Sunday, February 19, 2017

Doncaster 2017

Tool chests

Last weekend, the workbench moved to Doncaster racecourse for The Festival of British Railway Modelling. Rather than take a layout this year, my plan involved doing some modelling and showing off many of the projects I've built for BRM over the last year or so. Some of these haven't been seen anywhere other than on the pages of the magazine so it's nice to get them on a stand for people to have a proper look at, and occasionally , poke and prod.

As you've seen this week, I managed to stick a few bits of Wickham trolley together. Not much, but then that's the point. I was there to chat and I certainly did that! It was 3pm on Saturday before I got a few minutes break. Generally it all went pretty well. Perhaps the gent who landed with a thump on the chair in front and just stared at me obviously waiting for me to entertain him wouldn't have been missed, but mostly there was questions and discussions that we all really enjoyed.

Along the way I filmed a little chat with Paul Isles from Hornby which will appear on a future DVD. We talked about the Peckett and newly arrived Merchant Navy. Oddly, it was the former he was very keen to keep an eye on!

Cakewise, rubbish. I was prepared with a lunchbox filled with my mum's chocolate cake and pretty much proved you can live on it between breakfast and the evening munch. I need to try harder next year.


Elsewhere, the show was another good one. No space filling layouts and several that will be stars for many visitors. The final outing of East Lynn is a highlight and I've always enjoyed this S scale model.

Bishop & Sons

I managed to spend time with my camera and shot all the interesting corners of layouts that I enjoyed. It was a good year for detail and I spotted loads bringing the models to life.

Trade was also good. There are box-shifters but also a reasonable selection of specialists. Needing some 0.7mm wire, I had a choice of 3 vendors, not always something you can claim. Mind you, the first thing I bought was a 4mm scale resin model boat!

In a first for me, I left with less boxes than I arrived with. My O gauge halt diorama has now gone to to become part of the Polak display for future shows. Since most of the scenic material came from them, I'm pleased they like it enough to offer it a home. 

If you came along to say hello, and I know several blog readers did, thanks very much. Next time, bring some cake!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Film Club: Hover Rover

I'm reading a very interesting book on the history of hovercraft at the moment. My Internet browsing history will reflect this as despite the respectable number of photographs, I still feel the need to find more on-line. 

One of the weirder machines shown is the Hover Rover - an unholy coupling of a hovercraft and Landrover. 

Apparently, despite the commentary on the film, the resulting machine wasn't a great success. Off-road, a standard landie is still better. Also quieter I suspect. 

The 3 machines converted were apparently returned to the factory, put back into standard spec and then sold. It's just possible some or all of them survive somewhere just waiting for an enthusiast to restore them back to interesting condition with a aid of a big hair drier or two...

Friday, February 17, 2017

OO Wickham

Having found the 2mm scale Wickhams, I also dug out a 4mm scale whitemetal version. Fron Nu-Cast, this model pre-dates the Bachmann motorised version by at least 25 years buit still looks pretty presentable.

At least it did until an accidentaly flying session while packing up at a show saw it disassemble itself.At the time, I put the remains in a pot and forgot about them. I suppose buying a replacement kit seemed easier than untangling the whitemetal, but this kit is long discontinued and the alternative is a pricey etched version. Perfect for an essentail feature but more than I wanted to pay for "clutter".

Still, I'm on a bit of a Wickham run at the moment so when I found the pot of bits, I decided to resurect the model.

A little unbending and cleaning up later, I had the main parts. Sadly, the whitemetal handrails hadn't survived so a quick trip to buy some 0.7mm brass wire was in order. I remembered to take calipers to measure the remaining parts, jut not the wire to repair them. Still, it's only 3 quid and I'll use it eventually.

Superglue bodgery finished the job and it looks OK. The cruel photo enlargement shows where the first landing impact occured but a little filler and some weathering will hide the worst of it I hope.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

N gauge Wickhams

On the next BRM DVD, I'll be building an BH Enterprises N gauge Wickham trolley kit. To do this for telly, I needed some part-built models for the "here's one I built earlier" moments. When filming this stuff, you don't want to be hanging around too much for glue to dry, or have to clean up ALL the mould lines before moving on. The camera guys are watching and they don't have all day.

Of course, this left me with a little pile of half-built kits. Needing something to do while demonstrating, I took them along and spent a few moments in between chats wielding the brushable superglue to put all the bits together.

At least now I have completed models so I'm less likely to lose any parts. Now all I need to do is work out what to do with them all...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Square tower in Doncaster

Square tower Doncaster

I've said in the past that most of the Warehouse Wednesday buildings are not beautiful. For me, there is a beauty in ugliness, or at least a structure designed to do a job without any pretentions to aesthetics. As such, when I drove past this tower at the weekend, and the steel chimney was belching out smoke, I knew that even if I had to fight through the weather, I'd be bringing it to you.

