Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Film Club: The train that floats in the sky

Monorails are rubbish. With one exception, the rails are always mahoosive beams that cost vastly more than a traditional track bed. Pointwork requires enormous constructions. 

Basically, the whole lot offers very few benefits over a normal railway, while the downsides are terrific. 

This doesn't make them any less fascinating of course. Which is why I share with you this film by the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership covering the TSR2 of the rails - the Hovertrain.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Off to London today

Today, I'll be loading the car, donning my pearly King costume and heading down to the smoke for the London Festival of Railway Modelling.

I'll be on the BRM stand all weekend with Didsbury Green and the rest of the team. I understand there will be some public interviewing going on as part of the Model Railway Club display behind us, so you'll probably see me wielding a microphone at some point.

If you are climbing the hill to the venue, see you there!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Moggie Minor Van

Moggie Minor van

The front of Didsbury Green looked a little empty without a road vehicle lined up for loading or unloading. Picking a suitable model was a bit tricky - I don't want to pin down the era or location of the layout. 

Option 1 was, of course, a VW van. Since only a post-1968 Bay Window version is available in the scale at the moment, I felt that would look a bit incongruous with steam locos cuffing around behind it. 

Which brings us to Option 2 - the classic Moggie Minor. 

You can't really go wrong. OK, the car still dates to post 1948, even later in fact for this single part windscreen version, but it always looks vintage. The design having been completed in 1941 helps a lot. That it looks so very different from modern vehicles does too. 

My model is from the Classix series. It's been matt varnished and provided with transfers from a source I can't remember. The phone number is different on each side too as there weren't two identical ones on the sheet. The finishing touch is a bit of weathering powder dusted on and then wiped off with a wet finger. 

I think I driver stood at the back would finish the scene, and think I have just the man for the job...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday - Lancing beach huts

Beach Huts

Beach huts are interesting things, at least to those of us living very inland. Those found at Lancing are looking a bit careworn, but I suspect will eventually receive a coat of paint once the season starts and the sun comes out. 

Looking through my collection, I'm not the only one to have modelled beach huts, I find several other layouts feature them:

Beach Huts

Bathing huts

OK, these ones are bathing machines, but it's just a hut on wheels...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Handsome digger

Drip is quite a handsome model once built. Apparently 1:100 scale, he's 6cm long, 4cm wide and 4cm tall. Quite chunky too.

Assembly should be glue-free, but I used some anyway. The only dodgy bits are the hydraulic rams for the shovel arm lift. These should work for play value, but the first one I did is fine, the second, broke.

In retrospect, I think the instruction diagram is either wrong or confusing. One end should slide in a slot, but the drawing makes it look like it fits in a pivot point. The fact I had to drill this out should have warned me.

Still, I don't want play value. If I did, I'd whinge that the tracks don't move so you can't wheel him around.

I'm assuming that Drip parachuted in to fires, clears the ground for a firebreak and then drive out. How he repacks his 'chute is a mystery as it's well packed up here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Drip kit

I've had this kit of "Drip" from the movie Planes, Fire and Rescue, kicking around for some time. I bought it cheap (£3!) because I though it would be a good testbed for some weathering techniques. It's been knocking around gradually getting more and more battered, but with the AK chipping and wear and chipping products to hand, I thought it was time to give it a go.

First job is to partly assemble the model, painting the undercoat of rust colours on anything that will show wear. I've used a mix of Humbrol rust and leather for this and I think it looks pretty good, at least for this job.

Once dry, everything is liberally painted with "Worn Effects" fluid before final colours painted using acrylic.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lancing 2018

The Art of Compromise

According to a recent post on Facebook, many modellers won't go to even a local show if they can't see a list of the layouts that will be present.

Presumably, they will look at this list and moan:

"I've seen all those. Why don't they get some new ones in?"


"I don't know any of those. I'm not spending money to see layouts I've never heard of."

