Saturday, July 11, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Tamiya Honda City Turbo build

I'm sure there is a Tamiya radio control car build in my future. It's probably the Sand Scorcher, but when looking at a RC website, I spotted the Honda City Turbo

This is a fun little car and digging on the web, I found a build video that makes the assembly look fun. The finished result isn't tiny either!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Fantasy GWR

Many years ago, I had the idea to build the Goblins & Warlocks Railway (GWR) using Games Workshop figures and accessories. Digging through the cupboard the other day, I found the rolling stock I built as an experiment. 

Both items are based on old Hornby wagon chassis. Bodies are Plastikard and a bucket load of modellers licence. 

Those oversize buffer heads are drawing pins. The wagon was probably missing one or two of the originals. They look quite fun though. 

I still think the idea has legs. I know we've seen one or two models in the fantasy genre, but they aren't common. Maybe I could still be a trailblazer...

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Lockdown Project - Tea caddy repair

Lockdown means more tea and our poor tin box from Yorkshire Tea has seen better days. One hinge has broken. A sensible person would chuck it away. I am not sensible. 

Like most of these things, it's cheaply made from pressed tinplate. The "hinge pin" is part of the pressing (quite clever really) and it's simply broken. 

My solution is to unroll the edge a bit by ramming a small screwdriver along the roll and slide some 1mm diameter steel rod in. Then roll the metal back to grip the rod. You could use brass, but I would wonder how long it would last with the tinplate rubbing on it. 

Job done. While I was at it, a couple of pieces of shim brass were epoxied over the areas in the lid where the metal was tearing. Hopefully, this will keep the precious teabags in good condition for many brews to come. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Coracles


I'm not a fan of canoes. The idea that you sit, trapped, in a narrow boat that is so easy to roll that performing an "Eskimo roll" is part of the "fun" doesn't appeal to me at all. 

Much as I like boat, I think I should be on top, the boat underneath and the water below us. Reverse that order and things have gone wrong. 

A coracle though - not sure. They should be nice and stable. Moving and steering with a single oar looks like a challenge, but practise should make perfect. 

I like the idea of making one quite a lot though. Mind you, a radio control model coracle would be a challenge!

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Stopping the water

Working out how the water was getting in to the hull didn't take a lot of thought. As I examined the join line between the two halves, I spotted that there were some tiny gaps at the back around the prop tube.

It might be that when I inserted the new tube, I didn't open out the hole as much as I should have. Whatever, I decided to go for a belt'n'braces approach to the fix.

A think piece of microstrip was laid over the entire join. Fixed in place with cement and then solvent, I pushed it hard into any gaps - even imaginary ones.

Them some cheap epoxy was mixed and forced down the back of the boat to really fill the problem area.

Hopefully this will sort things. By the way, apologies for the static grass on the hull - the stuff gets everywhere!

While fiddling, I've taken the opportunity to fit a smaller prop to the model. The large version was OK, but was going to provide too much thrust making scale speed sailing difficult. Hopefully the smaller version will be entirely submerged yet give enough go to the finished model. Once the glue dries and it stops raining, I'll find out.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Out on the pool (just)

Mechanical bits fitted. Radio bits temporarily installed. Extra weight stowed on board. Time for a trip on the pool.

I was keener than normal to do this as I'm not convinced the 4AAA cell pack will offer much duration and feel that the best way to find out how long I can sail for, is to sail.

On the water, it quickly became apparent that I had a problem. Water was getting in. Weirdly, not all the time though. The boat seemed to sit fairly dry and even blasted along, but then there was suddenly a puddle around the working bits.

So, I still don't know how long I can sail for, but think that battery capacity wouldn't be the main limiting factor right now...

Sunday, July 05, 2020

I luv playing trains


Who makes a teddy bear out of MDF? 
Who buys it at a show while exhibiting his layout?
Who thinks it really needs of of our badges?
Who feels that a miniature Antex soldering iron would be the perfect addition?

