Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Brake body


The body for my brake van owes something to Mark's model, but also a lot to a Model Earth 7/8th scale design we featured in Garden Rail a few months ago. 

I've decided the ends will be "metal" and main body "wood". In reality, it's all various bit of plastic I've got kicking around. 

There are no drawings, I just cut stuff to fit the guard figure who has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. The curved top owes it's design to a tin of varnish that was handy for drawing around. 

Inside, the main beams are from some sawn strip I bought from a model boat show thinking it would come in useful. It has, but I've got loads more, well, it was cheap and I'm sure we all have materials like this...




Monday, April 22, 2019

Brake!

At the National Garden Railway show a couple of weeks ago, and item of rolling stock caught my eye. It wasn't a kit or ready to run model, but Mark Thatcher's little brake van. The model did many circuits of the track, its squeaky wheels annoying people, and by the end of the day, I wanted one of my own. 

The model is a nice mix of cartoony and "home brewed" rolling stock. It runs on a skip chassis, which I'm told would make it a nightmare for any occupant in real life. 

Skip chassis equals Binnie Engineering and 9 quid later, I had a couple. The most expensive purchase of the day...

Assembly is a few moments work. A little superglue holds the axleboxes in place and that's the job done. Cheap and easy to assemble, no wonder these things are everywhere in 16mm scale. 


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Pickling history

Notre Dame 1982I visited Notre Dame cathedral once. 12-year-old Phil was on a school trip to France, the first time I'd been abroad, and we were left to our own devices for an hour or so.

Having visited several cathedrals on holidays at home, I did what was expected and had a look around. All I remember was it being cold, dark and gloomy. As I recall, the only light was from candles and you couldn't really see much.

Earlier in the day, we'd been up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, and so I quickly headed out to the souvenir shops that surrounded the cathedral and bought miniatures of the pointy building I really had enjoyed - even though the attendant had taken my money for a ticket, then the ticket supplied by the teacher that I was supposed to hand over first and didn't give me the cash back.

Basically, I don't recall the cathedral with any great enthusiasm, but any building that survives several hundred years is very special. I always want to know the stories it could tell and the things it has seen.

The fires still raged when the news reports started banging on about restoration and this got me thinking. Surely in history as long as this, a fire, even a major one, is just another event for the guidebook.

One day, tourists will be taken around a fully intact Notre Dame and be told by the guide of those events in 2019.

My thought was, "I hope they put a bit of the 21st Century in it."

Maybe I'm jaundiced because I live in a town that has suffered more than most from a desire to look to the past, but I like to think that change is natural and not the terrible thing that some claim.

A few miles from me is the Regent Hotel. Once a five-star establishment, it fell into disuse and sat in the middle of the town boarded up. Attempts to turn it into something else fell foul of one of the many historical societies. They went to court to stop the local council giving planning permission for it to be re-opened as a Travel Lodge. They lost and then bleated that the council should pay their legal fees. The hotel was converted, opened and thrives as far as I know. It's certainly not a boarded up blight on the town any more.

Over on the Isle of Man, Douglas station was refurbished inside and significant changes made to the layout including moving a ticket window, For the first time in years, you can now buy souvenirs there. Before the refurb it was a vegan cafe and not much else. Enthusiasts fought the changes and the cost of this meant the toilets didn't get the refurbishment they really needed.

Toilets matter. They are (I'm told) the second most important feature of any visit. Families simply don't come back to any attraction with grotty loos. Enthusiasts, who probably photograph rather than travel on the trains, prize authenticity. Quite when any development should stop isn't clear, but nothing new must happen or everything is RUINED!!!

Now think of the London Eye. Built for the millennium, it was a temporary structure that only got through planning by promising to go away after a few years and stop spoiling the skyline. Can you imagine London without it now?

Many stately homes have been dramatically altered since they were built. Our richer ancestors were perfectly happy to rip away the frontage to replace it with something more fashionable. Now, that frontage must be preserved at all costs with even the tiniest alteration requiring much red-tape.

Why doesn't anyone suggest the Georgian pillars and windows are taken away and the building returned to its original form?

When exactly does history stop?