Either way, there will be an excuse not to travel a few miles to look at a show relating to the hobby they claim to be taking part in.

And, in my opinion (and as I've said before, this is my blog so that's what matters), they would be wrong.

Lancing show last weekend was an excellent example. It's a civic centre event, a big village hall really. I doubt that many had heard of more than one of the layouts present.

But it was superb. I drove 2.5 hours each way, including a spell on the M25, and I felt it was worth every minute.

Sewage Works

I hadn't gone along on a whim. My mission was to see Chris Ford's "Art of Compromise", with an additional plan to view Michael Campbell's "Awngate". I saw those, but there was so much more.

A model of a sewage works in O14? Lovely. Tiny, but superb. I wanted to build it.

Cardboard O

6ft 3in long O gauge inglenook where all the buildings and two of the locos are made from cardboard? Sounds good to me. I'd like to build that one too.

3mm? Yes. Lego? Yes

Basically, a cracking show. I even managed to resist cake, although as you can see from the photo, it wasn't easy. I consoled myself with very average fish'n'chips in a cafe on the front. Well, when at the seaside, you have to don't you?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Unboxing a P Class

In the lats few weeks, I've been popping up in from of the camera for a series of "First Look" videos for the new BRM Express e-newsletter. 

When developing this free e-mail, we looked at things you can do on film but not on paper. Inspired by the success of unboxing videos, it seemed sensible to have a go ourselves. After all, models come in to the office for review in the mag, but why not give our first impressions? 

At the same time, we can give locos a bit of a run straight from the box - no fiddling, unpack and try the model with a 9V PP3 battery. There's nowhere to hide if it doesn't work. 

Anyway, if you enjoy this one, and think that I really can be the nerdy Zoella, then subscribe for free here. There's a new newsletter due out on Friday, you have been warned...

Friday, March 16, 2018

Ancient wagon identification

Time for some detective work. I've been lent this wagon but know very little about it.

The body is wooden, covered with pre-printed sides and solebars. They are flat with no Peco-style embossing and very thin paper.

Built to OO gauge, the underframe parts are hard metal. I'm wondering about ERG - they looks like the sort of parts that came with their kits and I seem to recall were sold separately for scratchbuilders.

Any suggestions in the comments please.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

April Garden Rail

You might think that life as a magazine editor is full of perks and jollies. You might even think that I can't move for freebies showed on me from grateful manufacturers desperate to win my affections.

So why is it that I don't have a K1 Garratt?

Because it costs £4000 and we had to borrow one for Tag to review. Apparently he wasn't allowed to keep it or send the model on to me. It is a fantastic looking beast though. Lots of money but then what do you expect for a RTR articulated live steam locomotive that will only ever be produced in tiny numbers.

I'm probably better off with the scratchbuilding from scrap article. Much more my level.As is the IP Engineering motorised skip wagon build, a kit I've fancied doing myself but been beaten to for the moment.

I do get my hands dirty with some modelling, working over a Harecroft 3D printed mine tub.

Full contents list here. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday - 22 Pakenham Street

22 Pakenham Street

We're back in Pakenham Street in London for today's prototype picture. 

This time, a look inside a building showing the whitewashed walls and roof girders. Nice painted detail on the sides of the doorway too. 

It's the sort of scene that encourages viewers to peer inside a model and take a bit more notice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

New broom? You'll need someone with a toolbox...

OK B&Q - the yard broom at chez Parker is looking more than little tired. To be honest, it lives outside the back door and the wood has gone rotten. Trying to sweep the recent fluffy snow away before it turned to ice defeated it.

However, the packing for new brooms presents a challenge. The head comes attached to the handle with this plastic bracket.

You can't slide the handle out, the prongs prevent easy movement and when you reach the end of the handle there is either a bit of rope for hanging the broom up, or the plastic thing that screws into the bracket on the head.