I don't know the answer to the first of these, but this bear has done many miles in our exhibition box over the years. Let's hope that one day he can go to the show again.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

App controlled Hong Kong tram

Since visiting Hong Kong year ago, I've been interested in their trams and every so often a model pops up.

This one, with rockin' soundtrack, is one of those "rip-off Lego" sets. Online, the price is around £128 plus taxes and shipping. Not bad for a big model with mobile phone control. But far too large for me to display at home - I keep telling myself!

Friday, July 03, 2020

World of Railways Virtual Exhibition

We can't go to "real" shows at the moment, so the BRM team has put together a virtual event instead.

Trying to work out what this should look like has been a bit of a challenge. Obviously we wanted to make it different from the Facebook and Twitter events. It was also important to follow the form of a real show where possible.

What we've come up with, after a massive amount of work, starts with layouts - just like at a normal show. We've got photos and have amassed plenty of video too.

The exciting thing though is all the extras. Every 15 minutes through the weekend, there will be another event - competitions, interviews, new product announcements, demonstrations. You could spend the entire time glued to the screen with over 10 hours of footage. Most of this is brand new too - after all, you don't want old product announcements do you?

Much like a digital version of a magazine, we are trying to do things with the digital show you can't do with the real thing, so we take visitors to a garden railway, or layouts that never leave home. We bring together people who live in different countries too.

All this is free for you, the visitor, to enjoy.

Thursday, July 02, 2020


I'm a bit of a tool junkie and have drawers full of stuff that barely see the light of day.

A couple of years ago, I picked up this Mig "Oilbrusher". It's a touch-up pen for modellers. If you've ever made tiny repairs to car bodywork you'll know the drill - a brush is fitted to the cap and lives dunked in paint. Unscrew-paint-screw. No need for cleaning.

To be honest, this looked useful but mostly lived o the shelf. Building Furness Quay, it came into it's own. Painting around masked off point blades, picking up missed bits of rail, in fact, thanks to the colour (Dark Mud) I suddenly found myself using it for all sorts of jobs.

While I don't' really understand the bright colours - this isn't the tool to use for painting the body colour on anything - a bit of dirt hides a multitude of sins. More importantly, it hides a multitude of bare resin or metal. The paint is quite thick and happy to stick to anything.

A useful addition to the toolbox in my opinion. Yes, I know I could just use a brush and paint, but sometimes, convenience wins.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Falmouth Industry

Falmouth Industry

When I research the boats for this feature, I don't normally head to LinkedIn, but a quick search on this vessel took me to Andrew Baldock, who for 12 years, skippered "Falmouth Industry". According to his profile, the boat was responsible for "delivering fuel and fresh water and collecting waste oil slops around the Falmouth maritime area". Not a glamorous life then, but an essential and useful one.

"Falmouth Industry" (ex-Ulster Industry, and Humber Industry) is a Humber barge, built in 1961, with a gross tonnage of 257t and 420dwt. The vessel’s long history included a period when it traded across the Irish Sea from Liverpool. At some time in its history, the barge was cut in two and extended to install a freshwater tank in the new mid section.

It has now retired, a new fuel station being established on the refurbished Eastern arm of the docks, where a pontoon has been installed and diesel fuel piped from the land supply.

This lovely, colourful boat will presumably be cut up for tin cans, but maybe someone will build a model of it. You don't often see colourful working boats so there is an opportunity here.

Falmouth IndustryP9180081

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

On a bed of Milliput

A gutted servo isn't the easiest thing to mount in a model boat hull. Admittedly, I could have removed the motor from the control board, but it wouldn't help that much.

Inspiration struck when I pondered sitting it on a carved balsa wood mount - then realised that a big blob of something would do. A bit more thinking and I remembered Milliput.

