Friday, March 31, 2006

PROPper job

Propshaft Collar
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Back to the boat at last.

The next job (I think) is to get the working bits fitted. Looking at the motor I need to attach it to the propshaft using the coupling I bought at the show.

The coupling is a very nice glass reinforced nylon and brass universal joint. It wasn’t expensive and seems pretty well engineered. Each end has a removable brass bit that attaches the motor or the propshaft. The motor end is fine, a collar with an Allen screw to tighten against the shaft.

The other end was wrong though. I managed to buy a part that was threaded. Of course the shaft wasn’t. The idea of screwing the shaft into the collar doesn’t sound too smart anyway – surely it should just unscrew itself when you run in one direction ?

No – it was time for action. I prevaricated for a few days and then did the job in about 20 minutes. Typical. When I think something will be a quick job it takes ages as everything goes wrong. Get a difficult job and it falls together. I suppose I just did the all the planning in advance – yes that must be it.

First the shaft was measured – 4mm. The collar was drilled out so the shaft was an easy fit. Then I drilled across the collar with a 2mm bit and tapped the hole to 8BA. A shortened bolt locks the shaft by locating into a flat filed in it.

This all sounds dangerously like a proper engineering job ! Drilling and tapping things ?

Normal service will be resumed with some bodging soon.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Johnson - Finished

LMS Version
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Now wearing LMS livery, the Johnson 0-4-4 looks pretty smart. Needless to say the finishing was a bit fraught. Transfers wouldn’t stick down properly – only showing when I started varnishing !

Thankfully some Microset & Microsol (never can work out the difference) bedded them down and I made sure the varnish sealed them in !

Getting a good match in sheen between the tank sides and the rest of the body was fiddly as well. It turned out too shinny despite the use of the same satin varnish. The weathering coat had some matt included in it to cure this. A weak mix of brown/grey/varnish blending everything together. I try to avoid the very even dirt that the RTR makers apply. Some of the letters & numbers are cleaner than others – the shed cleaner has wiped them with his cloth !

In conclusion (read back in the blog for the full story), this is a nice but old fashioned kit. If I do another the chassis will be re-worked a bit to allow for cab detail but that’s the main change. The result is certainly a very handsome locomotive and one I’m quite proud of.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mission creep

Mantlepiece Clock
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Simple job, tighten up the screws in the hinge of the front cover of the clock. While I’m at it, tighten up the bent iron thingy inside that holds the mechanism to the front.

Oh dear, the hinge hole is too large for the screw. The iron thingy hole is as well. Typical cheap wood construction.

So I take the minute hand off (remove the bit of wire going through the centre) and then remove the nails that hold the face on. The face comes off along with the hour hand. Then unscrew the other iron thingy and the mechanism falls out.

I glued bits of matchstick into the over large holes and reassemble. The screws and thingy are a much better fit. The cover can be opened without flopping around. When you wind the clock up, the mechanism isn’t wobbling around, something that’s pretty unnerving !

Incidentally, I know next to nothing about this clock. It’s old. I bought it from an antique trader at Stratford-on-Avon car boot sale with the proceeds (£26) of my one and only lottery win ever. It keeps good time since I extended the pendulum – presumably the one that can with it wasn’t original. If you are reading this and know a bit about clock history, please stick something in the comments to enlighten me. Thanks

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


BR Johnson
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
What is wrong with this model ?

Simple – if you look at the tank sides it has a BR “Lion on a unicycle” badge. Of course if I had read the letter properly, I was asked to put LMS on it.

Still, at least I got the colour right…

Monday, March 20, 2006

Digital TV and model railways don't mix

0-4-4 Chassis
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The Johnson 0-4-4 is nearly finished. In the photos you can see the chassis which has been painted black and then cleaned to remove paint from the electrical bits. Then it was weathered and cleaned again.

The problem is that if I test it, it screws up the signal for the digital telly in the lounge. The aerial wire from the roof passes within 3 feet of the test track. When I run the loco, the motor is giving off enough radio signals to disrupt the relatively weak digital reception.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this problem. A few years ago I bought a digital walkman. I sometimes used it plugged into my stereo so I could list to Radio 7 without headphones. But if I ran a loco, bye, bye signal.

OK, as I’m outside the M25 by a long way the signal will be rubbish but you’d have thought it would be stronger than that produced by a little motor. There are many regulations regarding electrical interference for domestic equipment including RTR model railways but I wonder if this will prove to be a bigger problem. Does the washing machine stuff the signal ?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Grey Matter

Primered Loco
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
I love the first coat of primer. Bringing all the colours of a model together allows you to get a better idea how well the model has gone together.

