Monday, July 16, 2018

Back to the yard

Regular readers might remember that last month I started building a Petite Properties "Harper's Yard" kit. I got as far as sticking some Plastikard on the front, and then it all went quiet.

I had carried out a bit more work - the openings were all lined with plastic and I'd got as far as trying the windows. At this point I realsied that losing 1mm off each side made the pre-printed glazing look odd. On the PP stand, the model is covered with their brickpaper and the problem doesn't occur.

So, the lining was carefully removed despite all the effort I'd gone to to put it in neatly. Then the plastic started to peel from the front. Then it tore. Then I'm embarrassed to say, I had a bit of a meltdown and screwed the whole kit up and lobbed it in the bin.

But, I still like the model and with the bit more care, I think I can do a good job. So I ordered a replacement kit which has arrived and I'm back to making progress.

This time, the inside edges of the openings will just be painted. Some need to be a painted wood colour, others brick. While the lack of mortar lines might annoy me a little, once on a larger model, no-one is going to notice. At least I'm not going to tell them.

So, I'm going to learn from my mistakes. A slightly different tack to the build and no more modelling while stressed.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Smallspace 2018


It's 40 years since the superb BBC sci-fi drama Blakes 7 debuted on our TV screens and a very young Phil sat and watched some dystopian telly, missing the sub-plot completely and just enjoying the special effects and spaceships. It was grittier than Dr Who but I didn't care.

Smallspace this year celebrated this with the original Liberator (in a VERY bad way) and an appearance by Michael Keating, who played Vila Restal in the series along with the designer and model makers from the show. A shuffle of displays allowed us to enjoy "Vila's Vault" with a collection of props and costumes, bot real and reproduction. You can tell the later, they are better made and more detailed!

UFO hunters

Along side this there were examples of more sic-fi modelmaking, a bit of steampunk and the most amazingly detailed bakers shop where every item was hand made from clay and I wanted to tuck in!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday film club: Accucraft open day 2018

A couple of weeks ago, I headed over to Wales for Accucraft UK's open day. 

Once the bargains had gone (I missed out on IOM coaches for a tenner - perfect for a carriage cottage) people  spent the time runing trains on the test track - and I filmed some of them. There's a good variety of scales from G to 7/8th and some really interesting stock.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A working paddle boat for under 4 quid?

Loitering on a model boat forum, I spot a topic with a title along the lines of "This would be a good boat for the kids". Inside is a link to an eBay shop and a paddle boat costing £3.75. It looks like a bit of fun and so I hit the "Buy it now" link and then add a load of waterproof switches from the same shop for good measure.

A week or so later a package arrives in a jiffy bag from China. The switches are brilliant, and impossible to find in the UK (I've looked a lot) but the kit is contained in a plastic bag. Opening this up and I have the bits above on my bench.

The instructions show that you basically use double sided tape to stick the foam shape to the plywood board, attach the double-ended motor with cable ties, wrap some wires around terminals and push the plastic paddles on the shafts.

I broke out the soldering iron for the wiring, twisting the wires didn't work for me and the paddles took a bit of brute force to fit on the motor, but the whole job was done in under 20 minutes.

On a pool, the little model potters around beautifully. Care is needed to make sure the paddles don't catch on the foam, but when working well, it's quite fast and utterly charming.

Paddle boat

I'm already wondering what I can do to make more of this kit. For the price, it's a bit of fun and yes, would be good for kids. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Looking through the square windows

I've been working on a few model building projects recently and if there is one thing I will do my best to avoid, it's being able to see things inside the model you shouldn't be able to. Mainly this is being able to look through a building when there should be walls in the way, but can also refer to seeing the construction of the model.

Now, you can equip a model with a fully fitted interior. That's what the guys at Pendon would do, but I don't have the luxury of that much time and to be honest, for most models, it would be overkill. Fine if you like sticking things on the layout that no-one sees, but that's not for me most of the time.

