Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Beetle van complete and lessons learned

Well, it's done and I don't think looks too bad.

The glazing was "interesting" in the way that trying to cut bits of plastic to fit slightly irregular resin holes can be. Fixed with Deluxe Materials Glue'n'Glaze, the lesson learned here is that a sharpened and slightly damp cocktail stick will remove excess glue, but you have to work at it.

I won't say this is the greatest model in the world, but I have finished it and along the way learned a bit.
  • Start with the best car body you can. This was OK, but the Revell original was better. Chopping the back off it and scratchbuilding the rest would have given a sharper result - if I could blend the parts, especially the roof and gutters.
  • Car paint is lovely, but too thick and you can't match it for touch-up. I should have used some nice enamel. I know you can squirt aerosol into the cap and apply it with a brush, but the paint is very thin and pain to use.
  • I should have scraped the side trim off and replaced it. The body has an odd mix of correctly raised trim and sunken stuff at the front. The bow pen I used to paint it didn't like that much. Another reason to use paint that can be touched up. 
  • Humbrol Clear is very good and easy to use.

However, I'm not unhappy with my model and I'll know better in the future.

Monday, May 25, 2020


The car spray paint is a bit thick, and far too shiny. I knew this, but always planned to tone it down a bit once the transfers (from ModelRailwayScenery) were fitted to the white area on the body.

Humbrol Clear is their take on the famous Clear floor polish from Johnson & Johnson. It's more expensive and a touch thicker, but still goes through the airbrush neat. It sprays well, not running or misbehaving in any way.

Still gloss, it's a lot less gloss than the car paint and looks nice in a car modeller sort of way. It didn't lift the metallic enamel lines, always a bit of a risk. Those things have given me enough grief already, still not perfect after several attempts, but now close enough I can live with them.

Inside, I've painted the dashboard with a close enamel match and the rest black. The seats have had their headrests removed and filled. The load area is blocked off with a wall. I know this wouldn't be there in real life, but you won't see it and it hides the gap around the inner wheel arch and outer ones which you could just see through the windows.

I can't work out if the axles should be very slightly longer. It's not much if they should. The Airfix "stock" wheels are slightly narrowers than the Revell custom ones, but not very much.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A perfect shop location?

Let's assume that one day things return to normal and model shops can re-open. I suspect there will have been a bit of a shakeup. Some people will have retired. Some won't have been able to take advantage of the mail-order boom during lockdown and run out of cash.

Others will be looking to grow, or maybe simply start from scratch.

The perceived wisdom is that model shops need to be on the high street, but that's going to be far too expensive. Rents are high and business rates aren't going to go down if the government is to pay off the biggest debt since WW2.

Allow me to suggest an alternative.

Around the country, there are mini-shopping precincts, like this on near me and two others within 10 minutes walk. Built at a time when little, local shops were very much a thing, most struggle to fill the units. Here we have a general store/newsagent, dry cleaner and that's about it.

Once upon a time, there was an excellent tropical fish shop and that's the model to follow. This sho was so good that people would happily travel to it. Closure only came about because the owners were made an offer they couldn't refuse, and decided working 7 days a week wasn't so appealing after many years.

But it would be perfect for a model shop. Out the front we have plenty of free parking. 2 minutes walk away, a bus stop. It's not hard to find. There would even be a little passing trade. Whitnash is a small town with a moderatly affluent population and I'm sure as high a percentage of modellers and crafters as anywhere else.

But who wants this shop unit? People go to supermarkets for the main food shop now. Specialist shops like butchers and bakers can't make this sort of place pay thanks to Tesco and co.

Obviously, you don't rely on people through the door - the shop would need a mail order side, but there is enough space for the shop staff to pack items as well as serve the customers. If either side becomes too busy, you take on more people. And maybe the unit next door.

Just a thought...

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Saturday Film Club - What happens on a model railway magazine photo shoot?

Have you ever wondered what happens during a model railway magazine photoshoot? 

