Monday, August 31, 2009

Now you've made them, it's time to use them...

Tank top with rivetsHappy days. I've stuck rivet strips all over the tank end of the Garratt locomotive. I did my best to follow the photo and the results don't look half bad.

The whitemetal vent stands have, for the first time I've built one of these kits, been put in place. They were topped by more plastic and then the vents. Around the sides are strips of lumps and up the fronts of the stands. At the back - well I don't have a photo and there isn't a corresponding line of rivets on the outside of the tank, so I left them off.

The pipe is simply a bit of wire bent up and terminates in a washer. The straps holding it in place are strips of paper. I tried to use microstrip but the plastic isn't flexible enough to bend around the rod. With a good soaking of superglue I think they will look OK.

Finally, the lifting lugs are made from left over etch. Measurements are done by eye but 3mm for the raise part and the same for the flat bit looks pretty close to me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Channel Tunnel model railway

British Transport Commission Channel Tunnel model railwayLast Sundays' post about a missing model railway concerned a model of a proposed channel tunnel scheme. This prompted Graham W to take the time to send me a scan of an article that appeared in the Eastern Region Magazine (all the regions of the real railway network published in house magazine, a process that originated from thier earliest days as separate companies) that described the very layout I was interested in !

Thanks to Graham I've managed to wear my fingers out on the keyboard and can bring you the following:
Channel Tunnel Terminal – model built in less than four months
Described by A.W.Ashberry

Undoubtedly a magnificent model ! And it shows what the Model section of the BTC Publicity division can do. Three enthusiastic craftsmen from Stratford Loco works lent a hand.
Started at the end of June, it was required for demonstration at the Channel Tunnel Study Group's conference at BTC HQ in October. It was widely publicised on the radio, TV and in the national Press and will be shown at the Schoolboy's Exhibition at Olympia in London after Christmas.

The 30ft. X 8ft. Working mode is of the railway terminal at the English end of the proposed Channel Tunnel and illustrates the principles of design and operation. It shows the essential features of a tunnel terminal but is necessarily simplified and reduced to a reasonable size for exhibition purposes. In practise the terminal will be three miles long and six miles from the tunnel mouth.

Built to scale, one seventy-fifth of full size, construction was undertaken at the Model section's workshop at Stratford Works (ER) in East London. Rolling stock and the miniature cars come from commercial sources.

British Transport Commission Channel Tunnel model railway - track planConstruction of baseboard and track
The baseboard is built in ten sections each 6ft. X 4ft. which bolt together. It can easily be dismantled for transport and is supported on tubular steel legs adjustable for height. The material used is 5/8in. blockboard.

The rails are of nickel silver soldered to metal plates set in fibre sleepers, enabling two-rail electrification system for model railways to be used throughout. By this method locomotives pick up their current from one rail and the return circuit is completed through the other.
Ultimately the tunnel itself will be electrified on the 25kV AC overhead system, whereas the Southern Region is electrified on the 750 volt AC third rail system. Dual voltage power units would therefore be used on through services.

Both these systems are represented on the model but only in dummy form. The pantographs are, however raised automatically and lowered as they approach or leave the overhead system.
The layout is completely signalled with multiple-aspect colour signals which, although working models are not at present wired up. If this were ever undertaken the relay room would be nearly full-size !

Buildings and scenery
The main buildings are constructed entirely from 3/32in. perspex sheet which when scribed for windows and painted provides a quick method of construction in contemporary style. The locomotive maintenance sheds and signal boxes are built from plastic kits. The scenery is built up on wood formers covered with 1/2in. chicken-run wire netting. This netting is then covered with muslin soaked in plaster which, when dry is given another coat of plaster and covered with impact adhesive. A fine coat of sand is sprinkled over the glue while tacky and finally the contours are hand painted with tempera colours.

A most attractive corner of the layout depicts a section of the white cliffs of Dover. A mixture of Scotch glue and sawdust was plastered over plywood formers and then covered in plaster. The cliffs were hand painted and the sea is a sheet of rippled glass over a painted underlay.