I've never been a fan of the stuff. It frequently doesn't seem to go off when I use it, but needs must. I sliced off a couple of portions and mixed them for 15 minutes while watching telly. Most of my mix was shoved in the hull and the motor pushed in to it.

Some rubber tube is acting as a coupling and since the gear on the motor isn't very big, I've tried to keep it under compression from the end of the shaft.

The blob was cleaned up a little with a damp spatula. It looks ugly, but seems to work remarkably well. The Milliput has hardened and when I give it juice, the prop rotates. Now I need to get the model on the water.

Fun Fact: I you are visited by Royal Protection Officers, and they spot two sticks on Milliput wrapped in their greasy paper but not in the cardboard carton in the top of your toolbox, their faces go a funny colour.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Waggle that rudder

Not confident my servo setup would work, I put the motor in a blob of Blu-Tack, bent up the connecting wire and tested the set-up. And it worked!

The final box holding the servo in isn't pretty - I just stuck plastic rectangles around the Blu-Tack and servo servo with solvent and cement followed by 2-part epoxy - but it works. The servo isn't jumping around and it swings the rudder with gusto.

The rudder swings far enough to work, nothing seems to be catching on anything inside the model and all the working parts are under the removable cabin. I'm happy with that.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ferness Quay

Apologies if the blog posts recently have been a bit thin - I've been very busy getting ready for the "Virtual Model Railway Exhibition" that will be taking place next weekend.

Much of my time has been eaten up building a new micro layout "Ferness Quay". Although not a massive project, the aim was to video all the stages and during the show, release the latest instalments through the days. All this takes time and is in addition to the normal job of putting a couple of magazines out.

My modelling time? Very limited indeed.

Still, I'm very pleased with the way the layout has turned out and hope people enjoy the little films I've made taking you through the build.

As well as building things, I've spent time on Zoom interviewing people, so look forward to some interesting chats.

Put the 4/5 July in your diary now!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday Film Club: The British era at Volkswagen from 1945 to 1949

If you are familiar with motoring history, you know that the origins of Volkswagen were somewhat dark. However, by the end of WW2, the factory, or at least what was left of it, found itself in the British Zone of occupation.

Enter Major Ivan Hurst - the man who saved Volkswagen. In this fascinating documentary, he takes us from the period at the end of the conflict to the late 1940s when the place was handed back to German control.

Friday, June 26, 2020


I'm not flush with 16mm scale, 32mm gauge steam engines, but when I suddenly needed one for a photo shoot, it was an opportunity to dig out a model I built well over 25 years ago.

Ben came about because I watched my friend Anthony Coulls chasing a manually controlled live steam engine around a layout. I liked the size and shape of the model. The idea of working a regulator in the cab appealed to me. Chasing a lively steam engine didn't.

I also loved the drawing in the Backwoods Miniatures advert of a Barclay. With this in mind, I sketched out a plan based on some glass-filled nylon driving wheels I had managed to buy. When I made this model, I suspect spending proper cash on a garden railway project was out of the question, so they would have been cheap.

Apart from the slide bars and bearings, the model is a tribute to Plastikard. Nice thick stuff and plenty of it. This seems to have survived some dreadful storage in a plastic box in an unheated shed for many years. I haven't tried the model with batteries (2 C cells) but can't see why the cheapo motor and gears (possible from  Proops pound pack) shouldn't work.

The most expensive items on the locomotive will be the nameplates and worksplates. The later read "Philip Parker - 1992". Well, and the chimney which is metal from a source I can't remember.

Inside the body is the clever bit. A sheet of PCB carefully cut so a wiper on the back of the regulator moves around and picks up varying amounts of electricity, this being set by diodes soldered to the board. I have no idea how I worked this out, or why it's diodes and not resistors. I'm sure I couldn't figure it out now.

Direction control is from a slide switch in the footplate.

