Friday, July 31, 2009

Garratt kits

Garratt kits
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Yes, that's right - KITS. Two of 'em. in 7mm scale. And I have to build them in a hurry.

Months ago I agreed to take part in the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry "Garratt 100" event which takes place on 14th August. The idea was that I'd sit at a table with the O gauge Garratt I built a few months ago and demo building another one. Nice an simple.

Then the organiser bagged the built model for use on a layout. So I have to get another one finished for the demo table.

Then Gorton Church, built by Mr Beyer, decide they want a model for a case for the event and afterwards. So I have to build them one and another for the table.

So apologies, the next few weeks are going to pretty Garratt heavy. I'll try not to repeat myself, and promise to chuck in a few of the standby posts I have in reserve. In the meantime, a hot soldering iron is calling...

Garratt rear

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Model photography

I'm not a happy bunny. Things are not as they should be.

The cause of my angst ? My new compact camera.

A few weeks ago my old compact, a Fuji F460, started to die. First a few of the buttons on the back stopped working. Then all of the buttons on the back stopped working. Finally the lens cover stopped closing. All of which was a shame because I liked my little camera. It had done me some good service and worked very well.

Anyway, I dived into the world of cheap(ish) digital compacts. I discovered that there is no point going to a shop. Camera shops don't do anything below £140 and the big stores might have a model or two but can't demonstrate it or even tell you as much as the web site. However, browsing the Currys catalogue I spotted a Fuji A100. The only on-line review I could find said nice things and I generally like Fuji cameras so I flashed the virtual plastic and it arrived today.

Out of the box it seems OK. I took a few photos and they worked. Even the cats deigned to pose, well sleep anyway. Then I wondered how the 10mp A100 compared to the 9mp 9500S - the "proper" bridge camera I use for magazine work.

The results are scary.

Wagon comparison

Click on the photo for a bigger image

There is very little difference between the two. Now I've always been very happy with the 9500S but it seems that a tiddly compact can do nearly as well. I thought the point was that the compacts smaller CCD Chip would mean noisier photos ?

OK, so the bigger beast can still do more - I can have 80ASA and long exposures for plenty of depth of field for example. The compact can't auto expose as well. And for what I laughingly refer to as studio work, it's a lot easier to use with a flip up screen and proper zoom. And it handles like a proper camera should do too. If only it had the weight of my old Zenith I'd be really happy.

But the results speak for themselves. A compact can do a good job. And that just doesn't feel right.

Puffer comparison

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Posing a locomotive

Class 37
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

The PVA is dry. The grass is still sticking up. Now I can pose model locomotives on my little bit of track.

For a "quickie" project I'm quite pleased with the results. I suppose the track would have been better I've I'd built it from C&L bits so it had rail chairs. Perhaps a little more weathering could be carried out. All this though is besides the point - all I wanted was a display board and not to spend the rest of my life building it. This is the killer for many people - they pick a huge project that never seems to progress. I've always been an advocate of smaller layouts which show results fast. While I love Pendon, I don't have the modelling stamina to contemplate that sort of thing.

And, the work meant I've removed a tennis racket sized bag containing the Maplin fly swat and replaced it with my Ganja Grasser, a tool that will see a lot more action in the future.

Oh, and yes I know the back bogie isn't on the track properly in the photo. I had to re-take it later in the day to do it properly.

Kadet front issues

Kadet front
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Just a quick update on the Billings Kadet build - all seems to be progressing well except for the front windows. These are supplied as a single part in 3mm ply which has to be bent around the front and tucked under the roof.

Trying this with the supplied part it became obvious that this simply wasn't going to work. Not least because the top of the part had to pass through the roof !

To solve the problem, my Dad made up two copies of the part from very thin ply. The first was fitted and then the second added to it. There's still a little filling and fettling to be done but even making the parts from scratch was easier than trying to bludgeon the original item.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ganja Grasser

Ganja Grasser
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Once upon a time, railway modellers wishing to produce a grass effect on their layouts, the local model shop would sell them a big bag of dyed sawdust. Back home this would be poured onto a gluey hillside or cutting. Although the green would be luminous, it soon faded back to a sawdusty-yellow and our hero would just shrug his shoulders and go back to running his Triang Princess. To be honest, apart from a few pioneers, most people were happy with a train set that worked to worry about the fidelity of their countryside.

Fast forward a few years and the model railway world has changed. Now we strive to be accurate in all things. The day-glo dyed sawdust is still available but we also have various grades of coloured and colour-fast, foam. Better still, a few years ago Heki brought out a puffer system for nylon grass. In use you blew the fibres out of a polythene bottle. This imparted a charge to them and gave you nice sticky up undergrowth. The results were excellent, if a little messy in use.

A refinement of this system is the Noch electric grass tool which generates a static charge using massive voltages (minuscule currents though so it is safe) that did the same thing less messily and with even better sticky-upness. The only downside is the price - a Gras-master 2 will set you back £135.

Yes, £135 - that polythene bottle looks appealing now doesn't it.