No? Tough. That's the subject of this weeks' video which shows Andy York and myself (OK, mostly him) taking photos for the recent BRM feature on the Leamington & Warwick club layout Kimble

Friday, May 22, 2020

Lockdown Project: Windmill repair

Some jobs should be simple and turn out to be anything but. We have an ornamental windmill in the garden. I think it turned up last year. What I do know is the sails fell off. Somehow the nut holding them on vanished.

All I had to do was replace it surely?

Not a chance. Nothing in the garage would fit, and since this is over 100 feet away from the windmill, I got fed up walking back and forth. Taking the pivot off the front proved to be the first challenge, involving removing more wood and metal than expected. Never mind, it's only 4 cross-head screws.

This is the problem. No nut in my collection fits better - and that includes those rusty ones in Golden Flake tobacco tins. Those tins that just appear in garages and workshops. Well, the sort of garages and workshops I like.

Right, out with the big tap and die set. The nearest to the threads is a 1/8NPT27. I have no little what this means and it does seem to be an oddity in an otherwise metric set. I have a metric set because I have old VWs and if you find an imperial nut, it's wrong and you should throw it away.

Anyway, I ran it down the threads on the spinny bit. I don't care if it's wrong, I just want a matching nut and bolt. It ran down nicely though so can't be very far off. Next, I tapped the nut to match. This isn't pretty so I didn't take a photo. Not sure the Nylock insert will be much good now, but then this isn't exactly critical work.

A washer is a good idea, but of course, I can't find one with a big enough hole. I can find my old tapered reamer and this far it (I used to use it for model bearings so used the pointy end) is perfectly sharp enough to open up a hole in a nice big washer.

Someone will tell me holding the washer in mole grips is bad. It worked though.

Anyway, after all this and a few minutes work with sockets and screwdrivers, the windmill is repaired. The sails spin and it looks lovely again.

I'll probably find the lost nut now.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Pit head, hair spray and wagon chassis building in BRM

It's fiddly N gauge time in June's BRM. I build a very impressive kit from Severn Models.

A 2mm scale pit head - it looks horribly complex, but isn't too challenging to build, even though I decided to do what the manufacturer recommended and use glue instead of solder.

Next, I take a shipping container and make it rusty.

You could use powders or one of these clever rusting kits, but I used paint - and hair spray.

This is a technique beloved of plastic kit modellers but not often seen in the railway world. It's not difficult although certainly something you should practice on before launching into your best model.

I've been out with camera again (OK, in February) to take photos of ByWay MPD.

Always a fan of small and well-modelled layouts, it as right up my street, although the DCC controlled lighting gave me a few headaches along the way. However, it does mean both day and night shots of this lovely model.

Finally, on BRM TV (No DVD again, but subscribers get a link to allow them to watch online) I'm building a 4mm scale wagon chassis.

Again, nothing complex. We are talking a 4-wheel coal truck, but I show how I go about ensuring the model wil run properly with a few hints and tips.

All this and more in the July 2020 issue of BRM - more details over on RMweb.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: British Waterways tug and barge


Another Bantam tugboat - Bittern was spotted in Welshpool a few years ago.

Bittern and barge

The workboat is a nice prototype too. Very modelable.

Work barge

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Considering colour

Thinking about the colour to paint my van in, I dug through the collection of transfers for a suitable decorative name. Ideally, I'd go for a Porche dealership, but the only photos I can find, on VW Type 2 vans, show white text and logos on a blue base. The blue I can do, white transfers I can't.

I did find an option that pleases me however and it needs a white base to sit on. On the shelf in the garage is a can of Peugeot Ice White spray and since it would save me firing up the airbrush then I decided it would work well.

Until I had to decide on car colours, I had no idea how many different shades of paint were available. Hundred of oranges for example, handy when touching up a faded orange car. Then there are whites. When choosing the paint for my van, we went through many options and Ice White was perfect to go with a Rover blue. Pure white was too stark but the not-white (see it compared to a white piece of paper above) worked harmoniously.

