Sunday, August 18, 2019

Back to Bekonscot

90th Birthday party

After my trip to Bekonscot for Garden Rail, I was keen to come back and enjoy a more leisurely look around. A friend in need of something to do during the school holidays with her 6-year-old provided the opportunity. I was interested to see what a child thought of the place, I recall being entranced when I was a few years older, but then I'm a bit weird.

It seems that today's children like a bit of animation, but then I suspect I was the same. She loved the trains, the working playground, animated figures waving. Pretty much anything that moved in fact. The child's quiz went down well and we all enjoyed spotting and counting various details. 

And I took some more photos, which you can find on Flickr.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Saturday Film Club: British Rail in 1972



I've been been looking at a lot of photos showing BR in the 1970s - and so this excellent film from 1972 is really interesting. I like to think this is fairly recent, but it's nearly half a century old!

The railway was different then. Lots of lovely locos to spot and interesting rolling stock. 

Overall, the tone is positive with many technological advances. This isn't quite what I remember (OK, I was 2, but you get the gist) from the period, but I suspect that the grimy, rail blue world coloured our perception.

Friday, August 16, 2019

There's some special Hornby in BRM, and this weekend

This month, it's all about Hornby - you see I'll be taking part in their open weekend, and have been asked to take along some Cake Box models. 

Well, I thought I'd better do something new and also relevant, so have built a 1:24th scale train set, in a suitable setting. It's like no other model I've ever built!

I'm a bit of a DCC Luddite, but as a test, I took on the task of carrying out the (allegedly) hardest job you can do, hard wiring a chip into a locomotive.


 My candidate is a Class24 from the back of my cupboard. Converted from a Hornby Class 25 at least two decades ago, if this can be chipped, pretty much anything can be.

My camera has been out, this time for Derwent Road.


With it's mixed bag of interesting rolling stock and a cracking 1970s housing estate setting, I pounced on this at Warley last year and am pleased to see it's now made it to the page as well as being lead layout on the DVD. 


Talking of the DVD, I'm building some coaches from Dapol kits. In an era when people are always moaning about the price of model railways, these bargain ready-painted kits are perfect. They don't take long to build and produce models that I suspect are of equal quality to the layouts they will be running on.

I know you can scrape off handles and add detail, but IMHO, a consistent standard is more important to the look of a model railway than a few hyper-detailed items running through an otherwise average quality scene. You can't go too wrong with these kits, so let's hope we see more on layouts!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Huricane proof modelling in Garden Rail September


Garden Rail is an international magazine and the lead layout this month is from Florida in the US of A. Built in a land where they can experience some extreme weather, everything has to be well fixed down! 

Despite this, the Buckinghamshire Light Railway has a real British look, it could easily be a lot nearer home but shows that we enjoy attractive railways. 

I've been at work doing some whitemetal soldering using an IP Engineering kit, although you might remember that rushing things didn't pan out too well for me on this project.  It was fixed and completed though. 

We get more construction with an interesting live steam loco, battery-powered DeWinton and really good looking gravel loading facility. Dave S looks at slate wagons and Mark T builds a really detailed garage. 

Lots of good stuff again this month, so get out and buy a copy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Manx bus shelters


Driving around the Isle of Man, I became a little bit obsessed with the concrete bus shelters. They are found all over the island and I really wanted to stop to photograph each one. 

The shelters are made up of pre-cast concrete components and seem to come in two sizes. Most are small as shown above, but near Jurby, there is a large capacity version. 


If you want a "proper" reason to photograph these, years ago I used to shoot red telephone boxes. Each time, I did my best to get the best-composed image possible of these standard items. It's great fun and good practise. 

The shelters aren't immediately appealing, although I suspect on a wet day, they are very welcome. However, they have a certain brutal charm and do the job they are designed to do in all weathers, something that appeals to me.

I couldn't find a history of these stops online, but I did find a video about the man who maintains them. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Sealing the hull


Holidays and working have eaten nearly all the time I have had to work on the mystery as to why the ark sank. A bit of a shove on the pool didn't reveal any obvious leaks I'm sad to say, so it's back to guesswork. 

One possible issue is the hull is in two parts. The top ring is sperate from the bottom, so it the boat reaches that depth, it's going to fill up very rapidly with water. 

Ideally, I'd have separated the components and glued them together. With the motor fitted, this isn't an option so it was time for a less appealing Plan B. If I can't stop the water getting into the hollow bits of the hull, at least I can stop it getting into the main bit. 

Along the front edge (right-hand arrow above) I ran copious amounts of Poundland epoxy glue. It splodges nicely into place and will stop any water. 

Under the top edge, the hull is hollow, so I filled it with Milliput. Then, because I've never got on with the stuff, coated it with more epoxy. 