However, over the mod-roc hill comes the cavalry in the form of the Double O Gauge Association. Among it's ranks there is a physics boffin, who in the Summer 2008 issue of the in-house magazine "The Journal", described how to make a similar tool using a metal tea strainer and electric fly swat from Maplin. Total cost, well under a tenner plus an hours modelling time. It's not rocket science, even though the technology is akin to that used in the large hadron collider. Basically replace the bat with the tea strainer.

Anyway, I made one and used it on the landscape. In use you simply earth the device with a pin, sticking it into the PVA painted on the earthworks, fill the strainer with grass fibres, press the button and shake the "grass" onto the layout. Result - nice sticky-up grass and relatively little mess. A result for science I would say.

Oh, and the artisits amoung you will want to know that I used 2 parts beige mix to one part light or dark green.

Want a back issue of the DOGA Journal ? Try Here.


Monday, July 27, 2009


Ballasting euquipmentI like to leave the painted track overnight as the enamel needs to be fully dry before ballasting. Not just 'cos it's the dullest job on a model railway and I'm trying to put it off.

If you read a layout article in the model railway press you'll find the phrase "I used N gauge ballast as it's finer than the stuff sold for OO" if the writer is a 4mm scale modeller. It's a little known fact that a law passed in 1952 makes this statement mandatory on pain of transportation to Huddersfield for the magazine editor. It's the same batch of laws that require all model bridges to have a bus on them...

I don't know what the bag said on the granite ballast I used for this bit of track but it's probably on the large side in most people's eyes. Sand is actually a good idea as the tiny grains are far closer the correct size. I have some but couldn't be bothered painting the stuff - this is only a background !

First stage is to carefully pour stone onto sleepers. This will damage the paint if done before it is fully hardened. Then I carefully brush and prod it off the sleeper tops and make a nice neat edge. A big brush and Tamya paint stirrer worked well for this. It's not a quick job though, ballasting probably took as long as making the track ! Don't do it if you have a cold either as one sneeze could undo a lot of effort.

To fix the stone I dribble some watered down PVA (50:50 water:PVA plus a couple of drops of washing up liquid to break down the surface tension) in from the edges of the mound. It's vital to avoid getting any on the sleeper tops as you end up with a shiny surface. A cheap pipette is the ideal tool, I know the cliche is an eye dropper but I don't have one of those to hand.

Once flooded, the ballast is left overnight to dry. I placed some wood on top with weights on it in case the card swelled up. That's why clever people use cork on the layout instead of card.

Now granite ballast, when flooded with PVA, will go a greeny colour. There's nothing you can do about this other than use a different glue. I think Woodland Scenics do something but I've never tried it. Plan B, which I use, is to dry -brush the stones with pale grey paint. Time consuming and bad for the brush, but effective, especially on a small area like this.

Anyway, the glue was left to dry leaving only grassing to do. But for that I wanted to build a Ganja Grasser.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Making track

PCB track making jig
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Originally my plan had been to whack down a spare length of Peco OO model railway track on this diorama. The more I thought about it though, the more I knew that I needed something better. Peco products are fine, if you want a quality, easy to use track system for a railway layout then I'd recommend them anytime. For a display piece, especially one intended to act as a photographic background, something better is needed.

You see the RTR track is designed for HO scale railways. .This means you end up with too many sleepers that are too short and too close together. Most people live with this because all the other benefits outweigh the visual disadvantage. Once ballasted and weathered, the track looks OK.

In an ideal world, I would have constructed some beautiful track from individual plastic components from C&L. Sadly looking through my stash of goodies I could only find a point kit picked up years ago on the cheap. Not nearly enough chairs in there.

Plan B was to make tracks in the same way they are made on all the layouts we run - PCB sleepers and Code 75 nickel silver rail. The parts for this came from SMP products - these are now available from Marcway. Although you miss out on chairs, the track looks good and is easy for idiots like me to assemble.

To speed things up, I made a little jig from cardboard. This is nothing more than some strips about 5mm wide set a sleepers width apart. All it does is speed up the initial soldering of the rail to the sleeper. I simply slots these in the jig, PCB sleepered tracksolder the rail and once all the sleepers are attached, turn the track around and solder in the second rail. On a layout I'd do this with the track in position, here I wanted a dead straight section of line so I used a trackseta to achieve this.

Once scrubbed clean with Shiny Sinks, the result is very presentable and didn't take too long to do. Including making the jig, probably about an hour and half.

The track was them laid on some cardboard, to allow me some ballast "hump", on the board. A coat of red oxide primer and then some Precision Paints "Underframe dirt" and it's ready for ballast.

Painted base with track

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Plastered base
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Scenery work is messy. Perhaps that's the appeal - we all have a small child inside us who loves messing around with mud, or in the case plaster, and paint.

Many layouts use Modroc to produce embankments and hillsides. This is a plaster impregnated bandage (the same stuff used on broken limbs) which you wet and then place onto the hillside. More plaster is then worked over this and then it's left to dry, forming a hard shell over the formers.

I don't have any Modroc handy and anyway, it's not worth opening the bag for such a tiny project. Instead I mixed up some plaster and dipped strips of paper kitchen towels in this. Laying these on the polystyrene did the job just as well.