Ben always worked well, doing exactly what I wanted. I could chase my loco around and operate it from a proper regulator in the cab. I just didn't burn my fingers doing it.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

A win for hoarding

Every so often, I seriously consider that I need to make dramatic cuts in my stash of bits'n'pieces. And then I realise this would be a bad thing. 

I'm working on an urgent and very time-consuming magazine project at the moment. For the wiring up, I needed some DIN sockets and so included them in an order for materials. When the arrived, I'd selected the wrong pin pitch. My controller wouldn't plug in, and I was loathe to change the plug on this as it wouldn't then work with other layouts.

I have a shoebox full of electrical "stuff" and rooting around in there I found this panel thing. I don't know where it came from or what it was built to do - but it incorporated two of the vital sockets. A few minutes work removing them and I was in business.

If I'd not had that box of junk I'd have been stuffed. My rush project would have ground to a halt. So, a win for hoarding.

Does anyone else car to admit being dug out of a hole by a similar stash, or it just me that keeps stuff?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: LTC 6


Last week, I featured a small tugboat and mentioned its job was to push around a dumb barge, well here we have it.

LTC 6 is an 80ft long dumb barge with a digger perched on top. According to the National Historic Ships records, she was built in 1911. 98 years old and still earning her keep, or at least she was in 2008 when I took this picture. I'm pretty sure she's still in use today.

Even the digger, or more correctly, dragline, is a good age. I bet it's from the 1950s or 60s. An era when things were built to last or at least be repaired.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

First float

You can't really call a few minutes in the bathroom sink a "sail" so we'll go for "float".

However, the float did include dropping all the mechanical bits in the hull, along with some lead weights to balance it so this was a useful test.

I'm happy to say the hull floated and looks like it will even take a bit more ballast once the model is finished. If this is to sail on the big lake, I'd like it to be nice and stable whilst not sitting so low in the water that I'm scared of it sinking.

All this is made trickier by the small size of the model, although I could fit it in the sink if if was any bigger!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Fiddly steering linkage

Lindberg didn't design their kit to have working steering.

The rudder clips into place, you set it at an angle to bring the boat back to you and that's it. Plonk the model in the water and off it goes. Get it wrong and you've lost it in the thick reed bed 10 feet from your launching point.

Modern RC means I can have more control, but only if I work out how to link servo and rudder.

My solution required an evening of fiddling with brass wire. A length goes down a brass tube full of grease into the top of the rudder. The end is bend over and bashed flat. A nut is soldered on the bottom. Trust me, that was a real pain to do and took two nuts, both of which filled with solder. Eventually I cleaned one out, a job that would be been quicker if I could have found my small taps...

The servo linkage is another bit of the same wire also bashed flat and drilled. At the moment it just waggles around at the servo end, but the important thing is that I can make the rudder move from the middle of the boat.

All this took a lot longer than it sounds, but quite satisfying to do.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Curating my bookshelves

Coronavirus has changed many things, but who knew it would need me to curate my bookshelves?

Behind me in the tiny office I use, is a bookcase full of A5 publications. Normally it's a bit of a dumping ground but that has to change - because you can see it in video calls.

I'd not worry about this except that I've had to do a Zoom-based interview for the upcoming Virtual Model Railway exhibition. Like politicians around the country, the background now matters.

I've not shuffled The Art of War and some weighty political memoirs into view, nor is there a weird picture of the Queen hung up. You'll have to decide if the 3mm scale society house magazine Mixed Traffic says something good about me.

Luckily, I'm well supplied with large scale locomotives to appear. Out (of sight) goes the La France fire engine. In comes a Saltford Simplex. RNLI toys are replaced with a battery-steam loco I built many years ago. The Garden Rail van is a subtle advert - at least I think it is anyway.

The Isle of Man poster on the wall was already a fixture, but Mr Kipper from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has caused some comment!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Seaspeed

A lovely promotional film made in 1980 showing the hovercraft operation.