Rolling stock
There are five fine models of the Bo-Bo electric locomotives now in use on the Manchester-Crewe overhead lines resplendent in “electric blue”. Also one French model of the BB 16,000 class which hauls French trains on the Northern and Eastern lines. One 350hp diesel shunter works in the small marshalling yard. Eventually there will be a 4-car set of BR electric stock to work along the Dover-London line represented on the model. One train of French silver steel coaches and two trains of BR standard maroon coaches complete the passenger stock.

The varied freight stock includes perfect models of the new Roadrailer vehicles and Continental and British wagons. The accent is, of course on the double-decked car-carrying wagons. Although shown as open wagons on the model, in actual practise they will be covered.

There is also a train of single-deck wagons on which model cars are run under their own power – through an electrical pick-up. They are stopped on their respective rial vehicles and the train proceeds on its tunnel journey. A train returning from the “French side” with a similar load can be brought into the unloading dock where the cars are run off, again under their own power. This is accepted in the model-making world as a unique feature.

Congratulations are due to the designer, Mr Ron Beddoes, and builders of this fascinating model which will undoubtedly be well received wherever it is shown. This glimpse of the pattern proposed for future cross-channel transport will conjure but one thought in all viewers' minds - “How soon ?”


This is fascinating stuff. The article contains many fascinating points:
The track was hand built using an early form of PCB style construction rather than buying off the shelf items. Fibre sleepers are notorious for being affected by changes to the atmosphere so you wonder why they did this.
At 30 by 8, this model would well within the reach of most model railway clubs. Anyone fancy a reproduction as a project ? I wouldn't recomend the blockboard baseboards though if you don't have a club full of weight lifters !
The unique car system looks very similar to what eventually became the Minic-car system. I wonder if one influenced the other ?

But the big question still left is, what happened to this model ?

(Thanks to Graham for sending me this article)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lines of rivets

making plastic rivetsHere's how you get nice straight lines of rivets - use all the bits of the press. That means the cross-slide which has only been out of the box a couple of times since I bought the thing. I mean I always planned to do some scratchbuilding but never quite got around to it. And I know this tool is a bit over engineered for punching out the half etched marks in kits, but then it is loverly to use for the job.

Anyway, the plastic was clamped in the slide, exposing the one failing of this machine - namely the clamping system only works with quite wide bits of material. If you want a thin strip you'll have to rivet it first and then cut it back. Either that or follow Pete Kazers example and make a clamp that fits in the clamp to hold your metal a lot closer to the press and anvil.

The slide advances 1mm for every turn of the graduated handle so that's the spacing I used. You couldn't get any closer really in plastic without the deformed areas overlapping. One you get the hang of it the jobs pretty quick too. I haven't counted how many rivets I made but there will be well over the hundred and every one in place to withing 0.05mm. I don't get any more accurate than that !

Of course you might be wondering why I'm bothering. Slaters do some riveted plasticard and I could just use that. Well, I do have some but (IMHO) it's not as good as my home brewed version. The embossing tool Slaters use is quite small so the result is lots of squares of bumps that don't line up. If I want I could make a strip as long as the bit of plastic.

My bumps look better than theirs anyway. So there.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Riveting plastic

plastic lumpsAdding the rivets tot he Garratt bunker seems, to me, to be a job easier carried out in plasticard than metal. I could cut little bits of brass shim , rivet them and fit in place but I think some of the blending around corners will be easier if I have a solvent to hand to smooth things out. Putting bumps in thin strips only results in mangled metal and bad language anyway.

So, all I need is to form rivets in the plastic. In theory this is possible using my rivet tool so I stick various thicknesses under and have a go. The 0.7mm stuff forms nice little domes with only a touch of adjustment to "bompiness" of the tool. Sadly it's far too thick for the thin sheet I need to represent.

0.4mm seems best but it's a lot more fragile. To be honest this sheet feels a bit brittle and has probably been kicking around for a few years. Tool adjustment is a lot more critical as it's very easy to punch through the thin material. Ideally I'd alter the punch to be less pointed but I don't have an spares, or the ability to make one with a perfectly centred point.

