Thursday, September 24, 2020

Photos you didn't expect to take


 
When I was at school and considering my future, at no point did I ever consider it would involve standing on a Birmingham roadside taking photos of  double-decker buses passing under a bridge. 

However, I've done just that. Because as I watched them, I realised that there isn't a lot of gap between the top of the bus and the bottom of the bridge. 


A best guess is between 2 and 3 feet, nearer 2. People who have travelled on the bus through Selly Oak tell me it's quite an experience the first few times. You generally wonder if your journey will end in the local news as one of the "bridge slices the top off a bus" stories. 

Anyway, I have a fine collection of photos. The locals probably think I'm weird, but that's just how my life panned out. They didn't tell me that at school.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Why I'm adverse to camber

Time for a controversial blog post. 

A properly made road will have a camber - the slight slope from the centreline to the gutters to persuade water to drain off properly. If you want to know the details, watch this not very exciting video

Since the real road is shaped, the model road should be shaped too. But I've decided to keep the Selly Oak road flat. 

Why? 

Many reasons:

  • Model camber needs to be done really well. On my model, there is a T-junction and a side road as well as a considerable slope. I can mess around with plaster all I like, I think the result will look rubbish because I'll never get it smooth enough to satisfy me. 
  • The alternative method of putting a strip of something down the middle and then bending the road surface over the top is fine - until we get to the junction when it's back out with the plaster to try and blend things together. 
  • On the real road, when you are standing on it, the camber isn't very noticeable. 
  • I want to take photos on the model and the buses should be upright. Real vehicles have suspension, model ones don't. The bus in the photo above might be right, but would look odd in a model pic. I think the effects of the lens are more responsible for any lean than the road too. 

In conclusion, the road will be flat because I believe I can make a good-looking, flat road and I don't believe many people will notice. This probably makes me a rubbish modeller unworthy of owning a copy of MRJ. That's fine. I'm a long way from the world's best modeller. A very long way. 

But I am determined to finish this project in the time available and so shortcuts are going to be taken. If that makes me a bad person, I'm a bad person.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Quick road painting

 

With the road on place made from 3mm thick MDF, I decided that it could do with a quick coats of paint. Noth the final coat, that was going to need some messing around with tarmac colours, but something to seal the surface so it looked sort of OK in photos for magazine features. 

To do this, I nicked a trick from Chris Nevard and blasted away with Halford's car primer aerosols. Using just black and grey, I shot random bursts on to the material quickly so they mixed a little. 

The result isn't half bad. OK, I still need to do it properly, but for many models, this would be good enough. I've certainly seen worse in the past. Give it go, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, September 21, 2020

My standby grass mix

 

Last week I was called on to produce a project build in double-quick time. This involved some grass and so I resorted to the mix that lives in my Flock-It tool. 

The colour is deliberately uninspiring - a mix of beige (Woodland Scenics call it something else, but it's beige) and a mid-green. Plus "bits" that have been hoovered up and dumped back in the hopper. 

This works well as a base-coat, and in the case of my project, was all I needed.There's plenty left, so I know that there will be another lawn or field that is going to get this uninspiring colour in the future.

Does anyone else have standby materials?

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The joy of a Model Railway

Today, we enjoy a guest blog post by James Hilton.


Over the years I have been lucky enough to have had a number of model railways that could be considered (nearly) finished, as in they were scenically and operationally complete, perhaps leaving space for improvement or extra detailing. These have varied in subject and scale, but they have always offered one thing, the joy of just ‘playing’ trains…

Now that might mean different things to different people and I’m not writing about any style of operation in particular, I have built and operated continuous run and more prototypical layouts. What I mean though, the joy that comes from seeing trains move in your miniature world. However, what I wanted to talk a tiny bit more about is the absolute key, accessibility.

My childhood layouts were permanent fixtures, both in outdoor, unheated garage or shed like buildings. This meant that I could run trains whenever I liked, at the flick of the power switch, watching the fluorescent tube flicker on and the miniature world wake up before the layout came to life as I operated perhaps a GWR branch train, modern image freight or North American mega freight. Later, when I re-discovered the hobby in my 20’s I built a layout in my garage again, and this was available to run, whenever I was… did it get used? No, I couldn’t leave the stock out, so it just sat idle most to the time. More recently I’ve build exhibition layouts and micro layouts that live in boxes, these are great fun to work on and build, projects that can be completed in a relatively short period but their storage means they’re just not used, and so as a result there is little joy.