Part of the interest comes from seeing the N500 Naviplane in the opening shots. It might have been bigger and faster than the SRN 4's, but it couldn't match them for style. It was quickly returned to SNCF.

I managed a trip on the hovercraft during the penultimate weekend and remember the facilities on the French side being very basic. My plan to go and visit the local area fell apart because it was on an industrial estate and there was no-where to go if you didn't have transport. Never mind, I still fondly remember the trip and am glad I made it.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Shuttles, stone and card modelling in BRM

Back and forth - that's what you get with a shuttle unit and in the latest BRM, I'm fitting one to a test track. It's an unusual project for me as this isn't part of a layout. Needing a suitable controller, I'm pleased to say that I dug out a Beatties unit, I wonder if anyone will spot that and write in to the magazine?

From the old to the new. A chance discussion on RMweb say me get my paws on a brand new kit from JS Models for a stone warehouse. The trouble with kits like this is that a simple build doesn't give you much to write about. The bits all fit and you can build it in a couple of hours.

That's not good enough (IMHO) for the readers, so I put a of of time in to develop a method of painting the nice, smooth MDF to look like real stone. The results are really pleasing and better than I'd hoped.

Another building, this time the Metcalfe Models Fire Station - lovely little kit and so well designed, but of course I had to fiddle with it and add a little bit of "Phil" to the finished model. I even managed to sneak a pun into of of the box-out titles.

On BRM TV (Still no DVD due to production issues) I'm doing more work with card kits to show a few enhancements that can be applied.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Garden Rail - July 2020

Lockdown is the perfect time to dig those old kits out of the cupboard and get them on the workbench.

Eric Londesbrough fights a small signal cabin that dates from the 1980s but manages to produce a lovely little model that would be perfect for any small line. The Editor goes back to his youth with a Saltford Models Simplex diesel and after many years in our hobby, Dave Skertchly finally gets his hands on a Tri-ang “Big-Big” diesel to bash into a steam locomotive.

We're not just looking back though – John Rogers is controlling his locos with a mobile phone via Bluetooth. Kitbuilders will enjoy the second part of Mark Thatcher's church build and David Rhodes completing a rake of coaches with a modified IP Engineering kit.

Layout inspiration this month comes with a visit to The Aston Railway and Tramway, built by Mick Eastough. It might have taken 50 years to get started, but the wait was worth it as his lovely 7/8

th scale line is full of narrow gauge character.

If you feel the need for another locomotive for your line, Steve Blackmore dons his Stetson to take a look at Roundhouse Engineering's latest model and we have all the latest product news for the large scale railway enthusiast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: No Berth

I was looking to carry on the tugboat theme this week with a suitable boat and digging through my Isle of Man archives, I found this one.

This is a tug, or perhaps more a pusher. It works with a dredging crane that lives on an unpowered pontoon. This unassuming vessel provides the grunt to move the outfit around. I'm guessing the big sign is to tell captains of visiting yachts not to tie up to the boat. Not that I think that many would want to attach their floating gin palace to a boat that is the very definition of "working". 

Yes, this isn't a pretty boat, but I really fancy building a model one day. If I ever get back to the IOM, I'm going hunting for more photos.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Will the prop fit?

Digging around the box of boat spares, I've found a nice stainless steel prop setup to which I can fit a nice plastic prop. Placing it on the boat side, it looks like a good fit so I join the hull halves and deck together.

The kit is old and the part fit not perfect. I'm guessing that the hull has distorted a little over time joining the halves was a little bit of a fight. Plenty of liquid glue and much holding along with a couple of bulldog clips worked for most of the length, but the stern didn't want to play ball with a good millimetre of gap - if I could have got a clamp on it this wouldn't have been an issue, but there wasn't much chance of this.

Instead, I warmed up a soldering iron and melted the plastic over the join inside, letting it cool and do the holding for me. Amazingly, this seemed to work, allowing the glue to do it's job overnight.