A relevant story is that of York Minster. When one wing was destroyed by fire, it was restored, but with brand new roof bosses designed with contemporary themes. These are now over 30 years old and part of history. Part of the story of the building. Was this wrong? I bet someone thought so at the time.

I'm pleased to see there is a competition to design a new spire for Notre Dame. I hope it isn't just a pastiche of the old one, but something bold and new. A fresh bit of the story that will gradually become part of history.

Preservation is fine, but if we never allow ourselves to do something new, what exactly are we preserving and why? Just because it is old, doesn't make it better than what we do today.

Old cars may have more character than new ones, but they rust and need loads of maintenance.  If all you want is to jump in and go from A to B in comfort, you will be happy to travel in "dull".

Steam engines are wonderful, but I bet the drivers didn't miss the early starts, filthy work and awful conditions. The day any driver walked up to to a diesel, climbed into the cab and turned pressed a button to start the engine must have seemed wonderful. They wouldn't want to go back and neither should we.




Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Easter 2018 on the Isle of Man



Some film from the Isle of Man this time last year. Plenty of railway action for your bank holiday!

Friday, April 19, 2019

My second model locomotive

My second ever model railway locomotive recently turned up when I was looking for something else. In fact, when I found it, I realsied it was what I'd been looking for.

The model is a Hornby R302 Jinty 0-6-0 tank engine. It arrived in 1979 - my memory isn't that good, but I do remember that it was the era of locomotives coming a with a free "Pugh and Co." open wagon. These were destined to be collectable  according to the advert at the time, but a quick search on-line reveals there are thousnads of the things kicking around. Even being boxed doesn't make much difference since so many were made.

Anyway, the Jinty was supplied nicely lined out in BR black, but over the years succumbed to my detailing efforts. Handrails appeared on the tan fronts, there's a Scottish coal extension plate at the back and of course, the paint is now matt black. Except where the transfers are, because I varnished these like you were supposed to.

The model still runs, and pretty well too. OK, it's not modern RTR quality with it's XO4 motor, but not badly. The Magnahesion still works too, I remmeber it causing some consternation when my dad and I had to make a trip to the Train Shop in Warwick when the loco stopped working. The assistant looked underneath, removed a track pin lifted up my the magnet and the model worked. Slightly red faces all round, but we both learned a lesson.

Purists will scoff and say there are better Jintys out there and that's true, but this one deserves a place in my showcase.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Garden Rail May 2019


Big stuff this month in Garden Rail. We've the largest Product News section ever - 7 pages full of new models - mostly because I was on a mission at the recent Midlands show to grab as many photos as possible.

If you like your railways ride-on, the Chris McKenzie should inspire you. He has built a line around his very modest garden, with almost no engineering skills. It wasn't all plain sailing either, but he tells it in a very humourous way. 

The main feature on the cover is a female loco crew painted by Steph' Hicking, an example of the high-quality modelling we're seeing in the larger scales. 

So, another top issue of GR - buy yours now!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Visual Packing

Visual Packing factory

Driving to Ally Pally a few weeks ago, I was running early and decided to investigate a chimney I could see in the middle of some houses. What I found could be straight out of The Sweeny or The Professionals.

Visual Packing factory

Visual Packing is a small industrial building, parts of which must date from the end of the war. Or at least that's what I guessed looking at it in the early Sunday morning sunshine.

Visual Packing factory

Visual Packing factory

According to the web, the company manufactures polypropylene and cellophane bags and was formed in 1973.

Visual Packing factoryPacking 2

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Battery box FAIL


My Saltford Models Ruston is at least 30 years old, but since it had performed sterling service on previous temporary garden railways, I really wanted it to do a few circuits on the new one.

The years have taken their toll on the glue joints. I think they were made using plastic cement rather than solvent as I'd yet to master making strong joints with runny glue. I've run solvent into the back of a few joins and this seems to fix things, but one area I couldn't repair was the battery box under the bonnet.

Lack of space means this was built from plastic with metal contacts glued in with epoxy (I think). As it was falling apart, and the contacts had always been a bit rubbish, I decided a replacement was in order, but a proper pre-made one this time.