Cut that away with some flush wire snippers and you are left with the plastic bracket stapled to the head. A screwdriver won't go in under the staples until all the plastic is cut away with a Stanley style knife. OK, it's pretty soft but so is the wood underneath.

And those staples are long too.

Anyway, the broom is now assembled, plastic bits and staples in the bin, and treated to a coat of varnish ready to go outside. It just seemed to be more of a faff than it ought to be.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Getting close with a Infinoptix digital microscope

Placing an order on the HobbyKing website, once I'd found the stuff I wanted, I had a look at some of the other goodies on offer.

By the time I'd finished, the £15 order was going to cost me the best part of 50 quid, and on it (amoung other things) was this Infinoptix digital microscope.

While I'm no scientist, I do need to take photos of small things regularly, and for £16, I thought this might be a bit of fun, and possibly have practical applications.

Basically, this is a digital camera mounted on the end of a flexible arm. Around the lens are 4 bright LEDs. Focusing is manual, using the grey ring on the body of the device.

Plugged into the USB socket on my computer, I can see the camera view on the screen using the supplied (on CD) software.

Focusing is a little fiddly, there seems to be a tiny lag between moving the focus ring and the results appearing on screen. Compounded by a very limited depth of field, it calls for a delicate touch.

First results look interesting.

This is the edge of a 247 Developments 16mm scale FR coach plate. The photo covers a width of 10mm in real life. Bringing the camera closer, I can blow the No.2 bit up to fill the view - about 4mm. Messing around with a printed notepad, I could easily see the individual dots of the print and on my mobile phone screen, the pixels making up the image.

Resolution is 1600 X 1200 pixels, not massive, but useful for a small image on a page. If I need to blow something up that much, I'll accept the limitations.

Shooting both stills and video, for the price, this is worth further experiments. Look out for more macro pictures in the future!

Flexview Digital Microscope at Hobbyking.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cancelling shows

After last weeks snow and the cancellation of Leamington Show, it's very interesting to see how this worked out.

First, the behind the scenes story from the exhibition manager, Mike Collins:

A Winter’s Tale from a Warwickshire Exhibition Manager
Weather forecasts early in the week suggested that the south midlands would miss the worst of the snow and we were confident that the show would be able to go ahead. We carefully monitored the local forecasts throughout Thursday and they changed frequently. A Weather Watch bulletin was posted on our website.
We started to collect information from exhibitors’ and traders about journey prospects. Very rapidly it was obvious that those travelling from the south and west were unlikely to be able to make the trip safely with red and amber alerts posted for that area. Heavy snow was now forecast to fall in south Warwickshire throughout the day on Friday. Withdrawals started to come in and were immediately posted on the web site.
It starting snowing heavily approximately 15:30 Thursday afternoon. Road conditions deteriorated rapidly. We started to receive phone calls and more withdrawals. At about 18:00 the amber alert area extended north to include the south and west midlands and the red zone moved in our direction. A conference call was booked with the key exhibition organisers for 19:30. Heavy snow continued, the list of withdrawals was also growing. The consensus view of exhibition team was that if would be unsafe to continue, but the insurance cover should be checked and senior Board members involved in the final decision. A further conference call involving Board members was booked for 20:30. The Exhibition Manager received notification at 20:15 from the College Estates team that the site would be closed on Friday which confirmed that the decision, already taken to cancel the show. was the right one. The 20:30 conference call was now just a formality to advise the Society Management Board.
The website was immediately updated, e-mail cancellation notices were sent out by 21:45, phone calls were made and text messages sent to ensure all exhibitors were aware of the situation by 22:45.
While all of the above was going on members trying to get to the club on Thursday evening failed and those at the club preparing Kimble for transport the following morning reported severe difficulties with their journeys home. On Friday morning we received a report of 6 foot deep snow drifts blocking all roads around the club. The decision taken purely on safety grounds to cancel the exhibition was clearly the right one.
It's never easy to take such a decision and the safety of all involved over-rules everything else, after all it's only a model railway exhibition! We want to be able to welcome everybody again in 2019.
Cancelling a show is never easy. For a start, you are watching hundred of hours of work vanish through no fault of your own. Any potential for profit, money that helps keep the club afloat, also vanishes. Worse, there are bills that can't be avoided such as the cost of hotel rooms, many hundreds of pounds. 
Fortunately, the club is insured against this sort of thing so hopefully there won't be a financial hit once the (time consuming) claim goes in. 
Great efforts were made to update the LWMRS website, Facebook, Twitter and RMweb through the week until cancellation. Something that was much appreciated by exhibitors, traders and visitors. 
Even this isn't enough of course - 29 people still turned up on Saturday morning to be met by a couple of volunteers who explained the situation. Apart from one chap who moaned that most people aren't on the Internet and there should be a telephone number to call, all understood the situation. 
(As an aside, the phone number thing sound good but unless you give out people's mobile numbers, you tie someone to a landline for the week before and weekend of the show. Then you have to put up with people who just ring for a chat about model railways and can't understand that you aren't there for that.)
A couple of people asked if the show would be held on another weekend later in the year. No it won't. You can't find a weekend when all the same trade, layouts and venue would be available. If they aren't then you're basically starting work all over again. Far better to accept the loss of 2018's show and move on to 2019. 
As it turned out, this was very much the right decision. Friday saw a big dump of snow with 6ft drifts blocking access to the clubrooms, entombing the barrier, other exhibition equipment and O gauge layout inside.
This was a lot of work for several people but was handled as well as you can hope to do these things. Social media and the web can be a wonderful thing in this situation - most people will quickly check an organisations website in this situation and a note about opening can make all the difference. A lesson to learn for others I think...

