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.