My solution is to make up little boxes for the back of the windows. Inside is painted dark grey, not black, and then stuck in place to blank out the view. There needs, in my opinion, to be a little separation between the "glass" and the blackness or this looks odd too.

The job doesn't take long, but adds immensely to the look of a model.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Falmouth stone warehouse

Falmouth warehouse

Spotted by my parents while on holiday, this rubble walled warehouse is a Grade II listed building - the full details of which can be found here.  

As well as being very attractive, the shot is useful because the viewing gallery it's taken from is high enough to give a view of the roof. In fact, it's not a long way from the view we get of models like this on railway layouts. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

MiG Oilbrusher

New, to me anyway, is this handy painting goodie from MiG. To anyone who has owned a car and carried out any work on it, it looks like a touch-up brush, and to all intents and purposes, this is what it is.

Inside the 7cm by 1.5cm tube, is 10ml of paint and in the cap is a long bristled brush. Unscrew the lid and you have a ready-loaded brush for tiny jobs.

I'm assuming the paint is an enamel because of the name - it certainly sticks well to plastic and metal.

I chose a dark brown (dark mud) that looked pretty close to Humbrol Track Colour. It's a very useful shade to have at shows for touching up scrapes or soldered joints. Most of the time a colour match isn't essential, some dirt will do the job.

Not the cheapest way to paint, mine cost £3.50, I can really see these being a useful extra tool for many modellers. It's certainly quicker than mixing a tinlet and then washing the brush afterwards. An essential addition for most exhibition toolboxes I'd suggest.

See the full range on the MiG website.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Robert's Brick Mortar Formula

One of my Canadian souvenirs, is this little bottle of "Roberts Brick Mortar Formula". It's a magic substance that claims to be able to fill the mortar lines in brickwork, something I've never had any success with. The stuff isn't cheap, but I thought I'd give it a go as I've not seen this product for sale in the UK.

My first test was some 4mm scale Slaters Brick Plastikard. I painted it brick colour using Humbrol 70 and left to dry overnight.

In the morning, I painted a little of the formula on the bricks and wiped it around a little. This is left to dry and then wiped again to reveal the faces. The effect is very impressive. A little polishing with a paper towel and the mortar is clearly defined.

I've no idea what is in this stuff but it feels like a very fine gritty powder suspended, if you shake it well enough, in a liquid. There's definitely some texture in there.

The colour is a bit bright so I experimented with a wash of thinned cream enamel (left) and Agrax inks on the right. They look OK, but a little work is still required.

 The second text was on some laser cut MDF, again in 4mm scale. This stuff can be tough to paint as the bricks are so sharp my normal pencil crayon technique doesn't work. Again, I painted the bricks with enamel and once dry, used the formula. It worked a treat, possibly too well as you can see the brick joints aren't vertical.

1oz of the stuff covers 5 square feet, so a good chunk of anyone's layout. I'd certainly use this again in the future, even at the price.

Robert's brick mortar website

Sunday, July 08, 2018

KMBC Open Day 2018

Pigeon Pie

A bright sunny day in early summer spent beside our model boating lake? What could be better?

The KMBC open day enjoyed perfect weather and this brought out a wide variety of model boats, not just from the members, but from visitors too.


One of the highlights had to be this massive model of Titanic. With no icebergs to worry about, the processed around the pond in a stately fashion. To be honest, at nearly 6ft long, she is a little bit for our water, but just managed to make the turns smoothly.

I spent the day operating the Bring'n'Buy stall, so the chances to take photos were a bit limited, but at least I managed to get a sail with Pigeon Pie - well you have to take your best boat don't you? 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Behind the scenes with Thomas

Some interesting footage here showing the filming of the pre-CGI series of Thomas the Tank Engine. 

I'm no expert, but there appears to be footage from filming one of the films - a stupid dies with a grab on the top dangles from a viaduct at one point. Nevertheless, it's fascinating to see the scale of many of the sets required for the Gauge 1 and larger models to operate in.