If you are in the Leamington area next weekend, the open day is still on

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Film Club: The Railway Today

I can't get enough of Pathe News telling us about the railway modernisation plan. It all looked so exciting. There was investment and modern technology. The future looked good.

Sadly, much of this didn't pan out. Those marshalling yards weren't needed after all because putting goods in steel containers and shunting them by crane is more efficient.

Worse, passengers deserted the tracks for ever more practical motor cars. It all sort of fell apart. 

One survivor from the film is Oxford Road Station in Manchester. There's an excellent article on it on The Beauty of Transport blog.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Masking a tram with cornflakes

I don't mind helping my Dad out with some painting, but I insist he masks thing up himself. It's a job I hate and he's got plenty of time for this sort of fiddly work.

Anyway, on the bench at the moment is an Ochre G scale tram kit. The sides need to go blue, we have a rattle can. All we need is to stop the paint getting inside where it's all supposed to be a varnished wood finish.

His solution is "out of a box" - making a box that slips inside the tram body from cereal packets. Not difficult, but certainly pretty nifty and I'd not thought of it before. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Ready for the beach

Beach Buggy

Finishing the buggy was simply a case of sticking on the prodigious number of transfers. I like those for the tail lights, it saves a fiddly painting task.

There are also loads of decorative stickers which bring the model alive.

Finally, the white walls for the tyres are transfers, but ones that don't seem to fit. I had to cut each one to wiggle it into position with the ends overlapping each other. Not difficult, but odd in a clip-together kit.

Anyway, the results are rather nice.11.5cm long over the nerf bars, it's a tiny model and really would have benefitted from some figures to set it off. Having said that, it's a really cheap kit so I can't complain too much. I'm still after a sensibly priced Airfix version though.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Pekenham Street, London

Pakenham Street building 1

Another building I know nothing about other than it's on Pakenham Street in London, and I we walked past on the way to Mail Rail, I thought it looked rather interesting.

Despite the wintery weather, I managed to grab a couple of photos on our way back to St Pancras. The courtyard looks particularly modelable, especially that fire escape. I'm guessing this was once a factory or workshop. Judging by the level of detail in the red brickwork, quite an important one. 

