Thursday, January 17, 2019

Garden Rail February

The trouble with writing magazines is that you can cover a topic and a month later there are new readers who missed out. They then demand you cover that topic again - and all the old hands roll their eyes because they have seen it all before.

However, owning a live steam loco is one of those topics it's important to return to every so often and who better than Tag Gorton to do the honours? With live steam becoming (relatively) cheap, especially compared to small scale models, there will be more and more people newly faced with a loco that cost a good few quid, but that needs care and attention to give it's best.

Since I love building things, it's great to find someone building a substantial fleet on a modest budget and using a variety of interesting methods to do this. Rik Bennet has modified cheap proprietary wagons, scratchbuilt onto readily available chassis and even resin cast bodies from his own masters, and the results look good.

I'm also building things, this time an IP Engineering Colonial Railbus. I've gone town with personalising the model along the way. So much so that the designer told me the article needed an extra page, or fewer photos. As it happens, and an extra page was possible, even then the piece has had to be split into two.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Modern crane

Modern Crane

Wandering around Kings Cross Waterloo on Monday, I spotted this behind the station and realised it would make a useful prototype for modern modellers. 

As far as I can tell, it's used for lifting and dropping materials down a hole for use on the underground. There is a similar one near(ish) my house for the local water company to do the same sort of job so I assume it's a common design. 

This hole this one operates over is covered with a giant steel grating which is lifted by some hoist things. 

I suspect these are less useful as prototypes, unless you are building a model of Waterloo station anyway!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Mucky Mohan

Mohan needs dirt. Many model boats never get weathered, but I feel a working boat like this should be a bit grimy. 

That said, looking at photos of the real things, they don't appear to be that dirty. At least from a distance. Look closely and there are chips, dings and a build up for texture on the surface. Presumably, crews painted the bits they could get at regularly, but the hulls doo seem a bit crusty. 

I decided that there would be a good chance of rust where the ropes rubbed on the top of the bulwarks or ran through holes. A bit of Squires Tools Rusty-it splodges on with a sponge provided colour and texture. 

Next, in the spray booth, layers of earth, track colour and sooty black paint were shot over the model. I wanted a general dirt finish and to take the edge off the rust. Purely by accident, I also built up some nice texture in areas on the otherwise flat green bits. This was more luck than judgement, but I like the effect. 

Before the paint had hardened, I wiped the wheelhouse down with a damp (with turps) cloth, leaving dirt in the corners. The crew have only done a half-hearted job to this, but I like the effect, especially around the louvres. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hornby shopping list

In December, I took the trip down to sunny Margate for Hornby's 2019 product range announcement. Since then, my lips have been firmly sealed as to the models were shown on that day, but now the range has been revealed, I thought you might be interested in knowing what floated my boat.

More to the point, what appealed to me so much I'm willing to spend my own cash?

 You won't be surprised to know that none of the big locos does it for me. Nor do I have any interest in coaches. Maybe the GWR set would be useful for Edgeworth, but this is my money, so I'm spending it on things I like.

First up, the 0-6-0 Peckett. The 0-4-0 version is already on the shelf and I love it, so the larger version was always going to appeal. I've picked Sherwood as, although it's a colliery loco, I reckon it could fit into any industrial scheme I come up with in the future. Those wasp-stripe buffer beams might have to go red, and it definitely needs dirt, but this is a loco I'd have been tempted to build from a kit.

 A loco I have built from a kit is the Ruston 48DS. Rumours of this had been around for a while, but I was expecting the larger 88DS. It's a brave move as while these locos appeal to enthusiasts, in real life they were a bit restricted. There's also the issue of a small and short wheelbase causing an issue with current collection. Hornby supplies a pickup-fitted match wagon to counteract this, but I'm hoping to get away without this.

Choosing a colour wasn't easy, but as I have a green 48DS, the red one is my favourite. I'm not sure this will be so easy to dirty, but perhaps a little grime will bring it alive more.

Both locos have been picked and ordered from my local model shop, based on handling the real models. Finding painted examples to take photos of was a real surprise and an indication of how things are changing at Hornby.

Ordering 2 RTR models in a year is a bit of a departure for me, especially as I can probably wangle some via work, but I really like these and I want them for me. I suspect one of the other colours of 48DS will find it's way into a project layout in time, and possibly even another Peckett, but sometimes it's nice to treat yourself.