Originally fitted with AA batteries, I had to drop down to AAAs as this was the only box small enough to fit. Not a problem though, a little soldering and we were good to go.

On the track, there was a surprise. Eccles, previously a fairly sedate locomotive, shot off like the proverbial scalded cat. I did manage to get a circuit out of it without falling off on the corners, but only just.

What I'd forgotten was that the original box held 2 pairs of AAs wired to give 3volts. The new box with all the batteries wired in series, produces 6volts. Queue rocket-powered loco.

Now, where did I put the 2 cell box?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Red train running


Finished in time for the National Garden Railway show, the wooden train was a star. It ran, after a little weight was added in the nose, faultlessly for several hours. All on the same set of two AAA batteries that I'd put in it for testing.I'm pretty sure it would have worked all day on a fresh set - amazing economy!

I need to do one job. The on/off switch in the cab which is part of the battery box, is a pain to get at. While ideal for people scared of wiring, it's fiddly and I can never remember which side of the cab to poke my finger in. You don't get reverse either, so a proper DPDT switch needs fitting.

Apart from that, I think I'll probably leave well alone. This is a pretty train, not a realistic one so it can stay unweathered and with the limited detail already fitted. Maybe an exhaust pipe could go on somewhere but that will do the job.

I'll admit I am tempted by the goods train version one day - but for the moment, no more projects!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

National Garden Railway Show 2019

Garden Railway garden railway

A year ago, I responded with the suggestion that the National Garden Railway show needed an actual garden railway by volunteering to build one.

12 months ago, this seemed like a good idea. As the event approached, this wore off a bit. I realised that whereas previous attempts took place near enough home that I could recover forgotten items easily, and using a vehicle with loads of capacity, this version had to fit in my car and took place 2 hours away.

However, I managed. It was hard work and relied on a couple of willing helpers including Mark Thatcher lending building, bonsai and assistance, but it worked.

Small children were entranced, sitting on the floor to watch the train pass by. Their parents took photos of them doing this. Everyone pronounced themselves happy with my efforts. Some even talked about "next year". I think I need my legs to stop aching (the floor in the exhibition centre is very hard) before I contemplate this.

Elsewhere, the show was excellent, but I was running around grabbing photos and video for Garden Rail so you'll need to wait until our June issue to find out more. Suffice to say, I did have to carry a loco worth £4500 to put it in the photo booth. I walked carefully with that one!


Watching the garden railway

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dolly on a board

Dolly board

A refuge from the Gee Dee closure, this board was put together sometime between 2002-2004 when the RC department expanded into the lower area of the shop. 

It clearly shows a Robbe Dolly kit with all the parts required to make it work connected up. If you are struggling with plugging the bits of radio gear into each other then it would be a big help, except that the radio would now be 2.4gHz and your speed control (the yellow box) would normally have a Battery Elimination Circuit (BEC) so you wouldn't need that pack of AA's to power the receiver. 

It's also quite useful if you want to know what goes in a boat - there's the motor and propshaft plus a servo that would originally have been attached to a rudder. 

When offered this, my first thought had been that I'd build the boat, but as I already have a half-built Dolly kit in my store, I'm now thinking I should finish this and display the two together. I think it will look really impressive. More to the point, this shop display is the sort of thing that once it's gone, is gone for good, and I think that would be a shame. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Making apples

Apples

How to make 1:12th scale apples, according to the workshop I attended. 

Take 2 parts yellow-green, one part orange and 1/2 part dark green Fimo clay and mix until there is only one shade. 

Roll into a sausage and chop up into little lumps (there was a bit of wood as a gauge, but I can't remember how big it was)

Roll these into balls. 

Poke a dimple in the top. 

Dimp a length of green stuff in glue, push this into the dimple and cut to length. 

Dab red dust from an artists pastel on the apple with a paintbrush. 

Fire for 45 minutes in an oven. 

It was all good fun. I was a bit quicker than most of the others around the table, partly because I have some practise at this modelmaking lark, but mostly because my hands were warm enough to quickly mix the colours. Some found the clay crumbled at first!

