Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A German planning dispute

Just a short film this week, but one that might inspire a tiny model railway. JF take note!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Doodlebug railcar

Bought because it was both interesting and cheap a couple of years ago, the photos of this US prototype railcar have been sitting in the pending pile for an appearance on the blog for a while. Moving the box it lives in to find something in the maturing cupboard reminded me I really ought to post them.

The model is a Bachmann Spectrum product in HO and that's pretty much all I know. I'm sure I read the name "doodlebug" and a web search tells me I'm right.

Looking at photos, I think this was built by Pullman and Electro-Motive Corporation for use on lightly loaded branch lines (short lines?) and as such, can run singly, even though it has a corridor connection.

In the collection is an HO Shay and, possibly due to the influence of Scale Trains during my formative modelling years, a tiny US based layout has always been in the back of my mind. A long way back, but there is something about some of those early diesels - and there is some very impressive American modelling out there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Garden Rail October 2019

Sometimes, as a magazine editor, you have to take a little bit of a risk with the contents. This is why alongside Callum Wilcox's lovely garden railway and Dave's piece on weatherproof buildings (using methods that hadn't occurred to me) we have building a Jabberwock rail crane. 

Weird? Yes.
Art? Probably.
Interesting? I think so. 

If that doesn't float your boat, well there's tram building, modifying a Manx brake van, mending a Garratt and building a chapel. Something for everyone I hope.

Annoyingly, there is a  mistake on the Elsecar preview. Although the date is right, unaccountably, I said it's Sunday, not Saturday. If you go, please don't turn up a day late!

Full contents listing on RMweb with video.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Stone warehouse

Ramsey Warehouse 1

Last week I said that it was nice that industrial buildings hadn't all been converted to apartments on the Isle of Man, well not all of them anyway. 

This is in the back streets of Ramsey, near the Coop supermarket. There obviously has been some conversion work done, but not on the back or side. Looking at the Google Streetview shot, it appears to be a work in progress - I hope so,  I can't see the residents being too keen on a lack of windows.

Ramsey Warehouse 2

Although made of the local stone, there has been some repair in brick. Presumably, this was easier or cheaper for the builder. Modelling that would be difficult unless you scribed the whole building in plaster or foam. It's an interesting splash of colour in the middle of the grey Manx stone.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Large scale re-railer

I love a simple, but useful kit. Spotted at Llanfair is this re-railer kit from Timpdon Models. For a fiver (yes, I paid for mine), you get a selection of laser-cut plywood and MDF parts.

Being a bit busy, the kit was passed to my Dad for assembly and he reports that 5 minutes with some PVA glue were enough to complete the work. Although there is an exploded diagram, you don't really need it as everything slots together perfectly.

A couple sanding sealer coats protect the bare woodwork from damp and dirt - this is going to be used outside after all. I chose the 45mm gauge version, but a 32mm kit is also available.

This isn't the first re-railing ramp in the world, but it is cheap, and short. Only 23.5cm long, it's ideal for more confined spaces and should prove useful for an aged parent who finds putting stuff on the track tricky when leaning over plants. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Pick up a Peckett

Dropping into my local model shop, Mark, the owner, said, "I've got a loco for you." And handed me a red box. Inside was their latest 0-6-0 Peckett in Sherwood Colliery livery. I'd pre-ordered it as soon as I could admit I knew it was coming, and it's now here.

Since I was in a model shop, I insisted we test ran the locomotive. Although it's covered by a warranty, I like to check it's not going to burst into a ball of flames the moment power is applied. First impressions were good - the model is slightly tight but even a few feet of moving loosened it up to a lovely trundle. I'm sure it will benefit from a gentle run-in and embarrass every kit-built locomotive in my collection.

Back home, I could take a proper look and what a cracking model this is from Hornby. Everything is crisp, there is plenty of detail and it's all well done. None of the wobbly pipework I tend to fit, which I then say is "in service" damage...

Obviously, the decoration is fantastic. There's no way I'd have lined a model out this well, or made such a good job of wasp stripes on the buffer beam.

Even the cab detail is a delight to examine. I remember the days of a single lump backhead or eve the detail being moulded into a wraparound cab on the Jinty. This stuff is as good as could hope to produce from a High-Level models kit.

There is one niggle though. The cab handrails are designed to come out of a mould and therefore the same thickness as the cab sides. Some lengths of wire will look a bit better. I'll spend some time with prototype photos and see if there is anything else to pick up too. Then, perhaps a little dirt...