Talking of which,  while photographing the trains, I spotted a Post-It note on the wall that said "Wacky Races". Lo and behold, announced for the Scalextric range, we have:
Now, this is a clever move. Kids my age remember the cartoon and we are very much the target market for just this set. We'll probably be willing to buy extra cars too. Add to this the enthusiasm for comic stuff and collectables generally and this could be quite the money-spinner. 

I wonder if Airfix are looking at "Catch the pigeon"?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Scout Rail 2019


First show of the new year and I needed some cake. Healthy Phil has been in evidence over the last 12 months, and he's coming back for 2019, but I reckon that a single slice for lunch wouldn't hurt, especially with a healthy dinner (jacket potato and chilli since you ask) later one. Of course, I know Sout Rail is home to excellent cakeage but hadn't quite reckoned on the generous portions dished out. Possibly, by Sunday they had worked out how fast they needed to get us to eat up remaining stocks!

My trip wasn't really about cake, there were a couple of layouts I was keen to see in the flesh, and 45 minutes on the motorway seemed a reasonable distance to travel. Scout Rail is one of those little, local shows that can surprise with the models on show. I remember exhibiting there myself many years ago.

Trinity Dock Street Bridge telephone box

As well as the small scale stuff, there are always a couple of garden scale models just for me, and I enjoyed watching the live steam action on one and chatting to the owners of both. In fact, chatting for Garden Rail was a big part of the day. I twisted someone's arm a little to write up some of their projects while munching my cake, if this pays off there will be some really interesting models for readers.


I did manage to resist adding to the kit pile, although there was a superb new book on narrow gauge railways that just had to come home with me...

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Hovertrain and the 48DS

Tracked Hovercraft Ruston

With the announcement of the Ruston 48DS model from Hornby, I wondered about recreating the scene above.

The loco, and jeeps are sitting on the famous Hovertrain concrete track. Which made me wonder if there was film footage of the machine in action. Not that I can find, but this is worth a look.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Printer ink fading experiment

On the wall beside my computer, I have a little calendar I printed out on my Epsom inkjet. It sits there all year in direct, but not harsh, sunlight.

Last year, I decided to try and experiment. Along the bottom, I printed a red bar. Then once it was on the wall, put a blob of Blu-tack on one end to shade the ink from the light.

As 2019 arrived and I print a new calendar, I remove the old one and it's protective blob.

Until I did this, I didn't think the ink had faded, but you can clearly see it has, and quite a bit. Interesting.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Richardson Tugboat

New year - New boat!

A Christmas present was given its first sail last week. Oddly for me, it's not a kit, but a RTR model.

These tugboats have been available from Howes models for several years. Southampton is the colourful version, but Richardson looks (IMHO) much more realistic

The specification is pretty impressive. For a start, the radio system is 2.4gHz so you can sail with other people. No swamping the 27mHz frequency so you have to be the only boat on the water. Admittedly you do need to read the instructions to bind the transmitter to the boat, something I suspect throws a lot of people, but it's easy enough and only takes a few seconds.

Once working, the model has all the usual proportional speed and steering controls you would expect. Speed is slightly high for a tug, but indicates there will be enough power from the twin shafts to tow a load.

Best of all - lights! Navigation, front spot, rear deck and cabin lights are all controlled from the handset on different buttons. There's also a horn and smoke effects.

Beyond all this, the model is very nicely detailed. That's the best thing about these boats, loads of potential. I'm thinking some weathering for a start followed by a few detailing bits. All of which will be easy as the base model is so good.

First on my list is to relocate the on/off switch to somewhere more convenient than under the superstructure but after that, I'll just sail and enjoy it for a while.

For the price, this is a bargain. I'd have paid that money for a kit without running gear and not thought myself diddled. OK, buying (or being bought in this case) a RTR model might seem a bit of a cop-out, but I'm happy.

This would be a great introduction to model boating for a newbie. You can get on the water straight away, apart from the 6-hour battery charge, and sail with others. There's no need to rip out basic radio gear or fiddle in any way - just sail!

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Let there be lights!

With nighttime sailing such a success, I'm going to be fitting all my boats with working lights in the future. 

I'd already bought some 3D printed navigation lights from Mastman a couple of months ago (actually, I bought lights from 3 different places, the others will go in the stash of bits) and so these were set into the wheelhouse roof. 

This wasn't quite as easy as you'd hope since I needed to hack rectangular holes for them to fit in to. I did consider setting them on legs but couldn't work out how to hide the LED legs. 