Pakenham Street building 2

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Buggy bits assembled

Revell has designed this kit to be easy to assemble. No glue is required, all the bits sort of clip into each other.

I'm not convinced. For a start, I grew up sticking plastic kits together so why can't the kids of today do the same? Never did me any hard etc. etc.

Really though, I find that without glue, nothing seems properly put together. Things wobble where they should be fixed. The silver parts aren't that well moulded either, plenty of flash needs to be trimmed away before assembly starts. Since it's a soft plastic, this isn't as easy as it could be either.

My dislike of rubber tyres was confirmed too. These are a little too big for the wheels and really do need some superglue to hold them properly.

Still, it all sort of fits in a lightly detailed way. Nerd note: you can tell this is an American kit as the car is fitted with a Type 4 engine rather than the more common Type 1. This is a bad thing as far as I am concerned. Airfix got it right all those years ago.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Dredged from the depths - That's not a fish!

Our boating lake is full of carp. They eat the weed so sailing is rarely disrupted by this, but they also breed like watery rabbits. Last year a ban was placed on fish feeding in an effort to stem the reproductive tide, but something still had to be done.

Carp aren't a fish you can just hoik out and drop in a local river. Nor are they particularly edible being full of bones, and if you don't place them in clear water for a couple of days before dispatching, mud.

So, after much searching, the club found a local carp fishing lake who couple come along and removed a few hundred fish legally. They used a great big net and were very pleased to re-stock their water at no cost. We were happy to dramatically reduce the numbers so everyone is a winner.

The netting raised other beasts from the depths, specifically, this plastic bridge. No-one can remember who lost it from a boat, or when, but now it sits in the club waiting to be claimed. It's amazing what you can find at the bottom of a lake...

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Mail Rail

View down the tunnel

What do you buy for a man who has everything?

No idea, but for my Dad's birthday, I decided a day out in London would be a nice idea. Once booked, an e-mail reminded me about Mail Rail, part of the Post Office museum. 20 minutes later, we were booked on the last train of the day. 

Finding the place isn't that easy - it's under Mount Pleasant sorting office, but that's only a landmark if you know what it is. About 10 minutes walk from St Pancras station if it helps. 

Descending into the depths, we were greeted by friendly staff and had time to look around the display of old equipment. The entire story of the PO's underground railway is explained from early pneumatic trains to the more modern electric versions. There's lots of well-displayed machinery and the explanations are clear but not dumbed down. 

The highlight of course, is a ride on the system itself. 

Mail Rail tube train

The battery powered trains are new, and tiny. The main tunnels are only 9ft in diameter so my head was against the roof of the carriage.

The trip is 15 minutes long including some stops along the way at "stations" for short audio visual presentations. These were unexpected and very much aimed at the non-enthusiast, but very well done nonetheless.

Visiting the Post Office Railway is a bit of a dream come true for me. OK, it's no longer "real" but I'll take this as a very good second best. We both loved it and want to go again.

I've put a short video up on YouTube.

There are more photos on Flickr

More details on the official website. 

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Saturday Film Club: KeilKraft factory tour

KeilKraft will be a name familiar to many older modellers for their massive range of aircraft and boat kits. Here, we tour the factory in the late 1950s looking at the office, production and then distribution areas. 

At the time, the firm employed around 200 people but this gradually fell as they failed to move with the times. According to John Parker in Model Boats magazine, the fim was finally wound up in 2003 after years of dormacy. You can still buy some of the aircraft kits from the Vintage Model Company, but these are laser rather than die-cut and probably use rather better quality materials. 

The film is fascinating - a proper look around an old factory. At a guess, the film maker was a member of a cine club, they have taken the job seriously shooting lots of expensive film and used a tripod. My Dad reckons it's early Kodak and probably 10ASA, so getting shots in a dark factory was impressive. Since the factory and offices haven't been tidyed up, this wasn't a professional outfit making a marketing film.