For £99 though? I'm not complaining. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Llanfair 2019

The day after Telford, I headed up the M54 again to the Llanfair garden railway show for more chat and photography. My photo booth is a little small for some of the models, but it's very handy for wagons at least.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Film Club: BR Blue at Birmingham New Street in 1986

On Thursday, I came over all nostalgic about BR Blue DMUs, so let's head back to 1986 and stand on the end of the platform at Birmingham New Street station. 

The camcorder footage isn't terrible and even if you aren't looking at the trains, there is much to see. Lines of BRUTEs along the platform to handle post and newspaper traffic. Trainspotters everywhere and surprisingly young. I could have been there as although I was never much of a spotter, I've always enjoyed watching trains, especially those with proper locos on the front!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Farewell to Ian Allan, Birmingham

It was a sad day on Tuesday. I paid my last visit to the Ian Allan bookshop in the centre of Birmingham.

It's a trip I've made many times - any trip to Brum included a few minutes in there for as long as I can remember. Once it was the basement on Stephenson Street but a few years ago they were displaced to a nicer shop around the corner.

Is it silly to mourn a shop?

If it is, I am silly. So many model shops have vanished now. The Train Shop in Warwick, Toytown in Leamington (models upstairs), Trinders in Birmingham, Bob's Models in Solihull. Now Ian Allan joins the list.

For bargain hunters, this was good news. I arrived to see signs announcing 75% off everything. I'm sure the vultures were circling but I just wanted to make a final purchase for old times sake.

Inside, there was hardly any stock and what there was, was mostly books, Much of it has gone to the Waterloo branch, but customers have been clearing the shelves too. Some will miss the place and left "Sorry you're leaving" cards for both shop and staff.

My bag was heavier by the end of the visit. I don't need 8 1/2 inch tall plastic kit palm trees but I didn't fancy any of the other kits. Anyway, this was the silliest and that wins for me.

My favourite purchases were as Ian Allan as you could get:

A loco spotting book and a card showing a Class 40 in the snow.

For now, the centre of Birmingham is devoid of model shops. This might change though as one of the IA managers is setting up a news hop near the law courts, and near the bottom of the Grande Central ramp, is an art shop called "Let's Fill This Town With Artists" that supply architectural modelmakers. If you need 3mm scale people or lichen, they can help.

I am sad about the loss of another safe place for nerdy train-loving people. We don't have many places to call our own. If you have a local model shop, then use it!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

N gauge layout, Hornby weekend, techniques and old loco repair in BRM

October's issue of BRM has another big project in it from me - a complete N gauge layout.

OK, it's a Billy Bookcase project, but there was still a lot of work and it had to be carried out in just over a week along with several other jobs. The theme is 1970s BR blue, something I find myself getting nostalgic about. There is something about a rattly blue DMU that just seems so nice in restrospect.

Keeping things simple, I used Kato Unitrack in reponse to a request at a show. The main station building is simple a shelter, although it took me to goes to build so not a quick job...

We also have a photo feature from the Hornby open weekend with shots from around the show. I've also writen the editorial about the event and how we can attract new people to at least look at the hobby.

A section on techniques includes input from me on making holoes, static grass, stiring paint and improving card kits.

Finally, on the subscribers DVD, I'm servicing old model railway locomotives. This is another request from a show, or at least it seemed sensible as I had to disuade a youngster from buying a "bargain" Tri-ang 08 shunter that was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

More about the October 2019 issue on RMweb.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Manx stone lockups

Manx lockups

Spotted in the back streets of Laxey, these rather nice lockups. I'm not sure I can call them garages as I suspect they were originally built for the local fisherman or farmers. They are definitely industrial buildings of some sort and now exist as workshops. 

I like the collection of doors and feel that they could fit in on many layouts providing a nice bit of colour. The roof isn't original, but modellers could use slates.

Looking along the row, the furthest from the camera appears to have been converted with either a nice big window or very post door. One of the things I like about the IOM is that buildings like this still have a proper "working" use rather than being turned into posh apartments.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ratio grounded van body kit

Looking for projects to work on during the Hornby weekend, I dug through the kit boxes and realised I have at least 4 Ratio grounded van body kits. It's a useful model, but I'm not sure how I ended up with so many. Still, they don't eat anything...

The kit is based on an existing van with extra sprues full of stuff. In terms of value-for-money, it's a winner.

There's a bit of work to do cleaning up flash around some of the extremeties, but the plastic is hard and there's nothing difficult about the job. A little whittling with a sharp knife and all is fine. The edge of the roof is more of a challenge as it's not opbvious where it is, so I cut generously and sand back. This is a disused van, so it doesn't have to be perfect.

There are a lot of bits in here. The chairs are a favourite of mine, but a fiddle to assemble. You need to prop them in position as the glue dries and actually getting anything perfectly square is deafeats me, but it doesn't matter in use.