I'm not using the Rover blue this time. I can't find it, but I do have some Ford blue which is the perfect match for RNLI lifeboat hulls. I don't have a lifeboat build imminent, so I blew some of the remains of the can over my model bug. OK, it's too shiny and a bit thick, but I think it will be OK when toned down. I hope so anyway.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Beef up those hinges

The resin van body didn't come with any details, so it's time to improvise. Starting at the front, I'm using the Revell bumpers, but with a strip of plastic down the centre and a lot of sanding to make them look a lot less like the Europa version and more like the classic blades.

The moulded hinges aren't really big enough but a bit of microstrip stuck on with superglue beefs them up. While I'm there, the door handles need an extra layer so they are prominent enough. I remember the joys of sticky-out handles that became cold enough to freeze up. Lock de-icer (kept in the house) usually cured it, although I'm told peeing on them would work in an emergency...

Around the back, there weren't any hinges, but there are now. A door catch also goes on. Since I can't find any photos of a van variant that looks like this I'm making the best guess as to what I need.

I don't need a bumper as no van seems to have one and in this case it would stop the door opening. I do need tail light through and so some custom flat ones are the best bet as the slope of the body would preclude standard VW items.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Jesus might save, but this time I couldn't

Soppy Phil sometimes spots waifs and strays on stands at model railway shows and buys them to save the poor model from the bin. 

Two quid saw me acquire this badly built Wills Tin Tabernacle at Stafford I think. My idea was to have a bit of fun with it for the blog. 

Well reader, I tried, but sadly I was defeated. 

Whoever had put the thing together in the first place used tube cement, and plenty of it. All my efforts to gently prise parts away from each other failed miserably. Shards of broken plastic were my reward for the attempted rescue.

Even the brickwork was firmly fixed together - that wonky chimney isn't lose, it's solid - couldn't be pulled apart, and that stuff is usually a bit more flexible than the corrugated plastic. 

So, it's another failed project. I don't feel too bad, at least I tried.

Pity about this as I've always liked the look of the kit. I'm sure there is one stashed away somewhere for me to build properly. I just need to concoct a reason to do it...

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Sit back and enjoy the Isle of Man Railway

Apparently, we all have loads of time on our hands right now, so sit back and enjoy the Isle of Man railway systems from 1987. Professionally produced, there's a lot of well present content and if you know the system, the chance to spot how things have changed in three decades.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Back in steam

Ragleth and controller

One benefit of clamping those rails together is that my live steam Ragleth can finally have a run on my railway. In the nearly 2 years I've owned it, the model has been in steam less than 5 times because I simply haven't had anywhere to play. 

Anyway, all this can now change. Well, it could as soon as I changed the locomotive gauge anyway. 

If you can wield an Allen key (I always have to look up that spelling) then this is easy for an Accucraft loco. Undo the bolt, wiggle the wheel and move it so the hole lines up with the deep dimple on the axle. No need to use a back to back gauge. The wheels did take quite a wiggle, but I suspect that's down to them not being changed for years. 

On the track, I fueled it up with gas and boiled but cooled water. Then I lit the burner through the smokebox door and waited. 

Sometime later, I realised that the sound I heard was gas coming out, not the burner burning. Once you know, it's obvious, but as I say, it's a long while since I steamed anything. The sounds aren't that different anyway. 

Burner lit, steam pressure was raised and off we went. Ragleth will hurtle around when not hitched to a train, but proved with a bit of practice to be reasonably controllable, even for a novice. 

There is a definite gradient at the back of the circuit which could really do with some adjustment, but it kept me paying attention, even if it did make single-handed filming tricky. You need enough speed to get around, but that means the scenic bits are covered faster than I'd like. 

I also need to get control of the burner. Accucraft locos are notorious for having the paint burned off the smokebox door by newbies winding the fire up to full power. I found that the amount of gas required was tiny and turned it off a couple of times trying to reduce the flow. As I say, I'm still learning. 

Anyway, a happy hour chuffing around. Next time I'll add a train to the mix. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Garden Rail - June 2020

The joys of the current situation meant assembling the June issue of Garden Rail was more interesting than normal. I like to have all the content pulled together by the time an issue hits the depleted supply of newsstands, but this time things were chopping and changing right up to the dealdline.