I also asked why they use the clay that has to be fired. Apparenlty, unlike the air-dry version, it doesn't shrink when dry. You can also leave and return to a piece as you like without worrying about it setting. 

Good fun for 20 minutes - I recomend having a go if you get the chance. 



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Nottingham doorways

With time to kill while in Nottingham, I went for a walk. There are some fascinating buildings in the town centre.

Nottingham doorway 3

This looks a good candidate for some under the arches modeling, even though it's not under an arch!

Nottingham doorway 2

An interesting iron gate within a gate. Modeling this would be a challenging soldering job.

Nottingham doorway 1

Now part of the college, this doorway could fit an industrial location - if you can work out how to do the scrollwork above the door.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Miniatura 2019

Workbenches

Miniatura is one of those shows I've always been tempted to visit, but not quite got around to it. For those who don't know, it's a dolls house show - a lot like model railway shows but with fewer exhibits and more emphasis on trade. Think along the lines of the GOG events with a couple of little layouts and 94 people flogging stuff. If you need supplies, then you need to be there.

One shock was that the ticket desk didn't take cards, and the cashpoints weren't working. Fortunately, those trading in the hall did take cards, so this wasn't quite the disaster it might have been.

Wood supplies

I wasn't expecting to buy much really, but can't resist supplies of cheap lengths of stripwood or other modelling materials.

At least I wasn't tempted by any of the kits, although there were loads from complete houses and castles down to the smallest implements. For the large scale modeller, this place is brilliant. 1:12th is a common scale for boat modellers and fitting out the cabins with little details would be fun - if pricey. All those packets and bottles look cheap at a quid each, but you can soon fill a tiny bag with them and the total bill will be scary. A bit like the day I was looking for Beetle bits and left a stand with a bag of rubber seals and screws costing the thick end of 40 quid!

Prices varied a lot from basic furniture kits for a few quid right up to really fine furnishings that would grace any house for sums not that different from the full-sized piece. 

Clay cakes

A material I'm not familiar with is Fimo clay, but there were all sorts of things made with it, from cakes to dragons. I managed to sit in on a workshop, which I'll talk about on Thursday.

Temptation mainly can in the form of large scale building materials. I was oddly keen to buy a pack of brick faces and some mortar just for the fun of it, or perhaps some paving stones to make a diorama base. Being made from the right materials, the results looked great and felt right. 

An interesting event. If you need a model railway connection, both Petite Properties and Severn Models had stands, but if I'm honest, it's just fun to see a different branch of the model making hobby.  


Monday, April 08, 2019

Little red locomotive

Ivan

To haul the coaches, I needed to finish the locomotive. It's a pretty simple beast so a coat of red with black detailing seemed enough. 

Some lining adds interest, but attempts to apply this with a bow pen were more frustration than success. No paint seemed to want to flow properly and after much wiping of blobby messes and swearing, I gave up. 

Nameplates are Slater's plastic letters stuck on a sheet of plastic with microstrip edges. 

Handles are bent wire. A sensible person would have filled the holes in the bonnet sides but by the time I realised, it was too late. 

Inside the cab, our driver is missing his toes as he has to squeeze in between the back wall and battery box. Control is either on or off with no reverse. Enough for running around an oval of track, but I'll need to address this one day. Perhaps the box can move under the chassis as that point too. 

Anyway, pretty enough. A long way from finecale, but this is a toy train, so pretty wins. 

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Rebranded model making

In my proper job, I see a good few press releases, and most of the time they go straight in the bin. One recently caught my eye though, it starts

Nowadays, we are addicted to and dependent on electronic gadgets and smartphones, and we rarely build or fix anything with our own hands anymore, spending endless hours in the virtual world instead. 69% of parents and 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly. 72% of teens and parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages and other notifications. Making things with your own hands is not only fun but -- as research suggests -- great for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety and improving mental health. Virtual reality is no match for Time for Machine!

The idea that people are going to get sick of staring at a screen all day and search for something to do that doesn't involve a computer is one that's been rattling around my brain for a while. I think there is some science behind it, but sadly can't find it at the moment.