I felt that there was also space for a mast. Less than expected as I have a carrying box for the model (thanks Dad) and this only allowed for something 4cm tall. Still, a bit of scratchbuilding and an orange LED is mounted on top. In the photo, it's masked for painting and weathering, but eventually will add a bit of illumination up there.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Night time sailing

Demonic model boater

The last couple of months have seen a surprise success for our model boat club - night time sailing. 

In the winter months, we normally have a get-together on a Thursday evening, but this year our normal venue hasn't been available. Someone came up with the idea that we simply meet up and sail, and this has proved really popular. 

There is a roaring barbecue and some hot drinks served from the clubroom. Outside, some members sail boats with lights. On the first night these were sensible lights such as a real boat would have. Now they are stringing LEDs along all sorts of vessel. 

It all looks really pretty, even if photography is tricky. 

I sailed on the first night, but didn't have time to get a boat ready for the second. Needless to say though, I have a few strings of festive lights from the Pound shop, and will be on the water again soon!

Night time boat

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Filling the calendar already

First job to do every year - fill in all those important dates on the calendar. I lose a lot of weekends before the year has begun!

A quick look reveals:

12/13 - Chiltern Show, Stevenage
19/20 - London Model Engineering
22 - London Toy Fair

2/3 - Stafford Model rail show
9/10 - Festival of British Railway Modelling, Doncaster
24 - Butterley Garden Railway AGM

2/3 - L&WMRS Show
16/17 - Garden Railway Show, WEC
23/24 - London Festival of Railway Modelling

6 - 16mm Association AGM
20/22 - York model railway show

11 - Assocation of Larger Scale modelling, Reading
19 - G-Rail, Nottingham
25/26 - Railex
25/26 - Model Boat Mayhem, Wickstead Park

1/2 - DEMU
14-16 - Great Central
22/23 - Butterley Garden Railway

6/7 - LMA Cosford
7 - Smallspace
24-28 Transport Festival, Isle of Man

10 - Bressingham Garden Railway
31/1 - Guildex, Telford

24/26 - TCT
28 - Yorkshire Garden rail show, Elsecar

12 - G1MRA AGM
26 - Exeter garden railway

9/10 - International Model Boat Show
9/10 - IPMS, Telford

7/8 - The National Festival of Railway Modelling, Peterborough

There are dates still to be added too - Warley and Llanfair for example. 

Obvioulsy I'm not at every day of all these events. Those in bold green are ones I take part in, the others I'm a punter or there reporting. I'm expecting to visit for at least 1 day for every event though all being well. Phew! 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Building a Flying Fortress

THIS sort of thing is why I think I'm a rubbish modeller. Tom Grigat not only makes a superb job of building an Airfix kit, and produces a superb and compelling film showing the process. A joy to watch with some interesting techniques shown along the way. I wish I had those skills!

Friday, January 04, 2019

Timberkits Chuffy Train

If there's one thing I like on Christmas day, it's a simple to assemble model. Something I can put together in the afternoon while digesting my turkey and trifle.

The Timberkits "Chuffy Train" has been on my want list for a few months and a few less than subtle suggestions ensured it was wrapped and under the tree for me.

The box contains all the parts ready cut and drilled, a piece of wax, plus some coarse sandpaper and a pen-style dispenser full of wood glue. This last bit is very neat and will be squirreled away for exhibition use later.
Assembly is simply a case of following the nicely drawn instructions. You need to keep your wits about you and it helps if you can understand how the mechanism works - pretty easy here as this is a beginner rated model.  

You could put loads of work into this kit, varnishing every piece. Or you could just stick the bits together. Either way works and the resulting model is satisfying.I opted to add some colour with acrylic paints for the train and buildings. Acrylic on wood dries lightning fast so the model was complete in a couple of hours. 

No problems were encountered in the built, although you need to ensure the central spindle is well stuck into the bottom plate or the middle of the scene will revolve slowly as the train runs around. 

A very satisfying model for those times when you don't want too much intellectual stimulation. 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Painting little people and building containers in BRM

A special treat for BRM readers buying their copy from the newsstand this month - miniature models of the BRM team!

You to can have your own Andy, Phil and Howard on your layout. Just what everyone needs...

Of course, the people come unpainted, but don't worry, there is a handy guide from me on quick and easy figure painting, complete with my special bodge to cover up any dodgy brushwork.

For those who get the DVD instead (subscribers), you'll find me making container kits to demonstrate the art of assembling laser-cut models. It's not hard, but there are a few shortcuts to success, or at least not frustrating failure.