The tower is opposite the Racecourse and part of the College for the Deaf campus. It's designer might have started with a square box, but there is a little pleasant brick detailing on the side nearest the main buildings.The inset bricks at the top help too, as to the (fake?) side windows. In fact, reviewing the photos makes me like this more than when I stood in the sleet taking the photos.

Square tower Doncaster side

As a modelling prospect it's pretty much perfect. Square and not too tall, I'd be inclined to fitting it in a rather more industrial setting than it is in in real life. 

The rest of the college is rather grander, making me think this is a much later addition to the site. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Standard plug

Before taking the workbench out on the road, I had to do a little upgrade to the test track that runs along the shelf in front of me.

Years ago (many, many years ago) when I fitted it out, power to the controller feed was via a 2-pin plug and socket. The idea was that a lead would run from a venerable H&M transformer sat on the floor to the side of the bench and into the Gaugemaster handheld.

The transformer probably still works although I can't find it, nor the wire.

No problem, I just needed to replace the socket with my now standard 5-pin DIN and plug in my normal, modern(ish) Gaugemaster transformer.

Leaving this to the last minute meant a scrabble around for a suitable socket and while I own many, only a 7-pin version had the correct pin spacing. I must remember to stock up again on the right ones in future. And throw away the collection of wrong versions.

Never mind, a few minutes work with a round rasp opening up the hole and the soldering was quickly sorted out. At the show, all worked well again.

I suppose I really ought to leave this rigged up at home, but a H&M Duette with connected with a couple of fly leads works nearly as well plus proves the locos running rather better than the more sophisticated controller does. That's my excuse anyway.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Time for community model shops?

I used to drive by Barford village shop and Post Office every day on my way to work at a horticultural research establishment that is nothing like the one in my novel.

Every so often I'd drop in a buy some stuff. Cake mostly as they had a local supplier perfect for those times when you need something slicable such as a birthday. It was a general store with all sorts on offer.

A few years after I stopped passing, it closed down. For a while it sat empty and now sells 2nd hand furniture that has been badly painted white. I think it's rustic and retro but does nothing for me. Not that I know much as it's been doing this for years.

Barford still has a shop, but it's run by volunteers.

The same thing is happening to many local libraries. I found myself chatting to the owner of a fine moustache last week, he happens to volunteer at a library which would otherwise be closed.

People do this because they think it matters that locals have access to shops and books.

So, should we have community model shops?

I'm thinking a physical shop run by volunteers. A proper shop that sells all sorts of modelling products and offers advice to those coming in the door.

Obviously there would need to be some capital, probably more than many people realise, but that could be "crowd funded" perhaps.

Sales assistants would work unpaid. Not such a daft idea as there are plenty of reasonably newly retired people capable of doing this sort of work who would gain from the metal workout they would get and the social aspect of the work.

It would need to work as a business and as such there would need to be decisions about stock levels - doubtless some of these would result in long drawn-out arguments but others would seem obvious as popular items flew off the shelves.

Location would be determined by the group, but it doesn't have to be in the town centre. It could well be situated in a village as long as transport access was good!

Competing with "proper" stores might be more of an issue. Perhaps being tied to a preserved railway would help (I know some already do this sort of thing) as the funds could be seen to go towards the upkeep of the line. Although it needs to be a BUSINESS first with the idea of not only being self-sustaining but actually expanding.

Modellers are always bemoaning the lack of shops. Maybe it's time to do something about it?  

(Apologies to those who read this last week when the post accidentally leaked out on the web due to my not setting the scheduling properly)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Detail spotting - Airfix packing case

Packing case

Does anyone else get a bit of pleasure recognizing details on layouts at shows? Especially when they have been used in an interesting or unusual way? 

Just me then. 

Anyway, I loved those on Canada Road. On the left is a whitemetal ships propeller from what used to be a "GEM pound pack" but now costs a bit more. I have one in the back of a wagon. 

The main feature though is the packing case which I reckon comes from the back of an Airfix GMR "Lowmac" wagon. Preposterously large, it was designed to fit over the lumps on the wagon that held down an artic trailer originally from the "Dr X" train set.  

I like the way this case has been set up properly. It doesn't sit on the ground, but on spacers so you can get the strops under it from a crane. A proper paint job complete with suitable markings and the origins are nicely hidden. Except from eagle-eye Parker...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stafford 2017

You know you've found your seat on the bus when some scroat has etched the word "Cake" into it.

Half an hour later, after an enjoyable vintage bus ride in a Bristol VR, I was eating cake, drinking tea and chatting while watching the queue slowly work its way into the building. I'm not desperate for 2nd hand stall action so waiting in the cold doesn't appeal to me. As it was, even when I tagged on the back, I was a long way from the door, it was a busy show.