Fast forward to C-19, and I notice the small shelf the length of my workbench, usually filled with particularly completed models, tucked under the current exhibition layout stored above it on a shelf could perhaps be used to build something… a plan was born for a tiny self contained slice of industrial standard gauge set in the early 1980s in South Wales. Progress was swift and I enjoyed building the layout. However the main point here is the joy this has brought… not only do I now have another layout that for all intents and purposes can be called ‘finished’ but, I can leave the stock on it so it is ready for operation at the flick of a switch, like the layouts of my childhood.

This is the key to me, a complete layout yes, but one that is ready whenever the mood takes me, or requires me to run some trains and loose myself in a miniature world of my own creation. Wonderful layouts that are locked away in boxes or only taken out to exhiitonts can be fun to design and build, and do provide the joy when they’re out, but the rest of the time they’re locked away from reality. My latest project shows that even the space starved have room for a project, and even better, one they can use whenever they need. This revelation has changed my opinions about railway modelling and caused a big re-think about my layout plans for the future. I can see a culling of the boxed micro layouts I have built, and a hunt for a home for an ‘always ready’ layout home in my house, workshop or garden. 
 
James Hilton
James is a professional model maker with over 30 years experience, in addition he is a kit designer and has produced kits for Planet Industrials, Narrow Planet, EuroNG and 6point5 Minimium Gauge. He keeps his own blog regularly updated, here: http://paxton-road.blogspot.co.uk 

If anyone is interested in writing a guest blog poston any topic, drop me a line.
 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Do white slot kits sell?

 There's always a discussion in the model railway world about un-numbered model locos. The prevailing wisdom, based on previous attempts, is that they don't sell. 

It seems the same thinking applies in the slot car world. Dave Kennedy, who has worked in the industry for years, explains.

Friday, September 18, 2020

A sunny day at Bekonscot

Bekonscot windmill

 For Friday, a shot from my recent trip to the excellent Bekonscot Model Village. The locomotive is "Bruton" a freelance 0-6-0 originally built in 1949, although re-chassised many times since then.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Garden Rail - October 2020 - Let's build a castle!

 

Garden Rail October 2020

An Englishman's home is his castle, and if he wants one in his back garden, then he needs to buy a copy of October's Garden Rail where we will show him how to do it!

There's also gardening, some Isle of Man action, plenty of construction, news and letters. 

For more details and a full contents listing, head over to RMweb.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Adding the road

 


Now I can start plonking things in position to get a feel for the model. The main feature is the road so this is cut from 3mm thick MDF. I know people are funny about MDF, but it's flat, stable and if thin enough (like this) can be cut with a heavy knife, albeit with many cuts. 

Where the road crosses the canal, it's propped up on a couple of sanding blocks which give a pretty close approximation of the 6ft clearances on the real thing - I had to stoop to walk underneath. 

The track is supported 75mm above the road on foamboard T-shapes for the moment but I'll do something more solid later. 

I've lived with this for a few days, and shown it to Jason and we are both happy. The position of road, rail and canal have changed from real life, which will need to imaginative work later, but it all fits and looks nice IMHO. And if it doesn't well, it's too late as I've glued everything down by the time you read this. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Bolts not hinges

 

Normally I'd use loose-pin hinges to attached baseboards together, but when I fitted them to the Selly Oak boards, for some reason we ended up with a 2mm gap. No idea why, but it wasn't good enough. Maybe fitting a hinge in the corner between the boards didn't work. Or maybe I'm just rubbish. 

Anyway, it was back down to the hardware shop for bolts. This isn't so bad as the boards come with alignment thingies - you can see the spike in the photo. 

Bolts are to fit a 7mm diameter hole, to match the spikes, and I bought wing-nuts and the biggest washers they sell as well. The gap is gone.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Nice, fresh baseboards

 

If you saw last Thursday's post, you'll know that on the latest BRM TV, I'm building a laser-cut baseboard. You'll not be surprised that that baseboard was destined for Selly Oak. You might be more surprised that I recorded the hammering many weeks ago, so the blog is playing catch-up on this project. 

The boards come from White Rose and are excellent quality. Even I can't screw up their construction. 

Both are now marked out in the 6-inch squares of the model of the model. At some point I need to take a jigsaw to the front edge of the left hand one, but that can wait a while as I measure everything up. 

The good news is that the fit comfortably in my workspace, which is good news as I'll be living with them for a while.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A new (Olympus) pen

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my poorly Nikon DSLR and wondering if I really needed to replace it based on the sort of photos I take. 