The chosen propeller turns out t be a little bigger than it needs to be, but a small amount of carving gives me enough clearance to let it dodge the rudder support. OK, it's not prototypical, but no-one will notice.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Lindberg Line Tug Boat kit

I'm still keen to build a model boat and so it's back to the kit stash to find something I bought a couple of years ago at the IPMS show.

There used to be a fashion for motorised plastic kits, but mostly cars. There were a few boats including this one from the American Lindberg range. When I saw it on the stand, the idea of taking a model designed to said and adding radio control imediatly grabbed me.

Costing £20, the kit has been opened and the prop shaft and prop removed. A couple of tiny glue marks inside suggest someone has had a go, but they didn't get far.

The parts had been rebagged in thin plastic and as far as I can tell at this point everything is in the box. Even the motor is in there, but I fancy replacing this with a gutted servo with a second micro version for steering. Hopefully, the extra wight won't be an issue, but we'll find out later.

I love the instructions. No CAD drawings, instead we have illustration by an artist.

Anyway, I'll dig out the plastic glue and give this a go. With a bit of luck I'll end up with a model suitable for the pool - at a foot long, it might even see a calm day at the lake!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Upgrading the photo studio

For the last few months, my photo setup has included a roll of printer paper acting as a background. Since adding this, I've saved ages over previous attempts at providing this - to remove all the background for construction shots often involves nothing more than a tweak of the brightness and contrast settings.

When the paper gets dirty, I just unroll a bit. Cut off the old stuff and am ready to go again.

The only problem is that the roll is only 61cm wide and I now have a small layout project in prospect. Worse, that's going to require video and you don't get to do cut-outs on moving images. I need a white background.

So, needing to upgrade to a much wider paper roll in a hurry, I rang around a few places. One said it was delivering on the website, but when I spoke to them, the warehouse is locked down. Another was going to call me back, and didn't.

The winner was Graphic Design Supplies Ltd in Macclesfield. A very helpful chat resulted in a 5ft wide roll being delivered the next day. All I have to do is work out how to support it. Bits of string won't do the job!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Draw a Bord Na Mona locomotive

I met Shoo Raynor a couple of years ago at a literary festival and have dropped in to his YouTube channels a few times since then. However, when I spotted this lesson, I knew it had to appear on the blog. What a subject to pick, it's not Flying Scotsman!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Trams LP

Spin up those wheels of steel, this is a platter that matters!

From BBC Record - recordings of trams.

Found at the back of a cupboard, we don't actually own a turntable to play it on, and even if we did, I can't see listening to the rumblings of tramcars being something I need to do very often.

So, it's back to the cupboard for the moment, and unless someone wants to make me a generous offer for it, a trip to eBay eventually.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Lockdown Project: Fix the APT

On the top of a cupboard, I have a wooden model of the Advanced Passenger Train.

Produced by Space Models for use in travel agents, these models have become popular among APT fans and are generally worth a couple of hundred quid. As an APT nut, I had to buy one when I had the chance. In fact, I have two - well both were bargains at the time and have increased in value over time.

My model is better than the one in the NRM, but a fall from its perch meant I needed to carry out a few repairs. This job has been around for a while, but now it is done.

Job 1: The bogie sideframe on one end had fallen off. These are plastic and should be separated by a couple of rods. Those on my model were badly deformed and wouldn't glue back in place anyway, so I dispensed with them.

Slackening off the screw that holds the wooden model to its track allowed the sideframe to slot back into place. Tightening it up again clamped the part between body and track, hard enough it wasn't coming out easily. Quite how it fell off in the first place is a mystery.

Job 2: On the top, the pantograph had come off in the same accident.

This is a whitemetal piece and locates on top of wires running through insulators. I drilled out the holes and with a little superglue, this fitted back in place nicely.

Job done - it felt a little like an episode of The Repair Shop, but in a good way. Now I just need to dust the thing more often and be careful.