And it's my turn to write the editorial this month - bearing min mind one of my articles in March, the topic is pertinent...

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Hemel Hempstead ex-council depot

Hemel Hempstead depot

A few weeks ago, I found myself on a work trip to take some photos. The location was an ex-council depot in Hemel Hemstead. The collection of buildings, tucked down beside a railway line, is very interesting and quite modelable. 

Hemel Hempstead depotHH5

Hemel Hempstead depot - garage

Hemel Hempstead depot

HH2Hemel Hempstead depot

Hemel Hempstead depot

You can see more on Google Maps.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

2018 - Review of the year


Time for the annual look back on another year's worth of model making and writing.

There have been a few changes in my professional life - I handed the editor's chair of Engineering in Miniature magazine to Andrew Charman. He's a much better fit for the job than I was being an engineer for a start, and the magazine is going from strength to strength. Quite how he finds the time what with editing Narrow Gauge World and some serious motoring journalism is beyond me...

Garden Rail is still very much mine though, and it is going very well. (Nearly) Everyone seems to enjoy it, readers and advertisers. Most importantly, the publisher is happy so they are still paying me. One day he will realise that I'm only faking it all, but for the moment, please don't tell him.

I don't escape work just by handing EiM on though as instead of a monthly magazine, I produce an on-line newsletter, BRM Express, twice a month. Quite a lot of that has to be written by me too. If you don't get it, go here and tick all the boxes. It's free and, though I say so myself, very good.

All this is part of the way that the magazine world is changing. Every magazine is losing sales. BRM is holding up very well thanks to our DVD, but if you are publishing a celebrity mag, then you are in trouble as Instagram eats your audience.

Digital editions also play a bigger part in our output since they are far more profitable than issues sold on the newsstand (subscription sales are too) since the costs of getting physical products on the shelves are massive. Digital allows us to do more though and so we do. I'm set up to shoot video, as well as taking on some layout snapping duties so this will become an increasing part of my job. The Phil'n'Andy film crew will be putting in some miles this year.

As far a magazine work goes, the biggest success has been our Cake Box Challenge. We know over a hundred people started projects, many for the first time. Simply getting people modelling is a real challenge and yet that's what we have done with this idea. I couldn't be more proud.

Personally, I've built a few things, but nowhere near as many as I'd have liked to.

There have been a couple of 16mm battery powered diesels:


Dotti from an IP Engineering kit and a Phil Sharples kit for a Hunslet.

I'm really loving working in the larger scales and will definitely be doing more in the future.

An odd-ball project was a Space 1999 Comlock.

Apart from that, however, my personal output has been derisory. From last January, I can copy'n'paste:

All of which means that the list of uncompleted projects from this time last year hasn't changed much:

  • 7mm scale Garratts STILL haven't been out of their boxes
  • I found the 3mm scale Class 25 the other day and it hasn't bothered to build itself.
  • O gauge "Flying Banana" railcar, still summoning up the courage to re-start that. 
  • 4mm GWR steam railcar, I know it's one people would like to see finished. Me too.
  • The Cravens DMU is probably the first candidate on this list to re-start as it should be fairly simple. 

And my Beetle still sits forlornly in the garage stopping it filling up with junk. 

All the above is still true. I suppose I can dream that the list might get shorter during the year, but other commitments, combined with my propensity to buy even more projects to sit on the shelf and tempt me means I have a horrible feeling that I'll do the same in 12 months time. 
One highlight I should mention is my trip to Canada. I really did it - I really built a model railway and took it across the Atlantic to an exhibition. 

This isn't something I ever thought I'd do, so thanks to all the guys at Rapido Trains for making me get on an aeroplane.

I know you all like numbers, so here we go
  • 365 posts - one a day. It's been a struggle sometimes, but I stuck to it.
  • An average of 360 visitors a day. That's down on last year.
  • 214000 page views. Again, up on last year
The traffic drop is a little worrying, but probably due to there being less coherent projects this year. I always notice numbers rise if I start soldering things together. Maybe it's just the way the world works too. People prefer less reading, more gawping at video or single photos. I could do more video, but the truth is, it's time consuming and so saved for work generally. Making model railway videos quickly becomes a hobby in itself, and not one I really want to get in to to the exclusion of everything else I do.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by and reading this stuff. It is nice to know people do, and even nicer if they comment occasionally.

Let's see what 2019 brings!