I like to use an etching primer on brass models. The stuff you get from Halfords these days is too wimpy, falling off the metal at the slightest opportunity. Small car accessory shops used to keep cans but even they now stock acrylic paint for safety reasons. My can comes from Frost auto – a classic car restoration specialist. At a tenner a can it needs sparing use but after 5 or so locos there’s still plenty to go.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Loco top

Top of loco
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
More progress on the Johnson. The re-shaped dome is fitted. It looks OK and thanks to a serious enlargement of the hole on the boiler, it’s upright.

Plastic rod and tube has furnished some safety valves and one or two other parts. All that’s left is to make the push-pull gear for shown in one photo attached to the smokebox. All I have to work from a single muddy picture so fidelity will be limited. Despite hours of digging through my books and magazines I haven’t been able to find a better shot.

This ought to mean that no-one else can criticise but that never seems to be the case ! Mind you, once in the context of a layout I doubt it will show. Stick the loco on the head of a train and watch it strut its stuff and you definitely won’t.

Power indicator - finished

Finished power indicator.
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Just to show you that I do manage to finish some projects in a reasonable time, he’s the power indicator mentioned a few days ago.

I ended up taking the device apart far more than intended in order to clean the insides out properly. Rust was emery papered off the spindle the arrow hangs from. Then it all went back together in the way that as any properly over-engineered item can – beautiful.

The Bakelite case cleaned up with Brasso to a high gloss finish. Fortunately the glass was intact so I didn’t have to try and work out it’s removal.

A burst of 12V DC flicks the needle over nicely. Reversing the polarity and giving another burst flicks it back the other way. Not how I thought it would work but it does work so that’s all that matters.

The next job will be to mount it on a board and wire it up. I’ll make a 550V DC warning sign as well. This all has to wait until the layout comes out again so I can measure the space available on the fiddle yard front. These board are currently wrapped up in the shed and it’s too cold to go and get them at the moment !

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Craftsman MR/Johnson 0-4-4T kit

Johnson Loco
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Since I had a spare day off on Friady, I thought I’d crack on with a project I’ve had hanging around for a little while.

I’d been asked to build a Craftsman kit for an ex-LMS Johnson 0-4-4T. The intention is to produce a locomotive as used in the later years of the Somerset & Dorset railway.

Craftsman kits are pretty user friendly. The photo shows about 15 hours fairly concentrated work. The chassis runs and just needs the brake gear painting. The body lacks dome, cab roof & safety valves. Most of the underframe is tab and slot construction, which means it goes together fast and accurately. Because of its origins in the 1980’s something like an XO4 is meant to provide the motive power. I’ve used a DS10 and gearbox which is big, but not as big. Nothing in the way of cab details is provided – which isn’t that obvious but a modern kit would do the job better.

The model is supposed to have a square topped firebox. The kit makes allowance for this in the cab front – but nowhere else. Scratchbuilding the firebox top isn’t too tough but turning the dome supplied into the dome required is less easy. Worse, nothing is provided for safety valves if you are building the modern (!) prototype so a bit more scratchbuilding is needed since I’m not off to a show in the near future where I can source some castings.

So far I’ve enjoyed this as much as any kit from this manufacturer. They go together pretty well and are well suited to the beginner (not this one – weird weight distribution, do the 02 diesel instead) to etched kits.

A word of advice though – if building a part built kit such as this was – watch for superglue. Heat this up with the soldering iron and very pungent mix is released which makes your eyes water !

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Saturday fun and cold feet.

L&WMRS Clubrooms
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Many of my recent Saturdays have been spent on a full size modelling project. Building our railway club’s new premises.

The new premises are in a farm building south of Leamington Spa. It was a drying shed. Now it’s (nearly) one of the best clubrooms in the UK.

After several months of work we’ve built new inner walls. The space (3000 Sq Ft) has been divided into a large layout room, smaller library, kitchen and two toilets. Guided by people who know what they are doing (thanks Dave & co.) we have learned how to put up plasterboard and the insulation behind it, hang a suspended ceiling and loads of other proper building jobs.

Progress has been taking place on Saturdays and Thursday evenings. Some time it has been so cold that the paint wouldn’t dry and plastering was a no-no.

Slowly the new premises have emerged. We are all really pleased with what we see. A lot of this is because we built it ourselves. Amateurs, people who have never wielded a block cutting device in anger. It’s ours. We enjoyed working as a team to achieve this.

In a few months time all the pain and frozen feet (we’ve insulated the floor) will be forgotten. Normal service will resume as the layouts emerge from their current coverings.

There will be some changes. No more washing up of mugs thanks to the donation of a dish-washer. No cleaning brushes in the kitchen areas either as we have a “dirty” sink. Plenty of space for the magazine and book collection and comfort for those of use who go along to drink tea and chat.