Looking around, the lack of health and safety is amazing. Pushing lumps of wood through circular saws by hand? It's worth counting people's fingers as there must have been some bloodied kits caused by a moment's inattention. Smoking in amoungst piles of balsa doesn't look to clever either. 

Finally, look at the stacks of kits - ready to head out in signwritten vans (come on Oxford, you know what to do) - to model shops around the country.

Friday, March 02, 2018

It's NOT Leamington show this weekend

If you were hoping to come along to Leamington show this weekend, I'm afraid it is a casualty of the terrible weather we've been having over the last week.

Several stands had already dropped out as the sky dropped the white stuff everywhere, but the final straw was the venue deciding to close on the Friday - you can't set an event like this up on Saturday morning even if the weather is perfect, and according to the forecasters, it's going to be far from that.

It's a great shame for those who have put in many, many hours of work organising the show, but I suppose it's better than anyone having an accident trying to get in. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Building a cottage from a carriage in BRM

Talking about the Spring 2018 issue of BRM, I have to start with the DVD feature.

Howard and I visited the North Norfolk Railway on a freezing cold day last year. Shivering was well worth it though as the first thing we saw at Holt station inspired me to build my main project this month.

The railway have preserved a 4-wheel coach, but not as a coach, as a cottage.

Homes made of rolling stock were very common. Daisy, who looks after the education side of the railway, explains that for a fiver, the company would deliver a vehicle to your land. After that it was time to get the woodworking tools out to make yourself a habitable building.

The NNR version is beautifully fitted out inside as a home from 1943. All the detail is there and visitors can wander around in it's admittedly confined interior. School kids are brought in to get a feel for the way people used to live.

I had to build a model of it.

Using a Hornby 4-wheel coach, I produced something pretty close. It's not a hard job but that meant I had to have a go at the vegetable patch from the "Dig for Victory" days. That took rather longer, especially the potatoes.

Didsbury Green continues with a simple Stick fiddle yard to hang off the end of the model.

Fiddle yards don't need to be massive, especially if you are operating at home, so why over complicate matters?

Finally, in the Tail Lamp section, I'm being provocative by suggesting that you don't really need rolling stock models that are vastly superior to the rest of your layout. In fact it migh be better if you didn't...

Spring BRM on RMweb.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Corff fan daear

Welsh Grounded van 1

All the way from Bwlch-Y-Ffridd in Wales, a much-modified van body.

Welsh Grounded van 3

End doors, corrugated iron roof, lichen clinging to the woodwork - all great features on a model.

Welsh Grounded van 2

(According to Google Translate, the title of this postis "Grounded van body" in Welsh. If it says something obscene, sorry.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

So, I alone in all the world can create the finest orange at will?

Reading the instructions, one point jumped out at me. Rather than specify a body colour, the modeller is told to mix equal parts of green and metalic gold.

Hmmm. Well, you are supposed to use Revell acrylic paints for this and around here they are slightly less common than rocking horse poo, but I couldn't see why enamel wouldn't work.

And you are supposed to use the finest green, and I had decided to use orange.

No worries, I mixed gloss orange and gold then blasted the model using my airbrush. Amazingly, it worked!

OK, the first go was a bit too gold. Adding more orange tilted the balance the other way. A bit more gold and finally I was happy. It's now gloss orange but definitely not just gloss orange, there is a different shine.

I can't imaging why I'll ever want to us this on a railway project, but it's a technique for a future racing boat I'm sure.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Beach buggy build

We're all supposed to have "Bucket Lists" - that is a list of things we'd like to do before we kick the bucket. You're supposed to want to chuck yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane or annoy dolphins by swimming with them. Quite what Flipper gets out of having some loon hanging on to his fin while gurning for Instagram isn't recorded, but then we can't spot the Vogons.