Some nice 80s shirts going on too as well as vintage radio control gear.

Friday, July 06, 2018

LGB Track cleaning loco

LGB Track Cleaning Loco

Summer is here and it's time to get the garden railway working properly. Maintenance over the winter means that one end of the circuit needs no work and most of the rest just a bit of a clean. 

The better news is that cleaning duties can now be farmed out to a new addition to the fleet - an LGB track cleaning loco. 

Picked up at a bargain price from an advert on Facebook, the machine is simple but effective. The back end 0-4-0 is a normal LGB loco. The "nose" houses a pair of motorised wheels that spin in the opposite direction of travel when the loco moved forward. The speed of the cleaning wheels, which have a mildly abrasive surface, is controlled by a knob on the cab roof. 

LGB Track Cleaning Loco in action

It takes a beefy controller to power the loco. I'm using a Helmsman Model Rail unit designed for garden railways and offering 0-20V DC at 4.5amps. My suspicion is that the little 0.5a LGB controller isn't going to be man enough for the job. Sadly, the Helmsman unit is a prize for a forthcoming Garden Rail competition. I may have to buy my own. 

The track is noticeably shinier after a few passes by the loco. How well it will deal with the dirt after months of inaction I'm not sure, but with parts of the railway difficult to access, this is a worthwhile purchase. 

Did I mention the lights on top flash? They do - fantastic!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Ben in 009

I'm not much of a loco buyer, prefering to build them myself. Normally, I'll have a crack at anything, but there was one kit I looked at many times and decided that it was beyond my abilities. Backwoods Miniatures Barclay Contractors loco in 009 (Link here, scroll down).

Building a high quality but fiddly chassis always put me off, even though I thought the loco looked delightful in the adverts. At the very least I would be required to quarter some tiny wheels and I'm no good at that in OO. Alongside this, I simply didn't have a real need for the model and there were (still are) plenty of kits in the "to do" pile.The kit isn't available any more and so I thought no more about it.

Fast forward a few years and I'm at the Oxford 009 show and on the society stand I spot a built up Barclay. After half a day of pondering, I ask to see if the model runs. It does, although a very slight tweak to the quartering might be required. Price £70 - a tenner less than the kit used to be sold for.
Barclay chassis
Looking at the chassis, it's not nearly as scary as I thought.The design looks not unlike some RTR 009 locos. The wheels would need to be set up, but turning the working bits over without a motor would be simple enough for fiddling.

All seems to work, but I fear the motor isn't long for this world. When running it heats up and a full speed blast for a couple of feet seems white smoke wafting off. Since nothing seems tight, I conclude that there is something bad going on in the windings. With Mashima motors being unavailable, I have to hope I have something suitable stashed away, or can one day replace it with another unit. The chassis design makes that look a distinct possibility, so I'm not worried.

Going back to the days when I looked longingly at the Backwoods adverts, they appealed so much I scratchbuilt my own version in 16mm scale, 32mm gauge. I was always rather poud of "Ben", so much so, I've ordered a set of Narrow Planet plates for the 009 version with the same name.

Ben the steam engine

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Lean to workshop

Lean to building

Visiting the Black Country Museum a few weeks ago, in the rain, I couldn't resist the properly mucky areas of industry. Yes the shops are pretty, but this is an industrial area and so that's the proper history. 

This little lean-to workshop is (assuming the museum have got it right) the sort of useful modelling prototype I like. A single story, it's what you make when you've got some bits of a kit left over and don't want to throw them away. 

Great for giving a model the "higgledy-piggledy" look that these sort of places developed as buildings were thrown up to do a job, not to look pretty. 

Added detail - the ground was compacted dirty stone rather than tarmac. Not very flat, a skim of plaster mixed with black powder paint would do the job. Then add puddles.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

The Branch Line by RPA Edwards

Publisher: Burke Publishing, London

ISBN: 0-222-99298-0


64 Pages

£1.20 (24/-)

Published 1970

A book aimed at schools as part of Environmental Studies (who was doing this in 1970?), The Branch Line tells the entire history of a fictional line running to the town of Rockton in Rileshire.