Anyway, now I think I have to find a way to make long thin strips of rivets to go around the bunker edge. If I manage this then the bunker detailing will be easy. Probably.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Underframe alternative ?

bogie & wagon
As you may have guessed from my description of the build, I didn't find the Select-a-car kits to be that easy to assemble. Once I had put them together, although they run well enough, I'm still suspicious of the steel pinpoint axle running in resin bearing. It just doesn't sound like a recipe for the long term use of the wagon on any model railway.

However, someone told me that there was a Bachmann bogie available as a spare that looked very similar to the Backwoods one. After a little bit of digging I tracked these down to the NG Trains website for £8.50 a pair plus postage.

Looking at the photo you can see that superficially the two underframes are very similar - the axleboxes are pretty much identical. The Bachmann one is die-cast and heavier on its own than the complete wagon. It's wheels are 13mm diameter as opposed to 14mm.

The wagon though, has a much lighter look. The tie bar is massive on the bogie and has some decent springing apparent too. Since it's metal, removing all of this to make it less massive will be a challenge. Of course you could just ignore it - I probably will for the moment - but if not it's out with the piercing saw. At the same time the pivot needs to come off as do the pickups for lighting the coach that should be sitting on top.

Mind you, for the money, the bogies are a pretty good thing. As the basis for an otherwise scratchbuilt wagon they allow the modeller to guarantee that whatever the result, it will work.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Inside the bunker of a Garratt

Inside Garratt BunkerLoitering around after the show at MOSI a week ago and wearing an "Exhibitor" badge prominently, I spent a lot of time crawling all over the "William Francis" Garratt locomotive taking lots and lots of pictures. Not exactly holiday snaps but very useful for working out the details.

Thanks the helpful staff, I was even allowed to nip up on the footplate and see just how small the inside of the cab was. It seems ironic that Beyer-Peacock seemed to bless the locos with automatic stoking devices with ballrooms at the firey end, yet when the fireman would be shovelling, he was cooped up in a cubicle. I doubt I'd have shifted much coal before bruising my arms and legs as well as those of the driver through inept use of the shovel.

Anyway, from the cab I could see into the coal bunker. This has always been mystery to me as there aren't any pictures of this area and if there were, most of the detail would be covered up by coal. My modelling efforts have been best guesses with lots of black Welsh gold to hide the errors.

No more though. As you can see, the vents are supported on substantial boxes. There are actually parts for these in the kit but no-one has ever known what they are except the pattern maker and I don't even know who he was. Now I know, I can fit them and the vents in the proper place. Sadly this means I can also see I need to fit an awful lot of riveted material too. And an interesting looking pipe. And the lifting lugs hiding behind the box. Then try not to cover it all with coal.

Still, it's nice to have a challenge isn't it ?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

White ?

What has happened to Halfords paint ? You used to get a spray can with a colour coded top that looked like it had been painted with the contents. Now the caps are clear with a paper label stuck on apparently indicating the colour within.

Kadet is white so I selected Peugeot Arctic White as a suitable colour. Painting something as big as a model boat with aerosol is a lot easier than trying to work with an airbrush, the later doesn't really throw out enough paint. In a perfect work I'd use a paint gun but that would need a bigger compressor and more cleaning up than I can, quite frankly, be bothered to do.

Anyway, you would have expected paint called Arctic White to be, well, white. Nice clean white white. The label indicated that was what it would be. At no point did I think pale beige. Not until using the stuff anyway. At that point of course it's too late, you have a pale beige model (I know, try the paint on a test piece etc. - the can said "Artic White" and I wasn't that fussy or so I thought) which doesn't look any better in day light no matter how much you squint at it.

The box lid didn't help either. That showed a gleaming model with no hint of rusty cream colour.

There was only one thing for it - more paint. Back to Halfords for a can of "Appliance White". Washing machines and 'fridges, that's the colour to emulate. The paint is white but also very runny and took a fair bit of fiddling with, heating and generally messing around with to get a nice finish. Good shine though. But if you scrape your dishwasher, go and buy a new one as this stuff would be all but impossible to use on a vertical surface.

And if the Artic is beige, I feel sort for the penquins.

Monday, August 24, 2009

van front grilleIt's not just modelling projects that kick around for ages, I manage to prevaricate with VW stuff too !