Anyway, I can't be bothered with all that, but if I did, building a kit car would be on there. The car I'd probably build is a beach buggy. They look great, make no pretense at being practical and ye should be reasonably simple.

To build your buggy, take a VW Beetle chassis. Bolt the 1-piece fibreglass buggy body on top. Fit electrics etc. and you are done. It really doesn't sound too hard. Only a lack of space, time and money is stopping me.

As a kid, I built the Airfix 1/32nd version. Painted orange, it has long since disappeared into landfill. Attempts to replace it has floundered on it's unavailability at a price I'm willing to pay. £60+ seems to be the going rate as the model has never re-appeared in the Airfix range. Actually, this might be an orange car thing as the Bond Bug from the same series is also rare and never repeated.

Anyway, when Revell announced a version, I was ready for it. My model was picked up at the IPMS show last year for well under a tenner. OK, it doesn't feature the scantily clad driver or girlfriend Airfix supplied, but this still seemed like good value.

For the money, you get a lot of box and not that many plastic parts as you can see. Tyres are rubber, something people get excited about but doesn't bother me. I have black paint and you can model a realistic bulge in a hard plastic tyre. And clean the mould marks off.

So, I set off assembling the model, but not before reading the instructions and finding something new. More tomorrow.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Playing trains at Penman Pools

As those who are signed up to the new BRM Express e-newsletter will know, I spent last Sunday in the company of 11 other modellers operating Geoff Taylor's Barmouth Junction layout.

Starting as the most junior operator in charge of shunting trains in the fiddle yard, I quickly proved my incompetence at using Kadee couplings. I could them to uncouple but not stay uncoupled when pushing a rake of coaches. Obviously this is the fault of Americans. Hornby Dublo couplings made of proper British steel would have worked perfectly.

The layout is divided up into three stations and a scenic running line. Trains disappear from view for quite a long time as they circulate under baseboards which is a bit disconcerting for the novice too. The thing is, this model works like a real railway. There are drivers and signalmen. Trains are signalled out and directed by bells, and a bit of shouting.

I've not experienced anything like this since Australia. In the UK, we build model railways as theatre for shows most of the time. Multi-station, permanent set-ups are a lot rarer. Which is why it's such fun to have the chance to operate one, especially when the modelling is as superb as this.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Great Cockrow Railway

We've seen a couple of miniature signalboxes this week, let's spot a third on the Great Cockrow railway courtesy of Pathe News. 

The commentator makes one point that I've often laboured when chatting to people - the sheer variety of different folks you meet taking part in a hobby. As I point out to da kidz at shows, you never know when being aqauinted with a barriser or bishop might be useful.

Friday, February 23, 2018

H&M Loco tester

There aren't many tools I aspire to own, but a cheaper item on this list the the H&M Locomotive tester.

Dating back to the 1980s as I recall, this is a rather nice rolling road that works for both diesel and steam locomotives.

Hosues in a wooden base, a length of track has been bent (in a press presumably as it's very neat) so one end can support a non-powered bogie or tender with pickups. The lower level is home to the rollers - brass with plastic ends. These only power one side at a time so you have to flip them around to make sure both polarities are delivered to the model. Knowing how the loco picks up and from where is a bit help here. Foam strips hold them in place and stop too much wobble. These have aged, but I'm pretty certain something suitable can be bought from a DIY store.

While I own a Bachyrus rolling road, which allows for multiple gauges, most construation will be in OO, and this is a lovely thing and still workd perfectly. Price, £20 from Stafford second hand still and worth every penny.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

First play with AK chipping fluids

Time for a bit of a play with something the plastic modellers have used for some time - AK Interactive Worn Effects and Heavy Chipping fluids.

The results can look brilliant, but like most advanced materials, they need practise. People tend to underestimate this, assuming that the models they see are from geniuses who get everything right first time. Well, it's easier to assume this than put the time in having a go...