However I wanted to colour the plaster. That way if it chips you don't see white "earth" appearing. Being unable to remember where I had put the cheapo poster paint, I decided to try staining the water used with old tea bags. Not new ones obviously but the old one destined for the compost big (yes, composting tea bags, how very Guardian reader). Dunking the bags in the water made it brown but the colour vanished when the plaster was added.

So I though, "What about adding the contents of tea bags to the mix, giving me texture AND possibly colour". Well, I got texture but again no colour. The texture was small lumpy, not bad but not especially useful.

Then I remembered where the paint was, got this, squirted some in the mix and ended up with ochre groundwork. Much better.

Then on a whim I decided to carry on with the tea experiments. Perhaps sieving tea onto the surface will give an impression of earth ? Not enough to use as a final finish but a starting point for scenery.

Well I learnt a couple of things -
  • You can't sieve damp tea bag contents, they just stick in the mesh.

  • Crumbling the tea dust doesn't work very well either but it works a bit better. I'm still not convinced and only bothered with one side.

  • Cleaning tea bag contents out of a sieve takes forever.

After a day or so drying, the groundwork was painted with brown acrylics to unify the lot, making the project ready for track.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Basic landscaping

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Definitely a job for the garage or at least somewhere you can make a mess. To form my embankments I've glued polystyrene salvaged from old packaging into place with PVA. Basis shapes were hacked out with a wood saw meaning the place is filled with little white balls.

Once the glue had dried, a hacksaw blade carved the final forms out quickly, easily and again, messily.

Now I know there is a solution to this mess - a hot wire cutter. It's the correct tool for sculpting polystyrene as it heats and carves through the stuff like a hot knife in butter (actually, has anyone ever heated a knife to cut butter ? I haven't so I'm just guessing really...) sealing the surface as it goes. Alternatively, for cheapskates, heating a knife on the hob and hacking the white stuff works just as well even if it is a touch more dangerous.

The downside is the smell. Burning polystyrene IS very dangerous. Breath too deeply of the fumes given off and you will die. In comparison the messy balls are a lot safer as long as they aren't swallowed, so keep them out of the way of pets and birds.

No worries for me, I'll be sealing this lot up under some plaster next.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mini baseboard

Mini baseboard
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
For some of the magazine work I do, I need to be able to photograph a railway model in a natural background. To date this hasn't been a problem as The Melbridge Box Company is ideal for the job. However it's only just over 12 inches long and therefore too short for a full length main line diesel locomotive or coach.

Hence my new project - a short length of embankment. Non-descript as possible and as quick to make as I can manage, it's still a chance to do a bit of scenery again to brush up my skills. I can't remember when I last did anything like this as the last layout was ages ago.

Anyway, the "baseboard" for this project is an off cut of 3mm play left over from refurbishing the inside of my campervan. To strengthen this and provide the height for the trackbed I nailed a bit of 2 by 1 ish sized softwood, again another of those bits found in the garage. Still, it feels good to use up some of those bits hung on to 'cos they will come in handy one day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tiny gnomes

Tiny gnomes
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
"What's this ?" I hear you bluster, "I was expecting some high quality modelmaking and you show me Gnomes !"

True, but they are very nice gnomes. The one on the left is just over 1cm tall so they'd be a bit hopeless in the garden but they can teach us a thing or two.

Lets start with the basics - these gnomes are from George Turner Mouldings and are cast in resin. If you've never encountered the stuff before then they are a useful exercise in painting it before moving on to something serious. Fresh from the mould via his stand at a show, they exhibit a little flash which has to be carefully trimmed off with a sharp knife. It's not the heroic levels I remember from plastic kits in my youth, or even certain eastern block kits today, more a few lines that need scraping a little.

The the figures were given a really good scrub with washing up liquid. This removes any mould release still on the surface of the resin. As bought I felt the gnomes were a bit slimy compared to other stuff but the scrubbing sorted this.

The rest is a nice easy painting job with Humbrol enamels. The toughest job is working out the colours to use - my palette isn't exactly bristling with suitable paint as it tends towards mucky browns and greys. As you can see, I just about managed it and very nice they look too.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Diesel Electric Ruston

Finishing the Ruston involved a fairly simple weathering job. First I dry brushed scuff and chips in areas where the real locomotives paintwork would have taken a hammering. The steps, handles and cab door bottoms needed a bit of work here. Plenty of rust and gunmetal paint applied carefully. Next all the rivets were brushed with dark grey (67) to highlight them.

In Gauge 1, even a small loco like this one is a big item to paint. The easiest way to get a overall coat of dirt is to use the airbrush. Some well thinned dark grey followed by dark brown all over the loco made the black paint look a lot better as well as providing a unifying effect to the previous work. Dark earth sprayed below the footplate replicates the sort of muck thrown up from the ground. Weathered black and even some matt black run along the top gives the effect of those mucky diesel fumes landing.

That super gearbox made once aspect of the job easier - the wheels can be rotated without power so I avoided "shadows" that can be left behind spokes and rods after spraying.