The sleepers for the stacks also look a bit thin. I've made them up but suspect some thicker Plastikard or even wood might be a better bet.

I have painted this, honest!

OK, I've used various shades of grey with just a hint of brown for the moment. When it finds a home, more dirt will be applied.

One niggle is that the buffer beams are still attached. Surely they would be part of the chassis and therefore not part of the body? I assume this is for the convienence of the kitmaker which is fine, but one to be careful of.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Trainline 45 point repair

The garden railway includes a couple of Trainline45 points in the station area and over the last couple of years, they have started to play up - electricity isn't flowing to all the places it is supposed to and limited use of the loop to one side.

Finally, I bit the bullet and lifted them (not difficult) and had a look underneath. On one, the exit track wasn't getting power. Looking underneath, one wire had come adrift from the connection to the frog. A cleanup and then re-solder and all is well. A chunky iron is a good idea, but my Antex 45W does the job.

On the other point, the rail between the switchblade and frog was power-free. Given a bit of a run, the LGB 0-4-0 managed to clear the gap, but it was hardly ideal.

Again, the fault was a duff soldered joint, this time in the connection that runs between this rail, the switchblade and stock rail.

All working, but I wonder why large scale points aren't self-isolating? I'm going to have to figure something out with insulated fishplates and a switch so we can have a train in each side of the loop. Not difficult, but I wonder why? Reliability? Tradition?

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Guildex 2019

Photo Booth

Model railway shows can keep you fit. At least working Guildex, the major show for O gauge modellers each year, keeps me tired, if not exactly fit. 

The step tracker on my phone said I did really well - because the day is spent running from one side of the Telford International Centre to the other with products for photographing. 

Each trip takes around 5 minutes, dodging swinging backpacks and people who aren't looking where they are going because they are so blinded by the excitement of a room full of trainz. This is carried out while carting a valuable (top price £2750) model. And in a hurry. 

This year I clocked 21 different products - if you count the packs of figures as 1, or well over 30 if they don't. 

My problem this year was that the event clashed with the Harbury beer festival, so I was determined to be out of the door around 3pm. I managed it!

This limited my time for layout photography, but I did manage some snaps, which can be found on Flickr.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Lego automata

I love automata and I love Lego. Combine the two and I'm a happy man.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Sunshine stops play

Sunshine is overrated. With small children heading for a visit, I decided to dig out the LGB Harlequin locomotive as I thought they would enjoy giving it a run.

Outside though, it wouldn't respond to the control handset.

Duff batteries I decided. The model had been sat on the shelf for many months, so I changed them. It worked fine.

But back outside, no control.

Back to the workbench. Batteries checked and wiggled. All seemed fine. 

Outside hopeless.

Then it hit me - I was testing the model on a very bright, sunny day. And the infra-red receiver is on the top of the cab. The sunshine must be confusing it.

So the kids got to watch trains but not play with the pretty one which makes noises. A shame, but they didn't mind. We just didn't tell them what could have been. 

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Return of the prodigal wagon

Wooden wagon

Here's a handy hint. If you want to make sure you don't lose rolling stock, paint your name on the side. 

I'm kidding, but in this case, it worked. The wagon shown is a 7mm scale wood and etched brass kit I built as a review many years ago for MORILL. 

As I recall, I like it but felt than instead of providing a great slab of plain brass, perhaps some internal strapping might have been more useful. I think the manufacturer wasn't impressed by this, but the editor of the magazine was less worried as he agreed with me. 

Anyway, the wagon didn't come with transfers and my funds didn't run to buying a set, so I decided to have a go at hand-painting the sides. I think this might have made it into the article too. 

The result wasn't brilliant, but it's a far harder job than you might thing. Signwriters have to spend a long time perfecting their skills. One day I'd love to go on a course to learn how to do the job properly, but that will have to wait for both time and money to become available. 

Anyway, coal wagons get dirty and I heavily weathered this one to hide my artwork. Which is why no-one spotted that it hadn't gone back into my stock box when our O gauge club members borrowed it a few weeks ago. No problem, I've now reclaimed the model and it's back in the box. 

I'm a bit sentimental about this model. It was one of the first review items that came my way. In an era when something free was really exciting and not just a cause to look at the looming deadline and feel the pressure to do the new item justice. (OK, it's still exciting, but I really care that anyone sending me a model gets the maximum coverage, they deserve nothing less.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: A little slipway hut


A nice little brick-built hut. Interesting and quite modelable, but this Warehouse Wednesday is really about the surroundings. The hut is found on Ramsgate harbour, and unusual in-town location for something industrial.