Not that this means a duff magazine, far from it. The contents are as packed as ever, but with everyone having time on their hands, I've taken a bit of the risk. The lead layout is a wordier piece then normal, with some slightly contentious views on the hobby. All nicely put across, but the author has gone through a re-assessment of his hobby over the years and explains his current philosophy.

Is more text a good thing? Well, we'll see. People often say they want more words, but bigger pictures seem to be better for casual sales. Time will tell. Having said this, digital edition readers will receive more photos as we expand out electronic offering in the same way as we've done with BRM. Very much toe-in-the-water time at the moment, but with readers all over the world and the cost of shipping paper being what it is, it might be the start of something. Magazines have to evolve anyway, so why not?

There's plenty of practical content too with church building, a stunning rail-lorry and help filming your layout plus many others.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Mick's Tug Services

Micks Tug Services1

An old photo dug up from some recovered images. I might even have posted it on here before, but I think it's worth another airing. (Actually, I did)

Mick's Tug Services operates a mobile engineering service and seems to be a fleet (another photo here) or interesting and very modelable vessels. 

While I'm not really taken by narrowboats in model form, to me they look odd on the pond out of the confines of the cut, I can see this one on the list to build one day either in radio control or 4mm scale form. 

The tug makes several appearances online - here and here.  

Is it cut down from a longer boat, or made especially short? I don't know.

Micks Tug Services2

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Test fit

Held together with Blu-tack, I think this is going to work. The resin body is a little precariously balanced on the Revell chassis, but with a bit of bodgery involving nice, thick epoxy glue, I think the two can be held together.

The Airfix kit wheels fill the wheel arches nicely enough ad look right to my eyes. Things will be even better with proper hubcaps fitted. Revell axles can just about be forced into the centre holes. A bit crude, but I can't be bothered to build a full front beam - the body kit isn't sharp enough to justify that. I'd only end up making my own using the kit body front and this is to be a quick project!

Inside, the four-seat body will need a bit of trimming. I'm not sure what goes in the back of one of these things, but I doubt you can see much through the windows anyway. The seats are wrong, those are from the 1970s and only the racier versions of the car, but I can modify them.

Talking of windows, fitting the one from the kit looks to be the most painful job, but as the Beetle has very nearly flat glass in the front anyway, I can trim some clear sheet to do the job with a bit of luck.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bug bodies

Looking for a fairly painless project to take my mind of Covid worries, I pulled a plastic kit box out of the cupboard. Inside were this collection of 1/32nd scale VW Beetle bodies.

From left to right: Resin van, Airfix bug, Revell bug, custom bug.

I've fancied building a Beetle van for years and when I spotted this resin kit, snapped it up.

VW never made a van version of the bug, but several coachbuilders did and there has been at least one custom kit offering fibreglass joy for anyone happy to hack the back off their car.

VW van

One problem any builder faces, and the reason VW didn't bother, is that the engine is still correctly at the rear, messing with loading through the back door.

Beetle van

And I know someone out there is shouting "Fridolin" but we will ignore them as it's not pure Beetle.

Anyway, the resin body is designed to fit the Revell VW Beetle kit which I happen to have handy. The only issue with this is that the wheels are trendy alloys, and in my mind, I'm building a period car.

No worries, as the Australians say, in the box is an Airfix Beetle kit too and I think I can nick the wheels out of this. That kit is destined to be a donor for the custom bug also shown above. That one is a nice moulding, complete with a bonnet air scoop presumably for a V8 at the wrong end of the car. However, it would look better sat on some fancy-pants alloys so a swap is in order.

All I need to do is work out if this all goes together.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Book Review: Edd China Grease Junkie

If you are a fan of the TV show Wheeler Dealers, you'll probably have enjoyed all the car-fixing spanner action performed by Edd China. Last year, he was unceremoniously replaced on the show and suddenly found himself with time on his hands - part of the reason this book has appeared.