Once everything was dry, the glazing went in, roof on and the buffers were fitted. Then the wheels were cleaned and model packed up for delivery.

Gauge 1 Diesel Electric RustonOn the layout, a little more commissioning work was required. Rich added the appropriate DCC decoder. The pickups needed a bit of tweaking and some weight adding. Although the kit makes up fairly heavy, there is lots of space for lead in the bonnet and if your wagons are heavy then the loco needs to do a bit more damage to the scales so it can move them !

However in it's new colliery home, the model looks smashing. OK, so it needed a bit more work than simply assembling the kit to produce this particular prototype but it's well worth it.

Kadet building

Kadet building
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Is nothing sacred ?

At Birdingbury I'd taken along the Billings Kadet kit in case anyone wanted to know how the boats on display had been built. Since most people won't have seen a model boat kit, never mind poked around inside the box, it's a good idea to take one along to help explain things. During the weekend the box was opened several times for the benefit of visitors, so it was well worth adding to the load in my van.

However someone else was examining the kit - my Dad. In fact he had a good look at it and like what he saw. The hull and deck seemed to fit very well. The instructions looked simple. The fittings were nice.

So when we packed up, instead of returning to my kit maturing pile, it found its way onto his bench.

More detailed inspection showed things weren't quite as simple as expected - the fist parts to fit are an inner base to fit all the mechanical bits to, and under this a couple of triangular pieces that fit between this and the hull underneath. After due consideration, these later parts have been ignored, the edges of the base beveled and then glued in place with 5-Star adhesives epoxy. This seems to work very nicely and strengthened up the vac-formed plastic hull.

The deck has been fixed with the same glue. Once it went off but before drying those clips were removed so they didn't become part of the boat !

So, my kit pile has gone down a little and another boat will soon be launched. I think this is progress. In the meantime I will put a lock on that cupboard...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Telford Narrow Gauge Show

7/8th scale Lister
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Time to do the postman's work for him. I had to pick up a couple of kits from Trevor and he had a stand there. A quick look at the map showed the hotel venue was only a couple of minutes walk from the station which meant I should have pleasant day out. It's certainly a more appealing option than driving since my one and only attempt to do this for work years ago saw me miss the exhibition centre and find myself in the Telford one way system. I'm sure part of this runs through Wales...

Anyway, the venue itself is very nice. In fact you could describe it as posh. Plenty to see too for your 4 pounds with a nice mix of small layouts and lots of trade stands. Unusually it is narrow gauge that is the theme, not scale. This sees 009 and G scale vendors in the same area. Not sure is this is better for the later than a pure garden railway show but it's certainly one to look at for the outdoor crowd as the range was as good if not better than most of the gardens shows I've been to for a while. In fact only the 16mm AGM would be better.

7/8th scale we very prominent with a couple of layouts and traders present. The opportunities for detailing in such a large scale are really very impressive. The 6 inch high figures look very nice, if a touch cartoonish, and are full of character. It's still scale where you can model rather than model engineer although there were some very nice live steam locos running around for those familiar with lathes.

In the smaller scales, Backwoods Miniatures have just released a beautiful weed killing train for On30. I had to think very hard about not buying it for the layout, settling for the more sensible option of some wagons. We need rolling stock, not one-off "unusual" items. Mind you that's a mantra that had to be run through my head many times as the temptation was great !

009 layoutSadly my compact camera needs replacing (please click on the adverts on the side of this blog, they won't hurt your computer or expose you to depravity, they will give me funds towards the camera art no cost to you !) so the photos are limited which is a shame as some of the models looked really nice.

On the Black Dog Mining stand it was interesting that the stock on display was O16.5 rather than O9 more normally seen. I fancy a few of his wagons for the American layout in the future. Plenty of detail there. Quite a few ideas too.

All in all and very nice show. Good timing for those who carry on model making during the sunny (and wet !) months of the year, or those rushing to get a railway layout ready for the Autumn !

Telford NG Show Web site

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Inside the cab

Cab inside - front
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Plenty of plasticard noodling here. As I mentioned before, the control panel is an etched part but had to be supplemented with lots of levers 'n stuff.

Most of this is from scraps of plasticard - I keep a little drawer with reasonable sized off-cuts in for the purpose. Some digging through the stores revealed a few packets of micro-rod which looked pretty close to the linkages between the various levers.

The red thing, which I suspect has something to do with brakes, is a plastic disk, bent bit of wire and whitemetal wheel discovered in the "leftover white metal castings I couldn't bear to throw away" drawer. I think this is from the coal tank, it needed the edge thinned and a handle removed. Even then the fit behind that top lever thingy is very tight, probably one is too close and the other is too large.

Cab inside - backAt the back there is a bench and noticeboard. Again, just bits of plastic. The top of the bench is scribed and has hinges fitted. The board has a notice run up on the computer which was taken from one of the prototype photos - hence the odd light areas which I couldn't work out how to darken.