Inside, I had a little shopping list so set about clearing that, reasoning I could look at layouts later when the crowds had thinned a bit.

This is a good plan, except I spent soooo much time chatting to people, my layout watching was very limited. A few did stick in my mind though:

Canada Yard

Canada Yard. Superbly modelled dockside buildings, loads of well made details. Bit limited operationally while I was there but to be honest, I could marvel at the workmanship all day.


Sheepcroft. A micro EM project built to try out the gauge. Nicely done with a lovely little office and yard in the corner. The designed is deceptive, a gentle curve running through the model makes it look bigger than it is and allows valuable corner space for scenes.

Stanford East

Stamford East. Obviously I'm interested in this one as I have a 4mm scale (this is N gauge) version of the station building as a project at the moment. Modelled with far more space than I have available, it's a good looking plan.

The Worlds End

World's End: Lovely scenery, a fantastically modelled civil war re-enactment at one end.


Habbaniya, Iraq 1941. Easily the most unusual layout present. A tiny viewing window opens out on to a scene modelled in perspective. At the front the models are 1/32, at the back 1/450. Trains move, a man pumps DDT and we look on in awe at the oddly shaped buildings that make the model look so much larger than it really is. 

For once, I could have done with a day-and-a-half long ticket to see everything properly. Stafford is always a good show, but this was better than ever. The weather was kind (I've been in the snow) and the lunch in the cafe next to the hall (fish and chips) delicious and reasonably priced. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Doncaster this weekend

Last year I took two layouts to The Festival of British Railway Modelling at Doncaster. This year I'm not taking any.

Instead, visitors will be treated to "Phil's Workbench" - basically me sitting around building things with a great big pile of past projects for you to have a look at.

It's nice to get these out and into a show. Building them for the mag and then sticking them in a box in storage seems a real shame. A wide variety of projects also gives me a lot of different things to talk about, and you know me, I love yakking about building model railways at a show!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Painted people

People on the painting stick

Due to a tight deadline, the 7mm scale gangers were painted around a trip to the pub. Before I went, the skin received a coat of Lifecolor acrylic - base colour and then a dry-brush of lighter flesh. This was left to dry while I enjoyed a couple of pints. You don't want to be handling wet paint after all. 

Back home, the rest of the work involved Humbrol enamels, except for the spade blade which was left in the raw whitemetal.

For speed, I didn't worry about highlighting the colours. Instead I relied on some shading with Citadel Agrax Earthshade ink to do the work. It is particularly effective on the white (Humbrol 147) shirt of the sitting man. I prefer to shade with brown rather than black as the results are a lot less severe. 

In case you are wondering, the figures are fixed down to the painting stick with superglue. Once dry, they are simply snapped off and fitted into place on the layout.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday - Under a Brummie viaduct

Under a Brummie viaduct

Here's a photo I've been looking for in my collection for a long while.Strolling around Birmingham, I spotted these modern industrial units tucked under the arches of a viaduct. 

To me, they look a bit like alien spacecraft who have landed in the less salubrious area of our second city. Sadly, I can't remember exactly where this was taken, other than it's in the maze of railway that is south of Moor Street station.

Modelling would be tricky as the curved and ribbed walls wouldn't be easy to replicate. If you could make one, I'd be inclined to stick it in a mould and cast the rest in resin. The effort would be worth it though as some really eye-catching models would result from it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

O gauge metal men

I need a couple of 7mm scale figures for a diorama, so while at Stafford I spent a long while at the Ivertrain stand searching through the little packets of unpainted people.

First I've got a "Heros of the Footplate" ganger. He arrives in two parts - head and the rest. His collar needs to be drilled out to accept the neck attached to his head. There's a shovel for him to lean on too.

Whitemetal is soft so it's no great trouble. I always work with a slightly larger bit than required so I have the chance to move the noggin around a bit so he's looking in the right direction. 

Once happy, filling his neck with superglue and popping the head in place and we are done. He's ready to be glued on the painting stick. 

I nipped the tip from the spade so it appears to have dug in the ground under his weight. 

From this shot you can see why it's worth priming figures. Spotting the detail, or that seam line round his head, is hard in shiny metal. 

My other figure is from the S&D Models range. The seated workman arrives in rather more bits. 

More superglue, but no drill bit action this time. Holding the arms in place is tricky, they hang on stubs emerging from his shoulders so I tend to squirt them with superglue kicker to speed up the drying process before they fall off.

On the painting  stick you can see he is more detailed then the HOTF man. None of this is an issue as for model railway purposes, it's proportion and pose that matter more in the context of a larger scene. 

Ironically, I was thinking this when Allan Buttler from ModelU appeared for a chat about a recent DVD appearance I'd filmed for his little people. It seems he is doing some interesting projects, more of which in the future.