In an audience-pleasing manner, leaving the show is covered at the start. Let's face it, that's one of the reasons many people will have bought it. But then it turns into an autobiography taking the young China through school days and into the world of making weird vehicles.

I'm always interested in people who make things so I enjoyed this a lot, especially as the earliest tinkering involved old Volkswagens and a very amenable mother who put up with some serious junkyards in the front garden. Unsurprisingly, the neighbours weren't quite so keen!

China's fame came largely from one project - a motorised sofa. This found a life as a promotional item and from there grew a dream job building oddball vehicles and other effects. From there he became involved with TV and film, the rest is history. 

Probably my biggest surprise was just how much TV he had done before Wheeler Dealers. Watching repeats of the very first series, you can see how much it developed compared to the later shows. Obviously, the budget increased, but the quality and slickness of the filming improved and Edd's presentation skills came on too.

Despite this, he claims to be uncomfortable in front of crowds, getting past this by thinking that they are looking at the project he's demonstrating rather than him. In the early days, that might have been the case, but not so now! I readily identify with being happy to talk about what I've made rather than me however, although I don't have a problem with public speaking.

If you are looking for a lot of behind the scenes gossip from Wheeler Dealers, you'll be disappointed. We hear about some of the cars, some of the problems with the spannering, but very little of the personalities involved. The early days are a bit vague and I couldn't work out if he and co-host Mike Brewer actually like each other. The bonhomie on-screen came across well, but there isn't much mention of him in the book. Maybe there was a restriction from the American lawyers for the company that now makes the show. Maybe Edd doesn't wash dirty linen in public. Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there.

The book is an enjoyable read, I finished it in a couple of days. If you think what you see on telly is as easy as it looks, you'll get a bit of a wake-up. If you need a bit of inspiration to follow a dream and understand that it is possible to end up doing work you enjoy, but nothing that a school careers expert would have ever heard of, this is it.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


Get your best nutty slack out and fire up those steam engines - it's the #twittersteamrally today on Twitter and Facebook (I assume twitterandfacebooksteamrally was just too long).

To quote Pope Anthony Coulls, the mastermind behind all of this:

As the Coronavirus situation continues, so many of our regular steam and vintage events have been curtailed. My youngest daughter came up with the idea of a virtual steam rally, initially on Twitter, along the lines of the TwitterModelTrainShow last month. Not everyone is on Twitter, so here's a group we've created to allow more people to share their engines and vintage kit large and small on 9th May.
Photos, videos, live streaming, let's get it on here. Bring your own beer, chips and doughnuts and we shall enjoy our wonderful hobby hopefully across the world in our gardens, yards, fields and sheds! 
You can visit on Facebook or Twitter. Toot toot!

Friday, May 08, 2020

German or American?

9518 Front

You can't take my dad to a model railway exhibition - at Leamington, he decided that my inheritance should be spent on this Playmobil G scale locomotive. 

It's an interesting model. As far as I can tell, Playmobil 4052 is a pastiche of a typical German freight locomotive and I'll admit I like the look of it, a kind of cartoon loco.

9518 Rear 
 But, this model has "Pennsylvania Railroad" on the tender. It seems this is the loco from the 4031 Steam Freight Train set where it masqueraded as an American loco along with a pair of cattle cars and some little, plastic cowboys. 

Looking around on-line, I think my father was unexpectedly canny. Prices for this model, especially in good condition, are around twice what he paid. However, this is very much not for sale. A quick test on some Playmobil train set track on the living room floor (yes, we have a new train set, that's for the future) showed it's a terrific runner. 

Out in the garden, it looks even better. Those LGB underpinnings (the tender is on a de-motored standard 4-wheel loco chassis) are silky smooth and despite simplification, the waggly bits look pretty good. 

OK, it's not finescale by a long way, but as a fun model and at 60cm long in total, not a huge one, it's nice addition to the fleet.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Lockdown Project: Rail clamps

I've never run the garden railway as much as I should. Starting any session always involves messing around chasing fishplates that aren't conducting electricity, or LGB track sections that have magically disconnected themselves.