All this of course is hidden away in the gloom of the cab once the roof is on. That's why I can get away with pretty basic modelling as these photos are the only chance you have to examine it in any detail. Despite this it all look (to me) the part and is certainly better than an empty cab in this scale.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Loco in black

Loco in black
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Not the greatest paint job I've ever done here. Humbrol satin black flew out of the airbrush but I think I might have over thinned it a bit. The result is patchier than I'd like and if I was aiming for an ex-works finish I'd at least have looked at another coat once the first was fully dry. Fortunately this locomotive will be weathered so perfection isn't required, in fact it will add to the finished effect.

Transfers are large 4mm scale which are a pretty close match to the ones on the prototype. Good job the real thing used numbers that were small ! Mind you, this was done by a preserved railway so I wouldn't rely on it being right for BR days.

The cab inside has already been painted in 147 (light grey) hence it has been masked out inside the windows and across the top of the cab. I don't mind touching things up but covering black with a very pale colour wouldn't be fun.

Best thing though - those plates which look fantastic against the black.

Oh, and I will get around to painting the brakes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Etched plates

Etched plates
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The makers plates on the Ruston are supplied on the main etch. They are very nicely done but of course, need painting.

Once clipped out and cleaned up I fixed them to a bit of wood with double sided tape. Then the colours were slopped into the appropriate areas. No great care is required, just making sure that the red and black areas stay separate.

Once the paint is dry I like to carefully scrape the raised surface of the edge and text. This won't get everything off so a gentle polishing with a jewelers smoothing stick. This is a bit of wood with fine emery paper stick to the surface and they are available in loads of grades. Mine came from a shop in the Jewelry Quarter in Birmingham but I think some of the model railway tool suppliers also sell them.

Experts will have spotted that the fancy signs aren't correct - the bottom red bit should be oval rather than round. There should be an extra section in the RH bit too. However they look the part and perfection would involve getting some custom plates etched. That costs money and takes a lot of time. Were this a museum piece then it would be worth it but then the cost would be a drop in a far larger bill !

Anyway, I think they look smashing and add a lot to the finished model.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cab interior fittings

Cab interior
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
As supplied the Ruston locomotive kit is a bit sparse inside the cab. A generic console is all you get. Folded up and fitted in place it certainly fills a bit of space, and in a scale where people are happy to run coaches without an interior, is probably sufficient for most people.

This time a more detailed cab is required and some very useful photos supplied. The console is still usable, although it has too many dials. Removing the raised rings would be difficult without damaging the ones required to I've painted them all in. Strange how some had wide bezels and other narrow. Presumably this depend on the instrument. Some push switches were added using microrod to the flat area.

Levers and supports have been scratchbuilt from plastic. Without measurements these can only be approximate but at least they look the part, or will when painted.

At the back of the cab there is a bench and thin cupboard, both made from plasticard. In the end this won't all be perfect but with the roof on and with the model working on a layout I reckon they will do OK.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Maxi Duck

Maxi Duck
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Well, I said I wanted a radio control duck. And here it is.

26cm wide and 28cm tall, this is a man sized rubber duck from Hawkins Bazaar. Doesn't he look lovely ?

All I need to do now is work out how to fit a motor and radio gear. I don't want to cut the top and make a hatch so the gubbins has to go in underneath. Perhaps I could fit a lunchbox on the bottom to keep it all safe from water ?

Watch this space.

Wooden floor

Wooden floor
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
In real life the Ruston locomotive had a wooden floor, so in Gauge 1 the model has to have a wooden floor too.

Modeling wood is an interesting challenge. I've always been very suspicious of the 4mm modellers who insist that only plywood sleepers will do - if you look at the real thing from the same distance as you appear to view it on the model, the grain is invisible. Therefore if you can see anything, it's over scale.

The photos of the floor though, clearly show some grain. I rooted around my bits of dead tree to find something suitable. Balsa is hopeless and it's too grainy and the surface wouldn't look right. Thin ply would have been ideal but all really it needed to be at least 1mm thick and anyway I couldn't find my supply.

So in the end I went for Basswood (Lime to limeys), the ever reliable standby model making wood. Nice fine grain and a good surface with a bit of thickness and stiffness so it can be sliced and laid as a smooth surface. A base of Daler board was then individually planked. The PVA snuck through the joins a bit and even when wiped off obviously remained. The stain didn't soak in quite as well on these but but as it happens they appeared just where you'd expect wear and tear on the real floor from the drivers boots so I thanked my luck and left well alone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


August Hornby Mag
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

"Parkers Guide" in the August issue of Hornby Magazine covers my my build of the Parkside GWR Horsebox kit.

It's a complicated beast - far fiddlier than the van with holes in the side I had expected. The underframe is very impressively detailed and outside there are all sort of bits to fix. Most of the later are in ABS for strength.

I managed to knock a few of these bits off after taking the photographs (well, most of them, at least one is posed so you can't see the missing lamp iron) but an e-mail to Parkside resulted in a new sprue of replacements arriving in th post a couple of days later - excellent service.