The story opens in the 1840s when it is found that the old methods of transport, sailing barges on the River Rill, couldn't keep pace with the demand for the local stone. Along comes the railway and gradually barge trade dies out. On the other hand, farmers find they can transport their animals to market quicker. Passenger services were introduced and this allowed locals to travel, even as far as London!

After WW1, motor vehicles appear but they aren't as good as trains. WW2 though sees more improvements and the quarry company buys a fleet of lorries. Demand for stone changes too, crushed material being more use than large blocks.

The line started to lose money and was threatened with the Beeching axe. This would affect many people especially small market-gardners who sent good via train to the stall holders of Rilchester market rather than wholesalers. This extra profit was essential and would be lost if the railway closed.

Public meetings are held and petitions signed. A public inquiry takes place, but the outcome was still closure on the basis that the local bus company would run services for everyone and not just commuters. They don't of course, because of competition between two companies in one area.

The council investigates buying and running the line, but people aren't willing to pay higher rates to make this happen, so the railway closes.

With the line gone, the trackbed reverts to nature to the delight of foxes and schoolchildren doing nature studies. A local mushroom grower takes over the tunnel.

Lack of transport forces some of the characters from the story to move from houses in the country to flats on an estate. Rockton's town centre starts to die off as people with cars now decide to travel to larger nearby towns.

All this is illustrated with attractive paintings by Gareth Floyd.

The Branch Line is, to my mind, a brilliant book. It succinctly tells the story of a local railway from birth to death and uses a few character along the way to explain how the changes matter to people. Many of the events are recognisable, such as the comment that if all the people who had come to see the last train had travelled regularly on the railway, it wouldn't have closed.

As an overview of the social history of railways, there's very little better, at least as an introduction to the subject. It's also well written and genuinely enjoyable read.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Pictures from Pendon

Last week, I paid a visit to Pendon to see the opening of the Bristol Line. While there, I took advantage of the protective glass around the Vale scene to snap a few photos.

Roye England at work

Roye England at work recording details of a cottage for the model.

The Vicar calls

The vicar calls.

The Carpenters Arms

The Carpenters Arms.


Some Great Western chuffer obscuring a nice photo of a farm.

 Train and signal

Banana vans in a scene where the white balance was so to cock that sepia toning the scene was the only solution.

Collecting water

Collecting water from a stream.


A bird (Magpie?) in a tree.

All the photos are taken handheld with an Olympus SZ-17 compact camera. No stacking, a touch of white balance correction but nothing else.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

DEMU 2018

Burton Station

You don't often get off a train and an hour later find yourself admiring a 1:76 scale version of the station you were standing on, but that's how it worked at DEMU this year. Cavan Millward's 2mm scale model uses a clever set of N2 track standards that create a fine crossing V to encourage smooth running without modification to rolling stock.

I didn't really notice this until I read the details in the programme. What I saw was a very accurate model that nailed the look of the station and surroundings.

Model model railway

Another eye-catcher is this model of a model railway in a 4mm scale Wills garden shed. I really fancy building one of these!

Diesel engine

The exposed diesel engines on Oil Drum Lane looked good too. Very clever bit of modelling.

DEMU also sees a few interesting new products appearing. I met the boss of Hattons in the queue to come in, and he'd brought a 3D print of their new Class 66 along for people to see. 

If I'd been smart, I'd have realised this might happen and been better prepared with the right camera to bag some high-quality shots. As it was, I had to do the best with the pocket compact in my bag which leads to limited depth-of-field. 

The Mickleover limited edition Scottish Class 37 looks nice - I like the big yellow end engines. This one has been weathered by its owner which enhances it even further. 

Next year the show moves out of it's traditional Burton Town hall venue. I'm a little sad about this as it's a quirky and fun place to go, but I understand that the show needs to grow and that means more space.