Mind you, there is still a little way to go and a few more Saturdays to be sacrificed. Good fun though.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fixing a Signal Instrument

Signal Instrument in bits.
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
It’s amazing how problems hide themselves to pop up when you least expect it.

I recently bought a power supply indicator. The device had (apparently) come from a signal box. My plan is to use it on the Hospital Railway to indicate when we are about to run the electric loco. If this doesn’t work, because of its signalling origins I’m sure someone will give me more than the fiver I paid.

The only thing really wrong with it was that the indicator arrow was scruffy. A touch of paint would cure that, or so I naively thought.

Taking the instrument apart, the arrow is not only missing paint, it appears to have corroded as the surface is rough. I start rubbing this down very gently and bad things happen. The arrow bends. In fact it tears a little. Oh dear, or words to that effect.

A bit more sanding and I have two bits of arrow. One half of the head has fallen off as well.

In the end I had to work out how to remove the arrow (take off the top pivot support, then grip under the arrow with small pliers and unscrew the nut on top with another pair) so I had all the bits on the bench.

While I did think about making a replacement with some thin nickel silver but decided instead to stick the bits to some 10 thou plasticard, carefully arranging them so the arrow was whole. The metal is very thin and sticks to the plastic with superglue. The plastic was trimmed back so it didn’t show and the arrow filled where the original tear was.

Now painted with black paint (matt followed by a gloss coat) the arrow looks as good as new. All I have to do now is put the thing back together. It better work after this.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

In a bind

mrj binders
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Not much modelling happening this week. Thanks to a lucky purchase at a recent show, I am the proud owner of 12 Model Railway Journal binders. Proper ones last produced in the 1980’s as far as I can tell. They fit the magazine perfectly (for those who don’t know it’s somewhere between A4 and A5 in size), much better that the generic magazine binders you can buy from Rymans.

Putting magazines in binders is suprisingly satisfying. Turning flimsy, disposable publications into something approaching proper books is great fun. Mind you, it seems to involve reading lots of long forgotten articles so it takes ages.

Of course my recently(ish) complete run turned out to be less complete than it should have been. Issue 49 eluded me. I managed to get a replacement from Tony Pollastrone Railway Books in a couple of days. Cost was a fiver including postage, which isn’t bad. MRJ back numbers usually command a premium over the cover price.

So I will be back binding the issues. Of course I don’t have enough for all the mags. If you are sitting on any unused binder. Please do get in touch.

Now all I need is the oak panelled library to store them in…

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Barcaly runs

Barclay earning its keep
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of any of my locos is when they appear in front of the public at a show. The Barclay has now been well and truly covered in custard.

I had the “opportunity” to help Chris Mead with Overlord at the Abingdon show on Saturday. Since this kit was designed for this layout – the loco was the first hauled up the beach on D-Day so what better for a layout depicting the build up to D-Day – it seemed appropriate that it gets the dubious honour of hosting the first proper run. Of course it was the first chance I’d had to run it on any layout since I’d finished painting which influenced my decision.

Happily it worked OK. It certainly looks the part running around with the rods whirring. A bit more weight would be a good idea as some of the Overlord trains are a bit heavy. I had to remove the last guard iron as it hit the plasterwork that inlays all of the track.

One of the coupling bars fell off but superglue sorted this. Blowing on it made it dry faster (superglue dries by reacting with moisture so breathing on it make it work quicker) but blew a spot onto the body. Wiping this gave me a shinny section on the back of the cab. A bit more weathering will fix this.

Apart from this, even running the model in front of a few thousand people didn’t make it break, so, it can go into the stock box. Most importantly the leftover bits can go in the bin or parts store –something I’m not very good at as boxes full of leftover bits testify.

Finally, the workbench can now be brushed down and a new project broken out.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Quick glazing

Glazed Windows
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker.
Despite appearances to the contrary, I don’t have all day to build models. My boss thinks I should turn up for work occasionally and there is always the demands of eating and sleeping etc.

Sometimes I have to steal a few moments to do little jobs. In this case, glazing the cab windows of the Barclay.

I use Micro Krystal Clear for jobs like this. It’s quick, clean and easy to use. Pick some up on a cocktail stick and whirl it around inside the window frame to form a skin. Leave it to dry, preferably horizontally and you have a nicely glazed window. The setting time is usually a few hours – or if your bottle is going off as mine it – about 2 days for a fully dry pane.

These windows were glazed over 3 days in a few minutes before leaving for work. Not a bad idea as you don’t want to handle the model while the glazing drys. By the time I get back, it’s dry enough to do the other side.