Hornby Magazine Website

Monday, July 13, 2009

Birdingbury Country Show

KMBC Stand
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Months ago, this seemed like a good idea - take a stand advertising the model boat club to Birdingbury Country Show. Spend a couple of days showing off some model boats and hopefully pick up a few new members. I've been to Birdingbury a couple of times before and it is a fantastic show. In a tiny Warwickshire village you find an event to gladden the heart of anyone with an interest in things mechanical. Tractors - they've got them by the hundred. Enormous lorries - plenty. Tanks - enough to see off nearby Southam if they are up for it.

The weather didn't look too promising in the week before the event. Worse, I wasn't doing well getting help from other club members. OK, so I have plenty of boats to show but for a proper display you need variety. What we did have was my campervan, an awning with a few holes in it and a paddling pool.

Half past eight on Saturday morning we arrived and set up. The space was easy to find and in a rare moment of driving skill, I reversed the van straight into it.The ground looked flat as was nice and dry. Our awning went up and the holes were fixed with gaffer tape. Finally the pool was inflated. Slowly. Much slower than we expected. And then we tried to attach the hosepipe to the nearby tap and realised I'd forgotten the connector. We also had to share it with those wanting to fill up jerry cans for radiators and caravans.

Pete Jnr solved the tap problem with some more tape but even so the water came out slowly. After an hour we got enough to give about 6 inches depth in one corner and an inch in the other - the ground was less flat than we thought - and we called it a day. My plan was to moor a couple of boats rather than sail a lot so what we had would do for that.

Saturday was most notable for the rain. The Gods had obviously decided we needed even more water ! Sadly the morning was wet. After lunch though things brightened up and a few people turned up to look at the displays. We handed out a few leaflets and chatted a bit and were quite pleased. Pete's radio controlled duck was a great success with the crowds, "swimming" around and quacking !

Sunday was a different game. The weather had sorted itself out and the crowds flocked. More and more people turned up and we discovered many closet boat modellers, including a the man who owned the fairground organ that entertained us all weekend. He is building a Dido class battleship but didn't have a lot of time in the summer as the organ was off to Germany the next week and it's quite a trip in a tradition British 4 axle lorry !

I could of course ramble on about the extensive displays but you'd be better off looking at my photos taken during the weekend.

Highlights: Friendly people. Huge vehicles. Battle of Britain Flight with added music.

Will we do it again ? If possible, yes. You learn a lot from the first attempt. Next year we'll start filling the pool earlier. More boats are needed for the display - 6 isn't enough, we need to be well into double figures. Another duck would be useful too so perhaps that's another project for me !

Official Birdingbury show website

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oily rag

Lady FrancisHere's a Sunday poser for you. How would you replicate the effect seen on this miniature traction engine, on a model ?

I'm talking about the oily sheen with dirt hanging on around the boiler bands an rivets. In real life this is simple - wipe the item over with an oily rag, buffing to a shine. It's both clean and dirty at the same time.

In theory the trick is to work on a gloss or shiny satin paint job. Then wash over with some black, presumably sating finish. Finish by wiping the black off with a cotton bud or similar to simulate the cleaning process.

Trouble is, this never works for me. And I've tried many times. What I end up with is streaky dirt and generally matt dirt at that. What I want is the effect of paint that is being seen through a translucent oily sheen. And an idiot-proof way of achieving this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Buffer beam

Buffer beamLovely detail time. If you want to bring a loco to life, fill the buffer beam with stuff.

In the case the Ruston locomotive, that means buffers (obviously), coupling hook (chain to go on after painting) and the rather nice lost wax casting for the vacuum pipe that I ordered along with the handrail knobs from Tenmille. It comes with a pair of air pipes that are really rather splendid but completely useless to me for this locomotive. Still, the spares box awaits and I'm sure they will come in handy one day.

Another prototype feature is the row of brackets towards the top edge. I'm guessing that these were to hold a shunters pole. There is a similar row on the back. I made them out of the lamp irons supplied on the etch which aren't required for this prototype. A nice touch, they had to be thinned a little but this way you get consistency which is probably more important than precise fidelity - at least these look right and I didn't have any measurements to cut strip to make them any other way.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cab handrails

Cab handrails
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Blooming prototypes. Just when I though I'd spotted all the differences between the kit and the real thing, I get bitten by another.

Someone took it into their head to fit extra long handrails on the cab - all the way up to the top of the door. Why ?

Of course this means that I'm four handrail knobs short. And these aren't the sort of thing available at my local model shop or even from most of the on-line suppliers. I seriously considered trying to fake things with a blob of solder on a stick but decided against this. Mainly 'cos in my heart of hearts I knew it would look rubbish.

After digging around I left a message on Tenmille's answering machine. A couple of days later they called back and I ordered a packet of knobs (only one size available now) and vac pipes which arrived a few days later. Fitting is easy enough as described before. Best of all, when I found an extra handrail on the bonnet there were just enough bits in the bag to do this too.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Plywood heaven

BeforeNot a pretty sight is it ? That's what happens when you set fire to your van and get lucky.

Yes lucky.

It could so easily have spread a lot further and left me with a write-off. And I suspect the insurance people would have said that the damage was my own fault for welding without due care and attention.