Just under the windscreen on a VW Type 2 campervan, there is a grille. It's not for the radiator, you don't get one of those on an air-cooled vehicle, it's to cover fresh air vents. Behind the grille bars that are normally painted body colour, is a plastic mesh. Ideally this is a different colour, in fact if it isn't, the van looks odd. A bit like when it was painted the spray gun operator couldn't be bothered to take it out or mask it off.

On my van the mesh had been removed for painting. There is body colour inside the vent area. Despite this, the mesh was an odd assortment of colours, mostly light blue but with a bit of white and dirt. It looked horrible. I suppose at least there wasn't any rust what with it being made of plastic.

Anyway, nearly 2 years ago I bought a replacement part to improve the look of the van. I suppose I could have cleaned up and repainted the old one but that's too much effort and for the money, wasn't worth the effort. The new mesh panel has been a feature of our dining room ever since.

But no more. On Saturday I removed the spare wheel, unscrewed the metal grille and threw aside the old mesh. In went the new part and as the manual says, re-assembly was the reverse of the above. Fortunately as I had been in there before all the screws were greased so nothing stuck. I was a good boy and checked the air in the spare (not enough) and cleaned and waxed the bodywork behind it.

van front sans grille

Now, I hope not to being fiddling with the vents again for a while but that might not be the case. Around the opening flaps you can see some while draught excluder which stops the worst of the wind whistling through and into my face in the cab. On the back of the old mesh there were strips of gaffer tape to seal things up further. The new mesh is sans this refinement so if the cold blast gets too much, I will have to do something. Perhaps a more permanent fix with black plasticard would be a good idea. If you don't live in the tropics, this primitive air conditioning is more trouble than it's worth in my opinion.

Still, the job went well and the van looks a little bit kewler for it. Not bad for an hours work.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Missing models - Part 2

Another British Transport film, this time the appropriately (for this blog) named "Modelling for the Future". 8 minutes showing a model of the proposed channel tunnel rail terminal being built.

In 1961.

This means we have electric locomotives in bright blue and lots of stock that looks suspiciously Triang. Even a working "RoadRailer" system appears which Traing offered for a short period. When built, the commentary tells us the terminal will be fed from the A23, not a motorway as the first section of the M1 was only a couple of years old at this point. Everyone working on the model is wearing a tie and something tweedy - not a pair of jeans to be seen anywhere.

This is yet another fantastic model and yet I've never seen it. Presumably the work was carried out as part of the publicity process that lead to the work and cancellation of the project in the mid 70's. 15 years from model to short-sighted political cowardice is pretty good going.

What I want to know is, what happened to the model ? It was obviously quite large and probably not cheap to build. If intended for publicity purposes I assume the thing could be dismantled and moved around. Did it ever attend IMREX in London ? Is it still stuck in the back of a warehouse - or more likely, did it gradually fall apart until abandoned in a skip somewhere ?

More on the film here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stake wagon

Stake wagon
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Thanks to the joys of (temporary) full time employment doing proper webmastering stuff rather than assembling toy trains, my modelling time has been more limited over the last week than normal. However despite my commute and consequent earlier starts and later finishes, I have been determined not just to slump in front of the telly or computer. If I want to keep writing this blog, I need to keep making things.

Now if you are a bit tired and don't have a huge amount of time, in theory there is nothing better than sticking a simple kit together. Since the blog has been full of On30 wagon, and I had one kit left of the three I bought, this seemed the best candidate for this weeks project.

The stake wagon goes together in exactly the same way as the open. Build the chassis and stick the sides on. The resin mouldings for the chassis weren't as good as before and needed a bit more massaging to get them flat. More massaging than I bothered to give them anyway. Needless to say, once I'd assembled the sideframes and wheels, the thing didn't sit completely flat. A quick twist helped a little. A bigger twist resulted in a broken sideframe.

Undaunted, I just stick it back with superglue and since the thing seemed flat I left it there.

Initial painting with pale grey, browns and cream went ahead followed by a decent dusting of talcum powder. The results look pretty good to me and once the wash of dark brown goes on the wagon will look pretty wooden for a resin kit.