The worst area for this is along the back of the oval. Fixing this involves crawling between fence, pond, pear tree and rose bush. Basically, a whole load of no fun.

So, last year I bought some rail clamps. And because I now have plenty of time, I fitted them.

The track was lifted, fishplates were brutally removed with pliers and the rail ends polished with Brasso using a Dremel and felt pad. The shiny metal was cleaned with Cillit Bang and loads of water as the polish can leave a coating.

Then I clamped up 5 ft sections, carried them to the site and joined everything up again.

Only the difficult to reach areas have been done so far, but the results were impressive - trains ran straight away - so if expansion in the sun isn't too much of an issue, I'm going to do a lot more.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Barge and pusher tug

Barge and pusher tug

An interesting combination here - a pusher tug and barge on a British waterway. 

I can't remember taking this photo and found it in the stash of images from an old hard drive crash recovery. The tug looks like a Bantam to me but those weren't pushers - were they?

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Painting and lining

Paint time. The shell was primed using some etch UPol stuff that decided to dry with the texture of fine sandpaper on the roof. The sides were OK especially after a coat of acrylic followed by some Humbrol Clear.

The good news is that my airbrush is playing ball. I really thinned the paint with cheap car washer fluid (a trick from the military modellers) far more than normal and it flowed perfectly. The Clear was used neat and again, worked well. The finish isn't gloss by any means, but a nice eggshell.

Then it was transfer time. A fresh packet of lining from Fox and the first line went on OK. 

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th broke, twisted and generally behaved hopelessly.  

At this point, I nearly smashed the thing against a wall. It took all my willpower to put it back in the box, tape the lid down, and put it back on the shelf. 

I hate this model. I hate it with a passion. What was going to be a fun project that wouldn't take too long has become a bind. It can go away for another 4 years as far as I'm concerned. Maybe then I'll be in the mood to finish the stupid thing.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Handles on

I have a plan.
I have a pack of grab handles from Precision.
I have some 0.45mm brass wire.
I have a 0.5mm drill bit.

All I needed was a couple of evenings to spend drilling holes and supergluing the brass bits on the side of the DMU.

The job was fiddly and seemed to go on forever, but eventually, it was over. There is a definite reason I don't like building passenger rolling stock. Far too much effort required to fit things that need to be nicely in line or the model will look wrong.

Another handy hint. If your superglue is old and not setting properly, throw it in the bin and get some new stuff. Don't rely on kicker to make it set. I know this, but I never really learn.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Money raised, cakes eaten

Last weekend, we were hard at work with the RMweb Members Day 2020 in aid of NHS Charities Together.

By the end, a lot of people had enjoyed themselves immensely and we'd raised £7919 for charity.

There's not much to add, other than go and have a look at the web pages. Many people put a terrific effort in making videos and taking photos of layouts as well as proving virtual demonstrations. (I've summarised them here if it helps).

While there are people who enjoy being loudly sniffy about the forum, you can't argue with these results. We are all proud of this.

As a part of the process, I had to learn how to tie a bowtie. Education is important, so from the weekend, here's how to make Millionaires Shortbread.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Railway sushi

I can't explain this, other than it's delightfully mad. I won't spoil it for you, just sit back and wonder. Why?

Friday, May 01, 2020

Hornby beer

I've never been one for drinking at home much. Beer is a social thing for me, so pubs, beer festivals etc. - great. Otherwise, I'll have tea.

This has changed with the world in lockdown. I've been enjoying a beer with mates via the Interweb. Trips to the local supermarket usually involve coming back with something interesting and alcoholic in my bag. And yes, I do think it's essential.

The is a beer in my collection that isn't going to be drunk any time soon - a bottle of Blow-Off Steam HPA.

Why? Because it's part of my Hornby collection.

Yes, genuine Hornby beer, not available in the shops. I picked this up at the London Toy Fair in lieu of cake earlier this year. I'm sure it's lovely, but I'll be lodging this next to the giraffe cars in the collection. Doubtless it will be worth a large fortune one day...