I don't know how much all this will help, but I reason at least if the boat starts to sink, it will do so slowly. 


Now I just need to find time to get back out on the pool and really sail this boat in a safe environment to see what else happens. There are some electronics to replace first though as the servo is chattering, which might be the servo or the receiver. Which I wish I'd waterproofed in a balloon.

Monday, August 12, 2019

HLW stake wagon

Stake wagon

A few weeks ago I wrote up building some HLW wagon kits for the garden railway. At the time I didn't mention there was a fourth kit in the stash for a flat wagon. 

The plan had been to build all the models as a batch, but when I came to do it, there were only enough axles for 3 models, the other pair having been lost along the way. 

I dug through the stash of bits and couldn't find anything long enough and of sufficient diameter, so the odd-one-out wagon stayed in its bag which I looked around for something suitable on-line. 

Eventually, I settled for some sourcing map HSS Lathe Round Rod Solid Shaft Bar 3.5mm Dia 100mm Length 5Pcs via Amazon.

May weeks later, these arrived. First problem, they were too fat for the wheels, so I had to drill out the wheels, stub axles and axle boxes to suit.

Then I had to cut the metal to length. No saw would touch it and neither would files. In the end, I used a slitting disk in a Dremel. Lots of sparks but it worked well and I soon had everything fitted together.

The wagon rolls just as well as the "proper" ones and I think looks great. Once I have tidied up the garden line, I'll be able to give my new goods train a run. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stratford-on-Avon industrial and narrow gauge exhibition 2019

Short freight

A new show and a quirky one. In the town of Shakespeare's birth, a Methodist hall full of narrow gauge model railways.

Obviously, this is right up my street and walking in I spy Chris Payne and his Pyn Valley Railway. I've always been a sucker for tin-roofed buildings with bit writing on the top. The "Fox Food" pub gladdens my heart when I drive down the A14 and "Tram" on the model roof sets the scene.

However, I wasn't there for this, I had a goal to take some photos of the extension to Campbell's Quarry. Adding an engine shed to the layout has completely changed the look of the model, far more than I'd expected. The plan is that these will form the basis of a BRM article in the future.

Looking in the loco shed

Next to this was Tony's forest.

Steeple cab through the trees

Much as I love this layout and enjoy shooting snapshots, it cries out for a proper session with the camera, but sooooo many trees. It needs someone with a Benbo tripod to get in there, so I'm trying to persuade a suitably equipped gentleman to arrange something. Not to worry for the moment, I had fun looking for angles.

I did manage to take some proper shots of Castle Wharf Kendal, another atmosphere filled small layout.

Castle Wharf Kendal diesel

Despite the lack of length, I see I still managed to take 18 different photos. That's the thing with a detailed layout, you can still find loads of interest. 

I can't go through all the layouts, but each was worth a good look and I'm ashamed to say I didn't really get the time to do them all justice. As packing away was happening, I realised one model featured acoustic mirrors and I hadn't taken a photo!

Catering was locally produced and included some really excellent lemon crumble. I bought one slice but then had a second forced on me by Mr Campbell as I photographed his layout!

Apparenlty, this show is a one-off, but let's hope that changes. 



Saturday, August 10, 2019

Saturday Film Club: 10 steps to getting your modelling mojo back



I'm sure this video by Kathy Millatt will have been around the web already, but I'm putting it here because she's spot on. That and there is an entertaining rant about rivet-counters towards the end that comes from the heart...

Friday, August 09, 2019

I've been to hell, and it was brillant!


I've been to hell, and it's in Leicestershire...

We've been filming at Bachmann UK's warehouse recently and this allowed me to have a mouch around the shelves full of models. The problem is that as well as the UK railway stuff, they have the Pocketbond range of kits, tools and accessories.


So much stuff!

So much temptation!

So many projects I'd like to have a go at!

I kept looking at boxes and thinking how much fun it would be to assemble the contents. Then I remembered my existing stash of potential projects.

If a lottery ticket comes up, I'd happily bring a lorry load of these goodies home with me. Sadly, the same ticket wouldn't buy me enough time to build them all. All this temptation is both terrible and (I think) wonderful. After all, if you can't look through this lot and find something that interests you in this amazing range, then there's something wrong with you!


Now, please excuse me while I try to think of a reason I should build a 1/32nd scale burger bar complete with rotating sign...

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Yeo and First in NGW


Something for the 009 fans in (unsurprisingly) Narrow Gauge World this month - my review of Hejan's L&B loco. One of the second production run was passed to me a few months ago and I've had a poke and a prod.