Sadly, thing needed a touch more tweaking to sit flat again and when I did this, the glue joint gave way and now half the solebar needs to be re-stuck. I'll do this and even brace the joint with epoxy. Then I can finish the painting, put a load on and fit the couplings when they arrive. You'll see another photo when I do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

On30 tub

On30 wagon
My particular kit was the gondola, or in English, open wagon. To make this, 4 cast resin sides are added to the basic flat wagon. These fit on with superglue easily enough and then it's off to the paint shop.

The instructions dismiss anything other than spray paint for the wagons. While the results produced this way are nice I simply can't be bothered for wagons so it was hand painting for me.

Body colour is Humbrol matt red dry brushed with some of the same paint with a drop of cream added. Inside is a light earth and pale grey mix. This is then dry brushed with gunmetal. Finally, when fully dry, a wash of dark brown completed the work. Simple, and to my eye, effective. Perhaps there will be some highlighting of bolt heads with rust, but I'll wait until I decided what load the wagon will transport. If it's coal then a lot of black will be needed instead.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On30 chassis

On30 wagon chassis
The Select-a-car chassis looks pretty simple. Reading the instructions didn't show up any issues so I ploughed on in the same way I always do - attach one solebar, let it dry and do the other, trapping the wheels at the same time. One surprise was that the bearings for the pinpoint axles were cast integrally with the resin axleboxes rather than separate brass ones. I assumed the manufacturer knows what he is doing but I'm not convinced.

Anyway, I attach the first frame and leave it overnight then I do the second one. Which doesn't work. The axles are far too long. A quick measurement shows axle length 26mm. Between the backs of the boxes is 22.5mm. There is no way that there is 3.5mm depth in the bearings. I played around with a few ideas and then consigned the first chassis to the bin in disgust.

A few days, and a bit of discussion on an On30 message board later, I tried again. Others had made the kits although suspicion about those bearings abounded.

So, on attempt 2 I tired something different. Superglue was spread to hold both solebars and they were both fitted. Then before it dried (i.e. very quickly !) the wheels went in. A bit of fiddling to ensure they revolved well and the splay of the 'boxes was equal and all looked well. In the morning, things still appeared OK and the chassis ran up and down the track freely. Problem solved hopefully.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Select-a-kit parts

In my quest for unusual wagons for the forthcoming On30 layout, I decided to try a Backwoods Miniatures Select-a-car kit. This was slightly influenced by being caught drooling over the range on the stand at Telford NG show. Being a bit bored towards the end of the day I couldn't help poking at them and decided I ought to do more than a bit of tyre kicking 'cos I hate people who spend their time hastling traders with no intention of actually buying anything. Pertinent questions are fine - but you are not the friend of the guy behind the counter just because you came in the door. He doesn't necessarily want to spend hour talking to you, especially when people who are interested in spending money can't get a word in edge ways.

Anyway, I left with three kits. Apparently you have to buy this many to make the economics make sense. I did get a run down of the costs involved but can't remember it exactly now but at the time it made sense. At least I saved postage costs and I had been meaning to buy some for a while.

In the bag are a set of resin castings, some bits of plastic and wheels. All the wagons are basically the same - a flat wagon - with additional body parts to make them different. Instructions are included and for such a simple kit are very fulsome. I suspect the paper weighs the same as the kit parts !

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The only Beyer-Garratt built in Manchester this year

MOSI buildWell, the only Garratt built in the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry this year during the "Great Garratt Gathering" anyway.

For some people, three days demonstrating model building means three precious days modelling time. That is, IMHO, the wrong attitude. Far better to say that if you get anything made at all then you haven't been talking to the public enough.

Well, this weekend I think I managed to get the mix about right. On Friday the frames for the front engine unit went together. Plenty of time spent checking resulted in decent alignment of the parts as far as I can tell. You need to be careful as it's easy to find just over a millimetre of error thanks to a bit of slop in the parts that slot together.