Basically, after driving a spreadsheet and looking stuff up on the web all day, do you really want to come home and do the same thing?

The world where you are "always on" results in what the BBC calls Millenial Burnout

I dream that people will rebel and discover the joys of working with their hands. In the predominately female-friendly craft world, this is already happening. Sales of card making stuff are up and the most profitable digital shopping channels (according to a friend who worked on them) are the most profitable.

Blokes are a harder sell. There's a macho image to deal with. Screaming at football is good. Sitting and building a model is nerdy. I don't think there is anyone involved with model making hobbies who doesn't think we have an image problem. Yes, the GMRC and other TV shows have helped, but we're a long way from being trendy. If you don't believe me, go and talk about your hobby at work or in a random pub. Feel uncomfortable? We all do.

The press release wasn't just sent for fun, it's plugging a series of 3D metal model kits called Time4Machine. Model making rebranded for the hipster generation.

Models are art rather than precise replicas. They arrive as frets of shiny metal in cool looking black cases. Some appear to include pliers, the only tool required for assembly.

After a few hours of building you have a clockwork executive toy. It should still be shiny and an attractive desk ornament you'll be happy for people to see. They will ask where it came from and the builder will proudly say, “I made that.”. Friends will look on in awe.

Job done.

As we all know once, you start making things, it become addictive. I don't care how people get started making things, I just want to them to get the same fun out of doing it I do. Then they will understand why people like me do what we do.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Behind the scenes making Thunderbrds





Behind the scenes filming Thunderbirds. There's some seriously dodgy heath & safety going on while "flying" Thunderbird 2!

Friday, April 05, 2019

Off to the National Garden Railway Show


Right now I'm a bit nervous. You see, today I load up the car and head to Peterborough for the National Garden Railway Show.

Normally, I'd just be planning to run around taking photos and chatting to people.

Not this year. You see, someone said after the last event that there weren't any "garden" railways at the show.

And I volunteered to build one.

So, cheap plastic track packed. 32mm gauge rolling stock packed. Bags of compost and pea gravel packed. Loan of plants arranged.

Here we go...

Thursday, April 04, 2019

16mm toytown coach painting and detailing

For painting laser-cut kits, I've enjoyed good results with the cheapo bottles of acrylic paint from The Works. At a quid a go, and with plenty of colours to choose from, they might not be "proper" modelling paint, but they do the job.

I tend to squirt paint out onto some plastic and then apply it neat with a wide brush. I do dip this in water every so often to thin the paint, but not much. It dries really fast and I like to give the surface a light sanding between each coat to flatten any wood grain that has risen.

3 coats seem to do the job, although I guess this depends on how deep a colour you require.

Before painting, I added some door hinges from scraps of wood. Afterwards, the varnished wood belt lines went on, making sure I cut a slot so it looked like the doors would open.

Talking of opening, brass handles from wire look nice - I bought some plastic mouldings but have lost the packet for the moment.

 Glazing is just plastic stuck inside the body. I could have flush-glazed but apart from taking time, I didn't feel it suited the slightly toytown style of these coaches. I've left the doors, but not the guards duckets, unglazed. This permits access to the inside if I want to add more passengers, or if one of them loses their grip on the seats.

Each roof is a bit of plastic sheet pre-bend around a fat marker pen and then fixed with epoxy glue. I didn't use superglue as the fumes can fog the glazing. I had thought I'd paint the roofs grey, but they look nice white so I'll give them a light sand with a mild abrasive to matt the finish for the moment.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Wessex Flour Mill


I found this photo in an old packet of prints. At a guess it is around 15 years old as it's from a camping trip in my VW, and I've not been anywhere in that for over 10 years (still for sale!).

Wessex Flour Mill is still a working mill - I could give you some history, but it's much better on their own website. 

It's an odd looking, and slightly posh building. Those arches over the top of the square windows are a decorative feature I've not seen before.. The whole lot looks a bit spruced up to satisfy the good citizens of Wantage to me, but then we are a long way from dark satanic mills, so perhaps it's always been pretty?

I like that ugly pipe sticking out of the top though. 

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Return of the wooden train

As I hinted on Saturday, the IP Engineering wooden train set is back. 