In the comments, a couple of people suggested I ought to look at an Olympus Pen. Reading reviews, the range appeared to score well for image quality and flexibility. The suggestion in the reviews was that this is a DSLR for compact camera user. I don't have a problem with that. As I said in my original post, I'm no specialist photographer, I just like taking photos. 

I also like interesting things that are a little under the radar. A Citroen Berlingo (2nd series) is a fantastic car for example, but you never see it advertised. They are just popular with those who know how good they are, and when you learn, you understand. 

An SLR for compact users will be an anathema to many "proper" photographers, but I had a look on eBay and found a few to chose from. In the end, £60 bought me an E-PL1 that had taken 572 photos and seemed in perfect nick, along with charger and lens.

Another look and the PL1 is the noddy camera of the range, but if this ever bothers me, bodies can be picked up for under £40, including a red one which appeals quite a bit. 

Anyway, first impressions are good. The camera feels solid. The shutter makes a nice noise. The lens has to be unlocked and extended before use, and it's a bit ugly when not shut up. That's as bad as it gets so far. 

Of course I've taken some photos. You can click on these for the full-size version. 

My railcar in the garden. 

While I was out there, a dragon in need of a repaint:

 

A home-grown pomegranate: 


An aeroplane at Bekonscot on a sunny day:

And a few minutes later, a couple of trains:


All of these were taken with the camera on auto. I had tried some model shots in the booth, but the results weren't impressive. Not bad, just not what I needed. However, stick the camera in aperture mode and the dial on F22, read the instructions to set the ISO to 100 and things look a lot better. 


The Lego train is 12cm long, not that dissimilar in size to this:


No need for stacking there for most uses.The focus lock seemed to work well too. 

At the moment, this feels good. OK, the lens is ugly and composing on the back LCD screen isn't ideal in bright light - but then that's an issue with a compact and trying to gawp through a viewfinder too. The video mode is going to take some figuring out as efforts so far have seen it record when I didn't want it to and not when I do. That's just pressing buttons in the right order. I'm sure if I read the manual again, I'll get it. 

Thanks to those who suggested the Pen. It seems like a good move. The Nikon is currently with them for investigation, but I've hung on to the lens in case I don't have the body back. It's sale will then go towards a zoom for the Olympus.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Daddy-long-legs

One of the weirdest railways was the Daddy-long-legs that ran along Brighton seafront. A combination of tramcar and boat from the era when electricity was exciting and new. Sadly the line didn't last far into this* century, but there are still a few relics as the video shows. 


If you fancy reading more about the line, I recommend picking up a copy of The Extraordinary Daddy-Long-Legs Railway of Brighton by Martin Easdown. 

A terrific volume that is full of photos and postcards that I've never seen before. It tells the whole story from birth to death and I'd consider it an essential buy if you have an interest in the line. 

Buy The Extraordinary Daddy-Long-Legs Railway of Brighton from Amazon.

 

*Update: last

Friday, September 11, 2020

Coal hopper

 

Carnforth coal hopper 

Another old photo from the 1980s and Carnforth steam museum. This is (I think) a hopper wagon that would have been used to transfer fuel from a coaling stage to the tender of a steam locomotive. 

Some types of tub would run out along a short track until they we upended to coal the loco. This has bottom doors, so I assume ran out over the tender, the doors were opened and out fell the coal. 

It's a pretty filthy manual business, which is why the railways struggled to retain staff and lead to the rush to dieselise. Steam locos might be romantic, but I suspect the appeal fades when you are up at the crack of dawn in midwinter to prepare one!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

It's hammer time in BRM!

 

I've dug out the mallet for the October BRM TV session - the baseboards for Selly Oak are built (OK, one of them is) right in front of your eyes from a laser-cut kit. 

Some people will consider paying for boards wildly extravagant, but if you are going to spend money on your layout, a firm foundation for the model will provide better value then another locomotive. Dodgy boards will be a constant source of frustration, so if you are as rubbish at woodwork as I am, it's worth paying someone to help. 

Staying with the laser-cut world, I found a nice kit for a mid-century bungalow. There are loads of houses near where I live that look just like this - but how often do you see them on a model railway layout? 


Finally, we stay with new(ish) technology with a pair of 3D-printed locos designed to fit on the Hornby 0-6-0 Pecket chassis. Both are simple to assemble and offer something different to the industrial locomotive enthusiast. I liked them both and since they don't need modifications to the chassis - if you use the same livery on both, you can swap them over to suit your mood. 



Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Selly Oak - V2

 

The second Selly Oak model spins one of the baseboards 90 degrees to provide a 3ft deep scene that gives me much more road space at the cost of some railway length. 

We've taken more liberties with the prototype - that centre industrial/scruffy space is a lot smaller for a start, and the pair of canal branches are gone. A road runs down in front of the arches, which will be blocked in to provide space of businesses. 

If you look at the third photo down on this page, there appears to be a gateway where I have added one. Click on it for the more modern view and that roadways is definitely there. Lock-ups under the arches are pretty much a given too as well as making the modelling easier and more interesting. 

Another liberty is the addition of a bus stop with pull-in. There really is a stop at this point, presumably for both station and factory, but it's just a plain bit of road marked with an easy-to-ignore pole. We need parking, there should have been more bus space in real life, so we'll fix this on the model. 

All this has changed the angles where road, rail and canal cross each other, but I'll deal with that in due coarse. 

The important thing is this plan ticks all the boxes. Now I just need to build it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Selly Oak - V1


There's not a lot of drawing to do with Selly Oak. After all, the railway side is a double-track line with no pointwork. No need to fire up AnyRail for that!

However, the plan involves several different ground levels and the best way, for me at least, to understand that is to build a model of the model.

Using Daler Board, I created the basic baseboard shape and marked it out with 1cm squares representing 6 inches. 

The plan involves a pair of 3ft by 2ft baseboards. I can't accommodate anything longer and since this model focusses on model buses, the scene doesn't need to be too long. We can always extend later if more train space is required. 

I'm also trying to keep the project sensible. It needs to be completed by the end of November 2020, not take as long as Pendon. With this in mind, the canal is forms the front edge and the massive factory that should be where the viewer is standing is simply ignored. Much as I love an industrial scene, all I have to work with are some aerial shots and very little detail. Besides, there were no buses, so we're not interested. 

The main road runs from the front right under the bridge. A side road heads to the station, it's a bit bigger than real life, but would allow more bus parking. The industrial/scruffy area in the middle needs work, but I've left in a pair of branches from the canal that disappeared around the period modelled, but we can't be sure exactly when. 

Most of Birmingham will be on the backscene, including the famous university clock tower. First thoughts around this are something impressionistic rather than trying to create a photo. There have been so many changes to the landscape you'd be starting from scratch anyway. More to the point, we want the focus on the model, not the stuff behind the railway. 

Why is this V1? Because there's not enough road and bus space. More thinking was required.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Welcome to Selly Oak

  

Regular blog readers will remember that a couple of years ago, I was asked to build a layout for Rapido Trains. The model was shipped (with me) to Canada, put on display and then given away

Well, they are back for more. 

This time, I've been commissioned to build a model based on Selly Oak. It seems that this will be the perfect place to display their growing range of Brummie Buses.  

Because this is all about buses, the main railway feature will be a bridge. The one in the photo above. There will be railway of course and I've been visiting the site to take photos and get a feel for the place - who says railway modelling doesn't take you to some lovely locations? 

The centrepiece of the model will be a chunk of Bristol Road between the railway and canal bridges. You can walk it on Streetview:

 

 Obviously, since this isn't canalview, you can't see the bridge, so here it is: 

 
Very little of the 1970s infrastructure exists. The Battery company (they beat metal) is now a Sainsbury store plus posh student flats. The area beside the canal is being redeveloped. 
 

 (Click on the image for a larger version)

1970? Yes, this is our modelling period. Fashionable and to be honest, from all the photos I've found, scruffy. The canal is still passable, but there will be a lot of static grass action. Everything will be looking run down. The railway bridge isn't anything like as posh, but you can't see it behind the advert for Carling anyway.

There's no need for the station on the model, which is handy as it allows a wider period to be represented. Anyway, sometime in the late 60s/early 70s, the massive station site was rationalised to the current double-track through station. The original would make a really nice model if anyone fancied something large based in the West Midlands. 


So - this is the big project I mentioned yesterday. It's not massive in size, but will keep me entertained for quite a while. Now, where did I put my flared trousers?


Sunday, September 06, 2020

The future of stuff

Crystal Ball Bugsie (9/52)
A perennial topic where I work is what the future of magazine publishing will look like. There is the shift to digital and the move from newsagents to supermarkets for paper mag sales. Readers consume their content in many different forms and in a wide variety of places. 