There's been a lot said about these locomotives. Admittedly a lot of it has been "Waaaaahhh it costs money!!!!"  but there have been a few constructive comments too and there are undoubtedly issues with this model and I've included a few of these in the piece. It's a critical review, but one I ran past Heljan to give them the chance to comment - I think a response from a manufacturer adds to a review if you can get one.  As it was, they were happy but that's mostly because they would rather see an accurate review than a hagiography, something to be applauded.

One point I do mention is that the prototypes are mainline machines. The L&B was laid with generous curves and long points. Drop one of these on your typical Welsh line and it will be off the track and the first corner. In model form, if you bend your track around your knee for curves, then you don't want one of these.


There is also a feature on the layout "First" using a selection of my photos. Cracking layout and some interesting details emerge in the text.

Narrow Gauge World magazine.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Douglas station


You learn something new every day, or at least every time you take a shed tour on the Isle of Man steam railway.

It seems that these buildings on the left-hand side, as you look at the front of the station, used to provide warehousing at Douglas station on the Isle of Man. I've had a look and can't find any vintage views of them online, but it's useful and interesting to know.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Why I love my local model shop


Now, I might have a slightly weird job, but even if I didn't, I'm sure I would love having a local model shop. To me, the convenience outweighs any slight price advantage I might get ordering on-line.

A few days ago, a future mag project deadline being chopped in half, I nipped in to see what there was in the N gauge section. A few minutes, and 35 quid later, I had a bag full of the stuff you see above. Now, I could have ordered over the web, but I wasn't at the stage where the project was fully thought through so I could modify things based on the products I could lay my hands on.

Apparently, there are those (according to popular web forums) who really don't like model shops. I struggle to understand that, I really do. Maybe it's the need to avoid human contact, or simply that their modelling entirely involves buying new boxes for the lowest price possible, but how can you beat rooting around in the depths of a shop for surprises?

Anyway, my local shop is Classic Train and Motor Bus, who reach their 20th birthday this year. That's 20 years of excellent service AND prices. They have just altered their opening times fro close at 3:45 to allow for more time on mail-order and expanding their web presence. Apparently, after analysis, this is the best way to free up time to work on expanding the business, or at least getting down to the Post Office to send off parcels!

If you have a local model shop - pay them a visit this weekend. It's summer and things are quiet, so do your bit to keep them open with a purchase. With a bit of luck, they will them be there when you need them.

Update: Over the weekend, it was revealed at the Ian Allan shop in central Birmingham is to close. This makes me both sad AND angry. It's a terrific shop, and a staple of any visit to the city. I've spent many, many pounds there in the past and yet it looks like there aren't enough people like me to pay the bills. I know there are people who will crow about this saying "I told you so" but if a city centre can't support a single model shop, what hope is there for the practical (rather then filling a cupboard with shiny boxes) side of our hobby?

Monday, August 05, 2019

How to change the wheel on a wheelbarrow

My Mum's wheelbarrow has a knackered tyre. Years of living outside and being used without the correct amount of air in it have killed the rubber. The wheel itself is OK, but replacing both is a lot easier. We couldn't find a tyre on its own anyway.

Step 1: Oiling up


Unless you treat your barrow with the reverance normally applied to a classic car, the bolts will be rusty. Spray with penetrating oil and go and make breakfast. Spray again and go for a cup of tea. Clever people will spray and leave overnight, this stuff is good, but needs time to work.

Step 2: Unbolting


One side of the bolts has a 13mm nut, the other a pointless slot in the head. No screwdriver is going to hold the head when the presure is applied, but a set of molegrips will do the job. It's time for brute force! Actually, thanks to the oil, the bolts undid pretty well.

Step 3: Remove the axle


Engineers will say they "drift the axle out", I just whacked it with a mallet as the new wheel doesn't come with one. A shot of the penetrating oil isn't a bad idea before you start belting things, although this one wasn't a tight fit. There are two spacers lose, one either side. Don't lose them.

Step 4: Reassembly


Clean and grease all the bolts and carefully put everything back together. Then remember the spacers on the axle, take it all apart, put them in and reassemble. Make sure the U-brackets are the right way around. Grease between all the metal-to-metal joins in case you want to do this again in the future, but wipe all excess grease away as it will attract dirt.

Step 5: Pump up the tyre


Use a footpump to inflate the tyre to whatever it says on the side and then the barrow is ready for use. Buying new barrows is a hasstle (they don't fit in the car very well) and chucking an otherwise servicable tool away a waste.

The new wheel came from Torrys Hardware in Warwick. If you manage to get just a tyre, the steps are pretty much the same, you just need to remove and replace the rubber bit as well.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

New locomotives for the Groudle Glen and a cake conundrum

Announcing Otter

A narrow-gauge railway with not one, but two new locomotives? 

Last weekend, in the pouring rain, I watched new locos Otter and Brown Bear be officially launched at the Groudle Glen Railway. There were speeches from the chairman and a couple of politician's and then cake. 