Saturday there was lots of riveting - which seemed to interest people a lot. I could have done with a couple of GW Models riveting presses for sale I think as no one seemed to think the cost too horrific once I'd explained my reasoning behind the purchase. After making metal dimples, I assembled the front tank. Of course I then went out and looked at the prototype to discover the vents were 90 degrees out of correct. Once of these promptly fell off but it's safe in my "little bits" box.

Sunday was time for the rear tank. Three goes it took to get the wrapper exactly right. Partly this was my fault for trying a different method for attaching. Let's just say, starting in the middle means everything fits. Start and then and and the MOSI clean upresults aren't quite so good. Still, I did manage to demonstrate how to un-solder things...

Of course all this soldering means the parts have to be cleaned and here I can offer more advice. Scrubbing them with Shiny Sinks in the en-suite of a Premier Inn travelodge works fine BUT without some washing up liquid to clean them up afterwards, the surfaces tarnish. Bulling these up with a fibreglass burnishing pen works, but wastes a chunk of time at the start of the day. But then we want things to look good for the audience don't we ?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Great Garratt Gathering

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
or: "Phil's Workbench on tour"

For the last few days I've been based at the end of the Mercian Model stand situated in the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry for the "Great Garratt Gathering". This event celebrated the production of the first Beyer-Garratt locomotive in 1909.

Part of the event involved bringing together as many Garratts as possible so we were in a room with lots of them - and since Trevor (Mercian) currently produces a kit for William Francis, and I have built a couple of these, we were invited along too. This was especially useful as William Francis had been hauled out of Bressingham Museum and brought to its birthplace in Manchester.

At the moment, I'm still feeling a bit boggled from the weekend - suffice to say is was very busy. The crowds we interested in what I was doing - so much so that on Saturday I looked at my watch and saw 11:15 and thought, "Must think about getting some lunch soon" and the next time I saw it was 2:35. Good job we'd had a big breakfast !

The crowds were my favorite sort, not full of model railway enthusiasts but made up mainly of normal people. Even better, normal people with well behaved and polite children. This meant questions rather than challenges about the placing of rivets. Fascination that anyone makes things any more and some ego boosting compliments about my work. If you are reading this and were one of the people who saw me soldering or riveting, thank you.

If you are reading this blog for the first time after picking up one of my cards, you might be interested in the following links:

My William Francis Garratt locomotive building.

Building the Gauge 1 Ruston.

Mercian Models.

Or if you want to see more pictures from the event, I have a gallery on Flickr.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Missing models - Part 1

Watching a British Transport film the other day - "Railways For Ever!" - among all the nostalgia, one scene leapt out at me. It was in the section of the film covering the exciting future of rail travel and showed a model of what the narrator, John Betjeman, claimed in suitably awe inspired tones, to be the new Advanced Passenger Train.

The scene involved a model railway layout with prominent Airfix signal box. Whizzing by was an APT. Not the APT we know and love (well I love anyway, a fabulous train) but a model of an early design study. The one shown above in fact. The model obviously ran on OO gauge track and as it cornered the coaches tilted realistically. Between the vehicles weren't gangways but those clever articulating units found on the real train when it emerged.

RG Latham has an excellent site on the APT here with many photos. Check it out.

Now what, I wonder, happened to this model ? It was built by a model maker, probably from scratch since the Hornby model was many years in the future. If it hadn't been they could have saved a fortune on "design studies". How the tilting was achieved is a mystery. From memory, Hornby struggled for some time to work out what in the end was a very simple method. In fact the construction as a whole would take some explaining - the sides are apparently seamless and also made from clear plastic, possibly vacuum formed ?

I must admit a model of the APT-E has always been on my list and one of these could be fun too. Mind you, if I wait long enough, Heljan will probably bring one out RTR !

Saturday, August 15, 2009

2 Mags

Hornby Magazine & Railway ModellerTwo articles in two magazines for me this month. In Railway Modeller you can read about building a Gauge 1 Ruston loco. Alongside my text is a short article on the prototype with a nice plan. My words concern the Diesel-Mechanical version of the locomotive, not the Diesel-Electric version recently featured here.

I hope this encourages a few people to have a crack at Gauge 1 modelling. As I've said on numerous occasions, this loco would form the basis of a fine minimum space shunting layout. Something like "The Melbridge Box Company" but in something rather bigger than a boxfile !