Looking around, there is a wealth of fascinating detail. The hut obviously pre-dates the rest of the setup by many years. Nowadays it would be a portacabin or shipping container, but one, someone had the pride to erect an attractive and well-built structure.

Looking back along the slipway, it's still very much in use.

Slipway boat

The catamaran was one of the fleet of vessels and having some welding carried out around the propshaft area, although I couldn't see exactly what was being repaired.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Deep breath, epoxy time!

With a fresh battery delivering plenty of volts, the ark charged around the pool creating a bow wave. A couple of minutes later, there was a little pool around the motor support.

As I had thought, water is getting in in the join between hull and top of the hull. Sealing around the inside might have slowed the flow, but it still came in under the foam motor support. The only solution is to fill the gap around the hull.

I'd not wanted to do this as it's highly visible but better that than a sinking boat.

In my toolkit are some syringes and needles. I wondered if I could put epoxy in one of these and squirt a very thin bead into the join.

I couldn't. The glue wouldn't go down the needle. It did come out reasonably neatly from the needle-free syringe but quickly blocked the nozzle.

It was no good, I had to mix a fresh batch of glue and apply it as neatly as possible with a small screwdriver. As it happens, the result wasn't too bad, but not as good as I would like.

I'm going to try cleaning this up a bit once it is fully hard, but if this fails, it occurs to me that a length of yellow Trimline tape would look OK and cover any mess. If I'd thought of that earlier, I'd have tackled this job earlier.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Lights on, no action

Having ascertained that the electrics in the ark were working, my plan for a good long sail was thwarted.

Switching on the model after charging the battery overnight, the Viper speed control showed both red and green lights and the servo had the jitters. All the channels on the receiver seemed to have swopped around too.

How could this happen? The only thing I'd done since it had worked before was charge the battery.

After a fair bit of pugging and wiggling, I gave up and pinched a battery from another boat - one on charge for a visit from my cousins (who needed to be entertained) a couple of days later.

This seemed to cure things, but then I put a meter on the batteries.  The good one gave over 6V, the duff one 4.something. At a guess, not enough for the receiver or speed control.

Diagnosis, my charger is faulty.

Digging around, I found a Thunder Tiger version and a suitable lead to connect it to the battery. A few hours later, the meter said 7V. Not sure how that works, but I'm thinking this proves it can hold a charge.

More importantly, I managed to get the boat on the water and find out how it leaks. 

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Ships on the rock

Wandering around Ramsgate at what appeared to be considered late on a Friday evening, I searched for a postcard to send to a friend. Despite being a seaside town in the high season, and it not quite being 7pm, everywhere was shut apart from a dodgy newsagent/general store where I purchased my breakfast from for the next day. (Swiss roll since you ask. It was the best option sadly).

Anyway, walking past an art gallery, I spotted cards and they were open.

My luck was in, they were open for the launch of a new exhibition, so as well selling me a couple of cards, a glass of prosecco was thrust into my hand.

Mooching around and drinking my wine, I was really taken by may of the objects on sale. I like a bit of art and the stone above just leapt out at me. There were three to chose from but I like the colours in this, almost like a sunset.

 It might look like a pebble that someone has drawn on, but I love it. I like the simplicity and effectiveness of the drawing. I like that it is signed by the artist - Juanita Newton.

I also like that I knew I had space for it in a display cabinet and that I could own such a thing for a fiver. Something unique and made by a real person.

Chatting to owner Suzy Humphries about art and more importantly, the joy of making things, my eye was drawn to several other goodies and I eventually left with a couple of Christmas presents. The pottery fish didn't come with me as I simply can't think where they could go, and the stunning glasswork was just too much for my pocket even though the price was very reasonable.

If you find yourself in Ramsgate, head to the Nice Things gallery on Harbour street. It's a real jewel in the centre. 

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Large scale cardboard train

Love this. Building aworking model railway from corrugated cardboard. The track is especially clever, and the film-maker has produced so much of it!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Mystery Jinty at Hornby

Another mystery. In Hornby's visitor's centre, there is this mystery. ]

No label explains what it is, but I'd say an O gauge Jinty. It's in a display of the early years of the company from the days when several businesses were absorbed into the group. Since I'd snuck in before opening time, there wasn't anyone I could ask.

I'm not even sure what the material is. Plastic? What for? 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Off to the moon with Airfix astronauts

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the moon landings, Airfix has re-released their Astronaught set as part of the classic range of models.

The classic range is really a chance to make a few quid by re-releasing old kits with minimal work on the moulds. OK, so they aren't up to the standards of modern releases, but it's a chance to get hold of a model to build that often sells for high prices second hand. As far as I can tell, everyone wins.