Monday, February 06, 2017

On the scene

COOL DUDEExiting the vintage shuttle bus at Stafford show on Saturday, I pass some "youths" who had got of a couple of minutes earlier.

They were busy doing what da kidz do, photographing things using an iPad and talking about making a video blog or something.

"Don't worry", says one, "I know the scene."


When did an agricultural building full of middle aged blokes looking at train sets become A Scene?

If it's now A Scene, I'm worried that I'm probably not cool enough to be part of it any more.

Mind you, there was mention of a Mini Metro "scene" in a recent classic car mag. Presumably they meet up in out of town shopping centre car parks and discuss their favourite shade of beige, so if I up my game, there may be hope for me yet.

In fact, I know the Stafford Scene so well that I know standing out in the cold queue isn't as pleasant as sitting in the warm cafe with tea and cake waiting for the first rush to get in. And cake beats cool any day.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Peckett in a shed


I've been stupidly busy this week -the highlight(?) being glazing a loco cab at 1:30 in the morning when sleep eluded me. 

Once job I did manage was posing my Hornby Peckett in the doorway of the Melbridge Parva engine shed. This has been on my "to do" list for weeks but with the layout in front of a camera for another photo, I finally got it done. 

Very pretty loco even if it does need weathering.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Saturday Film Club: London's Post Office Railway

Last week we had one transport system I wish I'd seen working, the Sydney Monorail. This week it's a transport system I REALLY wish I'd seen working, the Post Office railway in London. 

Once upon a time, post was fired between depots in an underground railway rather than being loaded into vans. Crazy idea.

Sadly, the system closed in 2003. At the time I recall a letter on the BBC "Speak your brains" bit of the news website where a lady demanded that the tunnels be filled in with concrete to STOP TERRORISTS USING THEM, a cunning way to defeat those fiends. Especially the ones who can't hire vans as they always make the mistake on the "Occupation" and write "bringing down evil Western society". Enterprise catch so many that way...

Anyway, the tunnels haven't been filled with concrete and later this year, we will be able to visit part of the system. Follow this link for details of the system

And yes, I would like to make a model of it.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Book Review: Tasmania Railways in Preservation by Robert Sweet

Publisher: Mainline & Maritime Ltd

ISBN: 987-1-900340-28-1

A5 Softback

36 pages


Tasmania is an island state of Australia 240 miles south of the main island. Covering 64,519 square kilometres, it's home to a dozen heritage railways plus a few other sites with railway interest, all of which are briefly covered by this little book.

The first thing that strikes me is just how familiar much of the rolling stock is. A couple of 04 shunters appear and the Hobart Municiple trams at the Tasmanian Transport Museum could be sat at the UK tram museum at Crich. Despite this, they were built in Australia, but this just shows how close the ties are between the two countries.

Each location gets around 4 or 5 pages so it is necessarily brief, but this includes several intriguing photos as well. As a primer to somewhere you don't know, for most readers, this is ideal. It would also fit nicely in a suitcase if you are planning a holiday in Tasmania.

Modellers may find many of the locations would make interesting layout inspirations too. Many are ex industrial lines and there are some interesting features - the West Coat Wilderness Railway can only run around the trains by using the turntable, a real prototype for anything.

As will all publications from M&M, the production quality is excellent with all photos superbly reproduced and clear, well written text.

Well worth a read if you fancy something a little off the beaten track.

Buy this book from Mainline & Maritime.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Rolling stock magazine roundup

Etched coach Rowmark van

This month's BRM has a bit of a technology feel. There's 3D scanning and printing and loads of other wow stuff including some incredible model building.

Anyway, my contribution this time is a comparison of a couple of O16.5 kits - one etched and one laser cut in Rowmark. Both models are pre-production kits from Mercian Models and they should be available for sale at the NG event in Derby in the middle of the year. I've made a few comments but nothing major. The biggest problem will be giving them back. I really like the little van.

Wagon loads

In the latest Hornby Collectors Club magazine, we have part 2of my basic wagon loads piece looking at non-coal based ideas to fill your wagon. Pipes were inspired by a 1970s Blue Peter annual, but I've been a bit more sophisticated than their efforts with pasta!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Ugly West Brompton

West Brompton

Heading to Olympia from home means changing from the tube to the London Overground at West Brompton. Quite frankly, it's grim. The sort of place where if it isn't actually raining, it is about to start. All the time. 

Matters aren't helped by this ugly lump of bricks looming over the station atop some brick arches that probably looked very nice when they were new. According to Google maps it's an electricity substation, but that might just be the electrical stuff beside it. There's no obvious access road and car park for office workers either. There is a handy graveyard though.

As a modelling prospect though, it would be a simple scratchbuild. There's not real detail to worry about other than some gratings. Those windows would be easy enough to do. Basically, if you need an lump of anonymity for the back of your layout, here it is.