Anyway, my test started with a rusty coat of enamel on plastic sheet. Left to dry it received a coat of both fluids (not on top of each other, one each side of the plastic) left to dry and then a coat of blue enamel. Once this lot was dry, as per the instructions, I gave the sides a wash of the magic fluid and scrubbed them with a bit of wood on the workbench.

I'm quite happy with what I got. Heavy chipping scratched more than Worn Effects. There is skill required in the scraping to produce something that resembles real wear, but looking at photos will help.

Using enamels is a departure form the instructions and I wonder if they are harder wearing than acrylic. I'll try some of these next.I'll also dig around the web for more advice. There is a test model in the stash though...

Thanks to Hobby Holidays for supplying these products.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Onibury Signal box

Onibury signal box

Yesterday we had a tiny model signal box. Today, a tiny full-sized one.

Onibury, found on the Shrewsbury to Hereford line, sits beside a level crossing and closed station that is now a private residence. The current box opened in 1977 according to the Signal Box discussion forum

You can find more details on the Signalling Record Society website.

Onibury signal box back

Let's be honest, this isn't a beautiful building, but I like it a lot. For a start, modelling would be simple if a few basic measurements were available. Those could possibly be worked out from the height of the door.I also like ugly structures to show off the beauty of the surroundings. 

Looking at this photo from Wikipedia, the original box was far more traditional:

You can clearly see the box on Google Streetview - but mooch around a little, the crossing keepers house (station masters?) has some interesting stuff on the drive...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tiny signal box

A little project - the Peco NB-3 signal box kit - part of a future Cake Box model. 

It's a nice kit. Everything goes together well and if you are careful with the painting, the result is a very pleasing model. I've glazed the windows with Krystal-Klear rather than the supplied plastic to give a flusher look to the glass, but otherwise, the instructions were followed to the letter. 

N gauge seems to tiny though compared to other stuff I've built recently. 58mm long and 31 mm from front to back, I'd think that anyone could easily find space for it on a layout. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

You bought what?

This being the Interweb, the law seems to be that once you've been to a model railway show, the contents of your shopping bag must be posted for all to see and covet.

Well, here's my stash from Doncaster.
  • 1/32nd Hawk T.Mk1 vac-formed aeroplane kit (Fascinating and worth a quid to have a poke around in the bag. Might end up on eBay eventually)
  • 1/400 Mississippi "Southern Belle" boat kit from Glencoe Models (I'm going to build this, it looked fun and won't take up much space. Fitting radio gear will be difficult)
  • Jack plugs and sockets (50p each? Bargain!)
  • Zero 1 conductive paint (Handy and cheap for both Command Control programming and repairing heater elements in car rear windscreens)

So, no trains then. Must try harder.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Doncaster 2018

Phils corner

As I write this, it's a week beyond my arriving at Doncaster racecourse for the Festival of British Railway Modelling. Getting in before lunch meant I was there in time to do some filming for our DVD where we look behind the scene at the show, talking to layout owners and traders to understand why they trek around the country every weekend.

My corner of the BRM stand included Didsbury Green and some cake box models I've built - including one not yet seen in the pages of the magazine.

To be honest, it was also the part of the show I saw the most. If I managed to get out, this was normally for filming purposes. Other than that, it was chat, chat, chat.

Liverpool Lime Street

The crowds were treated to some cracking model railway layouts. Liverpool Lime Street is a massive project and one of those models you need to see several times to get over the "It's massive" initial impressions and start appreciating the details.

I also love Sidmouth. In spite of being P4, it's properly modelled, not just engineered. The whole scene has a real life. Houses that look new for their period, industrial structures that look old. Another model that repays repeated visit.

Back garden

Cakewise, the healthy Phil regime is still in operation, but Ruth and Aime on the BRM stand assured me that the puddings were excellent...


And finally, a mention of the hedgehogs. All the way from Andrews Hedgehog Hospital (Andrew passed away last year from old age) they are still the cutest beings in the hall and yes, we did film an interview with them!