Anyway, the plumbing was quickly replaced with some new piping along with a load of silicone sealant. It looks quite, not pretty, but efficient in the photo I think. For those not acquainted with Dormobile VW Type 2's, the mechanical thing in the corner is the foot pump for the sink. I know you can buy electric ones but don't see the point in running the battery down just to get water. Well not until I actually want water and remember how slow the process of pumping it is anyway.

Still, with the waterworks done I started putting an interior back in place. This is a whole lot easier when you have access to the back of the units, but I didn't, so some nice battens had to go in first to give me something to fit the sides and bottom to. The wood all came from Homebase and was surprisingly good quality. The pine was straight and the surface of the ply very nicely grained. In fact the leftover bit found in the garage and used on the base isn't nearly so good and I almost (note: almost) wish I'd gone and bought another sheet to keep the same look.

AfterThe shelf is deliberately short, in case you think I can't work a tape measure, as a cool box stands at the end and if it fitted under the shelf, only tea bags would fit on top. And in a rare moment of cleverness, I fitted the shelf ply under the battens so they provide a lip to retain stuff when I go round corners.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Melted pipe

Melted pipe
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Last year I managed to set fire to my VW campervan. At the time we pulled out the inside of the cupboard under the sink, put out the flames and left it all. Since I've not been camping this hasn't been a problem, just one of those jobs that will be sorted out "eventually".

Well this week eventually happened and so I've been digging into the results of the fire. I knew there was a plastic pipe running along the side and suspected it might need a little attention. As the photo shows, I was right !

Not only is the pipe somewhat melted, it's even got bits of welding rod sticking out of the bend where I had been trying to seal up the holes in the side !

The biggest problem was the quality of our construction of the cabinet - it's too good. Quite a lot of brute force & ignorance was required to get the floor and back out. Putting them back is going to be even more of a challenge, but first I think I need more pipe.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chassis painted

Chassis painted
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
After a good scrub the Ruston locomotive chassis has been primed and painted. Since the model will be lightly weathered, Precision Paints "Weathered Black" was used on the visible parts. Elsewhere normal Humbrol matt black did the job - the later brushes better and I prefer to get a thicker coat on a chassis than that provided by the airbrush. If you look at a real locomotives underpinnings you'll see that they is a lot of muck under there and so sharp detail actually isn't that appropriate !

With paint on, wheels and mechanical bits were fitted and tested. Not problems there with everything revolving quite freely.

Finally the brakes were made up, fun with 4 parts in each including a short wire stub, cleaned and fitted. Carrs Red is the flux of choice from now on as there's no chance of putting this in the sink any more to remove residues.

Of course I couldn't rest a test fitting of the body, just to make sure that everything lines up of course...

Part built ruston

Monday, July 06, 2009

Chinese junk ?

Stripped hull
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
A fair bit of work with paint stripper cleaned up the hul quite nicely. The results initially looked very promising. This Chinese made model boat has a sort of chine hull - around a (obechi ?) keel there is a solid base and then thin ply sides.

The quality of the wood used looks pretty promising and the workmanship pretty reasonable. Exactly what you would expect in any mass produced product - they aren't going to waste time with filler at the price these things go out the door for !

I sanded the wood with both sanding pads and a detail sander. The keel was sharpened Hull endup at the front and made flush at the back end to allow for a single drive shaft and rudder. Things were looking very promising, until I looked at the back.

My plan is to have a copy made of this hull using vac-forming. This will require me to mount it upside down on a flat board, thus the deck has to be flat. This is where the problem appeared. If you look at the photo it's obvious that something is awry. The deck looks wonky. In fact with a bit of examination, the deck is fine, the bottom of the boat is fatter on one side than the other.

It may be that I can sort this out with a sander. Or just stick the hull in the bin and go and find something else to do.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Chinese speedboat

Chinese speedboat
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Damn eBay.

I bought this little boat a couple of years ago. It was described as having a plastic hull, which made me think it would be an excellent project and make a nice little runabout for pool and lake.

Of course the reality is different. The hull is wooden and has no space for a motor or any other bits that need to go inside to producing a working model boat. So it's sat on a shelf while I've tried to work out the next step.

This is my plan - strip all the bits off. Clean up the hull, improving the shape a bit. Then have a moulding taken of the hull. Fit a new superstructure using the original fittings where appropriate and some working gubbins inside.

Chinese speedboat bitsWork starts by pulling the fittings off the hull and stashing them in a box. Most look pretty reusable although a bigger lifebelt would be a good idea. How the Chinese designer thought anyone would use the item supplied is a mystery, it's barely big enough to be an armband !

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Detailed chassis

Detailed chassis
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Back on the chassis, it is time to do some detailing. First I attached the sandboxes in line with the filler caps etched into the footplate. These aren't perfect replicas of the real thing as far as I can see but exactly what the prototype items look like is impossible to judge from the shots I have. Of course under the footplate you won't notice as they are pretty hidden away.

On the test build, the sand pipes were pretty rudimentary. Good enough for the garden but this time I've fabricated something a bit more realistic. Some 1mm wire and small brass washers representing unions so the job. To make sure the "pipes" are pointing in the right direction I test fitted a wheel each time - at which point I discovered that the read sandboxes are too far forward. Desoldering them using the gas torch (they were attached with 100 degree solder so fell off when I got enough heat in the nickel) and re-fixing back a bit appeared scarier than it turned out to be.

