1980s BBC TV adaption of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I think he's a modified "Action Jack" but it's so long ago I can't remember. 

Refurbishment took no more than running some solvent into a couple of joints. I oiled the axles and gears, twiddled the 4 AA batteries up front and the loco roared into life. Now I need a railway....

Saltford Models also make 009 kits, Paul has been working on one here. Now, if anyone has the GGR Polar Bear kit they don't want, just let me know!

Monday, June 05, 2017

Pick-up tool

David asks:
 I seem to remember that you posted (some time ago) about using a glue (?) tipped tool to hold a fine part while placing it in a build. I cannot remember when that was and so cannot find the blog. I know that there are disposable options like microstix but I would prefer a more permanent solution.
I seem to remember that you said it came from Squires Tools. I have tried to skim through their downloadable catalogues but cannot find anything. Can you tell me what it was called or which part of their catalogue it was in?
Good question. I've had a look through the Squires catalogue too and can't find it. Mind you, the version on the website is very out of date. 
I do remember that the tool is for sale on their stand for under a fiver. There are three versions, different colour and sized tips - red, green and blue. I use green which is the middle sized version I think. A phone call would probably secure one. 
On-line, I found the red tip version on the Hobbycraft website.  Several reviews say it stopped working after a while. This is true, but licking the gel bulb seems to cure this. One it collects dirt/dust it stops sticking but cleaning it solves the problem. 

For handling small objects, such as the glazing used in a recent BRM article, this is a really handy tool. 

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Railex 2017

Best layout?

Horfield station

Horfield. Why? They gave me some cake.

Horfield coffee cake

And this blog CAN be bribed.

Seriously though, there wasn't a duff, or even average layout at the show this year. I could rave about Denton Brook and the working road vehicles:

Denton Brook working road vehicles

Or Sidmouth:

Sidmouth Villas

(I put the sky in because these models face into the layout from a corner and the background is distracting), but we also had the last hurrah from Pempoul.

Pempoul railcar

But to single one layout out would be a waste of time.Basically, excellent layouts, really good trade and lots of chat. A good day out.