This presented me with a conundrum. You see, on my latest Manx trip, I've become familiar with the local Bonnag. After a trip to Carigneash where there was the plain version cooking on the hearth, I tried a fruit flavour which was a bit rich. Sea Lion Rocks tea rooms do a less rich version, but they insisted I, and all the others present, had some official cake.  

Not to worry, the two locos are lovely. Brown Bear has been a long time in the planning and I've seen it a couple of times in the early stages of the build. Now complete, it joins sister Sea Lion as an essential piece of motive power. 

Brown Bear

Strictly speaking, Brown Bear should be called Polar Bear is it wears this locos chimney. The joke is they hung this from the roof and built a loco underneath. However, with Polar Bear still running at the Amberley Chalk Pit museum (As seen in the film A View to a Kill as well as Dalek Invasion Earth 2150) and the GGR also owning an electric Polar Bear, naming the loco after another animal that could be found in the glen zoo makes sense. It's what the Victorians would have done.

Otter came about because after the recent locomotive drought on the line due to dodgy water, those in change felt that an extra loco would be a good idea as people expect to be pulled by something that goes chuff.

Otter in the rain

Due to a surprise availability of a new-build Bagnall design saddle tank, and being able to arrange the funds to pay for it, there is a new, blue steamer on the line. One with a family similarity to the others. It's a lovely looking machine and the blue really suits it. The taller cab must be nice, but the open sides less appealing when the rain is falling!

More railway photos from my holiday on Flikr. 

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Saturday Film Club: All the stations at the Groudle Glen



I'm writing this from the Isle of Man, before my last full day of holiday. The plan is to visit the Groudle Glen Railway tomorrow, which just happens to be my favourite railway in the world.

A few weeks ago, the All The Stations duo of Geoff and Vicki visited the line, along with all the other Manx railways. While their video isn't an Open University history of the railways concerned (much to the disappointment of some commentators) it's full of enthusiasm and entertainment - which might help to explain why I love the island and its railways so much.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Airfix/Bachmann aeroplane

Here's a little mystery for you. I recently picked up a tiny plastic aeroplane. It was supplied ready-painted and assembled.

The mystery is the box.

Airfix Bachmann?

When did this happen? How did it happen? Why did it happen?

This is a mystery that has baffled everyone I've asked, and I've asked people you might expect to know. My guess is that this dates from the 1970s or perhaps early 1980s. But that's all it is, a guess.

The range, judging from the model on offer, encompassed quite a range of prototypes. Scales seemed to be determined by the size of the box as the airline I saw was only a couple of times the wingspan of this model.

Can anyone shed light on the history of these models?

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Challenger Aircraft Carrier


I need to ban my Dad from ordering stuff over the phone. Left to his own devices when calling Howes, he managed to buy a RTR aircraft carrier.

Arriving in a big box, the 78cm long model includes many hilariously badly translated English phrases. You get quite a lot of model for your money, although despite the prototype photos and ship names on the packing, isn't a desperately realistic model. Those helicopters on the deck look like the one the KGB boss arrived in at the end of For Your Eyes Only, not the American ones you might expects on a ship like this.

To be honest, the whole model appears to have been designed by a 12-year-old boy left to his own devices with a pencil. There are aeroplanes, helicopters, guns, rockets and unidentifiable things that are probably offensive in some way.

Power comes from a 9.6v rechargeable battery pack. There's no on/off switch so it need to be unplugged between sailing sessions. The radio gears is a bit rubbish since you swamp the whole 26 or 4o MHz frequency, but this isn't such an issue nowadays with everyone else on 2.4,

On the water, operation is from a controller using tank steering - two motors and props and two sticks for forward and reverse on each. None of that steering using a rudder here. The motors will only work if the model is afloat, or if you touch the contacts on the deck.


Sailing - well forget realism. This thing can motor. It's fast and turns quickly, especially if you hold the sticks in opposite directions. If you have even seen the film Battleship, where they handbrake turn a destroyer (I think) then you get the idea. As you can see, the model does get up on the plane, not something large warships do as a rule.

The battery pack allows for at least 20 minutes full-tilt action, probably more as the batteries are exercised over a few sessions.

Despite all this, sailing this model is fun. It won't please purists but who cares. I enjoyed bombing around the lake more then is entirely decent.

Maybe a better RC unit could be fitted, but you'd need to put in new speed controls, and probably fit some rudders unless you fancy adding a mixer. That's a lot of money and work (refitting RTR boats is harder then building a kit)for a model that doesn't really justify either. Forget detailing it, you are putting lipstick on a pig.

Instead, just enjoy the model for what it is. Fun.

More details on the Howes website