The brake hangers have metal plates bolted to the chassis, represented here with plasticard and slices of rod. This covers up the original hanger holes. I moved the brakes a lot closer to the wheels on this model which will look a lot better even if it does mean the wheels are trapped.

Finally, more slices of plastic rod were super glued around the gearbox aperture. Not sure how visible these will be but I know they are there.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Book Review: A Train is for life by Pete Waterman

My first impressions of this book were formed at the Warley exhibition when it launched. The stand was full of people snapping up their signed copies and I just thought it would just be a rich bloke showing off his models and those buying it were collectors who just wanted some association with the most famous railway modeller in the UK. Quite why anyone would want to add it to their library was a bit of a mystery, but then so is Heat magazine so I'm perhaps not that good on celebrity culture.

I should at this point say that I actually like Pete Waterman. I've met him a few times and even been to see and operate his famous Leamingon Spa layout. He's very down to earth and best of all, a very good model maker. His teak coaches are some of the best I've seen. This isn't a case of chequebook modelling - he and his friends actually get their hands dirty. The stock doesn't just sit in a glass case either, it gets used on the layout and you have to drive it. Taking a train of 12 coaches up the back of the model with something GW on the front is a touch scary the first time you do it but soon becomes normal. In fact the whole set up is so normal that you can imagine it's housed in a garage, not a barn, with all the usual garage junk on the ground floor. It's just that Pete's garage junk is more interesting than most of ours.

Anyway, back to the book. Because of my preconceptions I hadn't even picked up a copy for a browse until one appeared in the railways section of our local library. I took a look and immediately added it to the pile to be borrowed.

There's no doubt that this is what is described as a "coffee table" book. There are lots of pictures and not too many words. The photos, are all of excellent quality and in the main, showcase different locomotives. The descriptions are perhaps a touch short, but very informative. You learn a little about each real loco, the section showing the differences between the LMS "Twins" 10000 and 10001 being particularly interesting for me as I will be building a model of at least one of them one day.

The thing is that for the purposes of model making, this is a very useful book. I know you are supposed to return to the prototype every time but sometimes those old pictures are muddy exactly where you need them to be clear to see some detail. So when people have gone to great lengths to do the research, there is a something to be said for using their models as a guide when these locomotives are so clearly pictured. The angles on these pictures are often more use than the traditional 3/4 view from a station platform too.

The prototype choices are catholic with lots of different companies and eras represented. It's not going to be a replacement for proper source material but if you like variety then it has a place on the shelf. All the model making is of the highest quality and very inspirational. I've not seen such a body of work by the countries best model makers in one place before. This is all presented without a hint of showing off, it's just how these things are. How many wouldn't build a similar collection if the funds were available ? Personally I aspire to owning a Guy R William model loco. But then I aspire to owning a Canaletto and I don't think that is going to happen either !

All in all, this is a very good book. If you thing Pete is just a rich and famous bloke who plays at trains then it will change your mind, the title and text explain how once you are infected with an interest in railways it never entirely leaves you - I bet plenty of us know about that !

You can buy the book from Amazon. It would make a great answer for that "What can I get your for birthday/Christmas" question.

Or just borrow it from your local library.

And Pete has a blog.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bonnet attached

Bonnet attached
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The big lump is attached. After a fair bit of heat, loads of flux and plenty of solder, the Ruston locomotive is looking a lot more finished.

The kit is very helpful here. At the front a couple of slots and tabs locate the front in the right place in all directions. At the back the cab front is marked with a half etch line to assist location. OK, I still measured and squared to make sure the thing was running parallel to the footplate side and central, but I could have got away without this.

As usual, soldering was carried out by tacking with the electric iron and then blowing the metal around with the gas flame. The localised heating of the later is very handy - running the solder along the cab front/bonnet top join I could see the handrail knobs starting to melt and take away the heat before it became liquid. Fantastic, and surprisingly easy.

If you are a beginner, it's worth bearing in mind that working with a tiny soldering iron is harder than a big one. The low power version will take a long while to heat up a lump of metal and because it's slow will need to bring nearly all the metal up to temperature. This is counter intuitive - you'd expect to be safer with less heat but in this case you'd be wrong.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Attaching Guage 1 handrail knobs

Guage 1 handrail knob
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Not as easy as it sounds this. A G1 railway locomotive is a large item with enough metal to act as a sink for an awful lot of heat. On the Ruston there's no easy way to get at the back of them either so all the soldering has to happen in the visible areas.

My solutions, which isn't sophisticated but does seem to work OK, is to tack solder the knob in place with ugly blobs of solder applied with the electric iron. Then blob lots of flux over the resulting mess. Finally give this a shot with the small blowtorch.

The torch heats up the knob and surrounding metal faster than the rest of the bodywork can absorb the heat away - something the electric iron can't quite manage - and so the solder metals and is carried into all the places you want it by capillary action.

Result: Handrail and fixing all held in place with no cleaning up required.