When I started with BRM, we had 12 magazines a year to produce. And the hordes on RMweb to wrangle. 

Then along came a DVD which has evolved into BRM TV. We upped magazine production to 13 per annum. A few years later, a free weekly newsletter. Then the World of Railways website. Next (for me) Garden Rail. We publish on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. More recently, we ran our first virtual show with another in a few months time. And there is more new stuff to come. 

Once upon a time, a model railway magazine team could sit back and rely on a monthly letters page to communicate with readers. We now find ourselves working with e-mail, Facebook messenger, Twitter and of course, RMweb. 

The users of each tend to be very loyal to their chosen platforms - I keep talking with potential contributors via Facebook and having to direct them to e-mail as the photos they are sending me need to be large for publication, not shrunk by the Zuckerberg machine. Oh, and don't think office hours will do - there are plenty who will message over the weekend and complain when a reply isn't instant!

Add in the joys of Covid, and my job is evolving at a rate of knots. We've lots of exciting ideas floating around and the one common theme is that for the moment, the workload is only going to increase. And I want to grab all the opportunities to get involved with everything. 

Sadly, something has got to give, and that is going to be this blog.

Much as I love my blog, and am really proud of it, the pressure of producing enough material for a post a day is going to be too great over the next few months. 

This doesn't mean no blog - that's too big a step to take - it just means that I'm not going to have time for my own projects for a while. 

I do have a major project starting tomorrow and that will generate plenty of posts, at least initially. Although some of this will be magazine fodder, this forms only a small part of the job. The rest appears on here. 

I'm not sure when the gaps will appear, and it's going to hurt the first time one does, but I need to do this. If anyone fancies helping out with the odd guest post, please let me know. For the moment, I'm sticking this out there so that when there is a post-free day or two, regular readers won't think I've fallen down a hole somewhere. Just hang around and another post will be along eventually.

The one thing I know about the future is that it will be different from today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?*


*Actually, on here I do, but that's another story.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Vintage Wuppertal Schwebebahn ride

 

OK, so we can't travel on the Wuppertal at the moment - not thanks to Covid, but due to some dodgy tyres on the trains. Thanks to the Museum of Modern Art, we can take a trip in 1902 though.

Friday, September 04, 2020

A skip van from the 1980s

 

Digging through some old photos, I find another skip chassis variant - a small van that sat in the entrance to Steamtown, Carnforth, back in the 1980s. 

I'm sure this was a home-brewed conversion and I doubt it was of great practical use, but it looks nice and has probably long since been scrapped.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Big box for a layout

  

While we are on the subject of boxes (see Tuesday's post) I also needed to find a way to protect Furness Quay while it is in storage. 

The problem of old layouts is a growing one for me. I ought to get rid of some, but the Quay is likely to prove useful as a photo backdrop and so while I have it, I want the think kept tidy so it can be pressed into service quickly and not need a refurbishment every time. 

The basic principle is the same as for loco and boat boxes, there's just a bit more wood involved. And some slightly less accurate measuring resulting in a little bodgery with the corner strengtheners to buy a few mm width.  


A little modification was required to fit the fiddle yard in with the layout, but nothing that a few minutes on the mitre couldn't solve, followed by re-fixing the end into the shortened yard. As it was, I didn't need to cut through the track, almost like I'd planned it!

The layout is now nice and snug in its storage and hopefully will be fine in the future. 


Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Basil in a tight spot

Basil in a tight spot 

Canal spotting in Birmingham, I found this bridge with a very narrow section of waterway underneath it. Modern canal boats are 6ft 10inches wide and there was, I estimate, less than a foot of space each side of the boat. 

That's probably not too challenging with a short vessel on a calm day, but a 70ft boat in the middle of a winter storm? I bet there was a lot of bouncing off the sides even allowing for a well practised captain and the shelter afforded by the railway embankment.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Adding weight to Binnie tippers

  

 There's not a lot of space under a Binnie skip wagon to add weight, so my method is an imperfect bodge. 

 Round balls of lead from an old scuba diving weight pack are dipped in Poundland 2-part Epoxy glue and placed under the central spine of the chassis. 

A line of them raises the weight from 50 to 65g - not a massive increase, but it feels useful and in the hand, the model certainly seems more solid. They roll better too, less rattly then the pure plastic version. 

Sadly, you can see the bottoms of the balls, but I'm not going to worry as they will be less obvious once on the track and the dirty grey merges into the background quite well. To be honest, since they stay on the rail, I'm happy.