Anyway, I had a set of astronauts many years ago, I think there are one or two still in the figure pot, and with all things moon in mind, fancied another pack. At the Hornby shop last weekend I spotted they were out and for £4.99 grabbed a box.

The moulds must be pretty old as sadly the figures are made in a very rubbery plastic. It's more vinyl than polystyrene, which makes cleaning up any flash pretty much impossible unless you can get some tiny scissors on it.

I painted my models with Humbrol 147, followed by a dry-brush with matt white. The visors were gold, washed with Citadel weathering black ink. Not sure if this works as an effect, but I think I prefer it to a gloss black. Pipes are picked out in pale grey (64) just for a bit of variety. Valves are red and blue.

They are a bit of fun. I'm not planning to build a moon diorama, but maybe the odd one will find themselves in the background of a railway project.

After finishing the painting, I carried out a little more research. Warwick museum currently has a moon landing display and it includes a clear disk containing specks of real moon rocks collected by the Apollo 15 and 17 missions. Tiny specks obviously, but real moon rock!

Lunar Sample 228

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: SVR neighbours

Thanks to Nick Wallace for this spot:

On a recent visit to the Severn Valley Railway, I stayed at the Travelodge in Kidderminster. Next door were a couple of buildings which might interest your blog readers.

I like the top image in particular as it’s an otherwise drab colour scheme but with a splash of colour on the doors. Note also what looks like full height doors on the first floor.

Below, we have a nicely grubby corrugated metal structure.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Looking for that leak

With the radio gear working, I need to find out where the water is coming in. Back on the pool (yes, it's gone green, there's someone coming to look at the filter next week) I sail the ark around for a while.

After ten minutes, looking inside, there is a tiny amount of water around the rudder tube.

A really tiny amount, but it's worked its way up the tube, I can feel it all the way up to the arm, which must be just lower than the waterline.

Unconvinced, I wanted to sail the model without the top, so added a bit of weight.

Another few minutes sail and again, a tiny amount of water. Certainly not a boat sinking amount, but it's the only wet stuff in there.

Ideally, I'd have sailed on, but the battery was on its last legs so this is on charge and I'll lightly grease the rudder post to try to keep things dry. Then have another go. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Don't rush your modelling, it can save you money!

Work commitments have kept me away from the Ark, but I'm determined to get it on the water properly before the end of the summer.

With a few minutes to spare, I thought I'd dig through the stash of model boat bits and see what I needed to replace after the dunking. Out came a receiver and servo, but first, I fired up the boat.

And it worked!

OK, the Radiolink R8EF receiver doesn't look pretty, but it only works!

The servo seems happy too. So all the bist go back in the stash.

When I tried all this a few weeks ago, the servo chattered but didn't operate properly. Now all is well. I can only assume that in the interim, the electronics have fully dried out. So by waiting, I didn't bin perfectly good (if ugly) components.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

New use for a free-fall lifeboat


Lodging on the quayside at Ramsgate last weekend was fascinating for anyone who is interested in boats - so despite the rubbish weather, I spent quite a lot of time spotting.

One surprise was this Free-Fall Lifeboat. Normally seen hung on the back of ships at a crazy angle, you don't generally find them close to the shore. Except it appears when owned and used as a private boat or even houseboat. I'm intrigued to know what one of these is like to sail as a gin palace. They are intended to get the crew to safety, and I assume not built for comfort.

Presumably, this is why there is a second one that's been customised by hacking the front off (very neatly) and installing a patio.


If you feel the urge to build one, fire up your 3D printer and head over here. Would it be suitable for radio control? Probably if you printed it large enough with a thin hull. Plenty of orange paint will be required to seal and smooth the print material!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Hornby Open Weekend with Phil (and others)

Sit back and enjoy the official video from last weekend'sHornby Open Weekend. Around 45 minutes in, I'm hogging the camera talking about Cake Boxes and large model railways.

I'd also suggest you give Callum Willcox's video a watch. There is sadly no me, except in the background, but it's a really good take on the exhibitor's version of the show.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Mallett's Models signal box

Another mystery kit - a signal box from Mallett's Models.

Inside the box, which I bought for a fiver out of curiosity, is a pile of wood and some instructions.

When assembled, the result should (apparently) be a 16mm scale model of a Lynton & Barnstaple 1935 signal box.

My L&B photo collection is minimal and looking on-line I can't find anything that looks like this.

I also can't find out anything about Mallett's Models. The tape on the box suggests they produced rolling stock kits. I assume they were also wooden wonders - can anyone fill in any more details of either maker or the prototype?