It's sat in a box for over a year, but now I need more pretty 32mm gauge rolling stock for my "Build a layout" project at Peterborough, so out it has come. 

The main stumbling block has been painting. I was worried that I'd hide all the laser-cut detail when I slapped on the paint, but as I discovered with the same companies railcar, washes of thin, cheap acrylic work a treat. 

I kids myself a little that this looks a bit like the Ramsey Peir tain. It doesn't, but that's the vibe I plan to channel when I finish it. That and a hint of fairground or park railway.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Death of a model shop


A very sad post to start the week. Saturday saw the last trading day of Gee Dee Models in Nottingham.

I'd not planned to visit, rushing to the closing down sale of any model shop seems a bit ghoulish, but I was invited to have a look around by one of the people helping clear the decks - and I reasoned they had enjoyed some of my money in earlier years.

That might sound strange, but I really can't stand people who have refused to hand over money until there is a stonking great sale on. Model shops are an endangered breed and deserve our support. No-one is getting rich running one, but they provide a valuable service for our community. This doesn't mean the odd packet of track pins or pot of paint, but those big-ticket items too. Maybe you can save a couple of quid on-line, but what's the bigger cost?

I digress. The shelves were looking pretty bare when I arrived, but there were bargains to be had and I bagged a few after my tour and a free cup of tea. The place is huge, with considerable storage as well as a generous sales floor. There were a few surprises found when digging to the back of the cupboards, a good model shop builds up a nice bed of odd things over the years that are nuggets of gold to a certain type of modeller.

The very first branch opened in 1946 so we are talking about a business with 73 years of trading, only closing on the retirement of the owner now into his 80s - who dropped in to see the final closure.


The photo above comes from the Gee Dee website, well worth a look for pictures showing a superb model shop in its heyday.


Among the goodies found were some "Joy Club" cards used by shoppers in the 1960s to save up for items. You would come in and pay your money into the savings scheme and eventually be able to afford the Hornby Dublo locomotive or Aerokits boat you desired. At one point there were 4000 members, all records being painstakingly recorded by hand - no computers in those days!

Gee Dee was a proper, traditional shop covering all branches of the model-making hobby. Railways, radio control boats/planes/cars, plastic kits and diecast collectables filled the shelves in all scales. The train area might have been mostly OO and N, but 7mm and G scale were also well represented.

I remember my first visit back in the mid-1980s. My dad and I had taken the train to the Nottingham show, it being (correctly) suggested as one to visit by our new model railway club colleagues. After enjoying the event and a hearty chip-based meal at the ice rink where it was held (the lady serving seemed to consider a bag of frozen chips equalled two portions) we walked to the store and were in heaven.

A few years later, when building Melbridge Dock and needing some boat fittings for the scratchbuilt Clyde Puffers, we dropped in and were allowed to raid a stack of tiny plastic drawers in one of the cabinets. I've never seen such an array of model boat fitting in a shop since. Some of those we bought are probably still in our drawers as it was a long way to travel, so we stocked up!

Every visit to Nottingham since has centred on a visit. Much as I like the city, it's great to have a focal point and I never left empty-handed.


Sadly, this has all come to an end. The shutters came down and the lights were turned off. Those shelves still have goodies on them, although there were more spaces at closing time than when the doors opened.

I went for a beer with the staff afterwards. Obviously, they will miss the place, many having worked there for years and all being modelmakers themselves. Everyone seemed in good spirits despite the occasion.

The people of Nottingham will have lost something important too. Some will call me stupid and sentimental, after all, we have the Internet so who needs a physical shop when you can order your latest Bachby locomotive sat in your pants at home?

Places like Gee Dee are more than just a shop for buying things. Peter, the boss, explained that if you want to talk football, you can go to any pub. If you want to talk model railways (or boats or planes) you can't do that.

Maybe you are lucky enough to belong to a club to sate your need to chat, but for a lot of people, this isn't an option. In a good model shop, you can discuss the things you make, the hobby you love, and no-one thinks you are weird. Because if you are weird, so is everyone else in there. At least we can be weird together.

Farewell Gee Dees.