In Hornby Magazine, Parker's Guide covers the BR 21-ton coal hopper. It's not that easy a kit, although like all modern Parkside, care and attention to the correct order of assembly results in a very nice wagon.

To take the article beyond simple "stick a to b" territory I have tried out a weathering technique picked up from military modellers. This uses salt (as in the stuff for chips) to give aid painting rust patches on the sides. I'm pleased with the results and plan to use it again quite a lot in the future. Buy the mag now though and you can be ahead of the game.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Garratt CrewThanks to speedy work by S&D Miniatures and some lightening fast painting by yours truly, the Garratt Locomotive has a crew.

I'm a little worried though. The driver looks very like Bluto from the Popeye cartoons. It's something to do with the beard, angry expression and figure, although the later isn't quite corpulent enough. I don't really understand how I managed this either - it wasn't intentional, in fact I didn't spot the likeness until I looked at the photograph.

Both figures are really mainline crewmen but they will suffice for industrial use. Watching British Transport Films while working recently, it seems that everyone in the 1950's wore a hat of some kind and engine drivers always had a proper peaked cap to denote their superior status over the flat cap wearing population. And they both have shiny footwear thanks to regular shining and in this case, satin black paint.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yet another Garratt

Initial Garratt Bits
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Oh, look, some bits for a O gauge industrial Garratt.

Yes, one down, one to go. All thoughts of having the model in a state of near completion in time for the weekend events have long been forgotten. The best I can do is assemble some lumps of locomotive to talk about on the stand.

However, there is one important thing about this model - it's mine. I'm finally getting to build myself an O gauge Garratt. That I get to keep. Forever.

And that means the project has a different emphasis. Instead of simply assembling the etches (first model) or building the best looking loco I can within the time available (second model), I can fiddle with this all I like. If I want to alter or even replace parts, I will.

One of my influences will be pictures of the locos produced by The Model Company of New Zealand and advertised in Model Railway Journal back in 1995. These models were hand built, scratch built engines of the highest quality - and price, the magazine noted "Obviously handbuilt RTR models will cost a few thousand pounds". I drooled over these but even now wouldn't have a hope of affording such beautiful workmanship, but I can do my level best to reproduce it with the help of the kit !

Of course, not having a deadline helps. The plan will be a do a bit, put it away, leave it for a while and then do a bit more. I'll be basing the model on William Francis, not least because I should be able to take some photos of the prototype over the weekend to clear up some of the pipework mysteries. Whether I name the model thus (plates have been tracked down and ordered from Guilplates), I'm not sure yet. I fancy a red liver with black lining rather than anything the loco would have carried in real life. And it's my choo choo so I'll paint it any colour I want, which won't be the colour the prototype is at the moment !

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dirty Blue Garratt

Dirty Blue Garratt
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
One down, one to go. The first Garratt is finished. Well apart from a crew (on order) and some nameplates (struggling to track these down) but apart from this, it's done. The locomotive runs under it's own power along the test track, or at least it does now I've wired the motors up so they run in the same direction !

The new owners plan to display the model in a scenic setting eventually and so agreed to some light weathering. Let's be honest a clean industrial steam loco looks a bit odd - their condition varied from grubby to absolutely filthy according to the pictures I've seen. Having said that, crews often did take a bit of pride in their machines so some evidence of cleaning looks nice.

Weathering started on this loco with a wash of very weak weathered black around all the pipes and rivet lines. Then the rivets were dry-brushed with a bit of rust followed by the cylinder ends and ash pan. This mixes a touch with the black and takes the edge off the redness.

With the paint still not completely dry I then spray the model with three colours - an overall dark brown (Humbrol 170 if I can get it, why was it discontinued ?) followed by a dark earth for the underpinning. Finally some black is drifted onto the top to simulate soot.

Finishing touches include glazing (Krystal Klear) and grease on the buffer heads done using an ordinary HB pencil. A touch of weathering powder gives texture to the very rust bits.

The satin varnished paint shines through the muck when the light catches it giving an oily impression. The main body colour was a good choice too as it's bright enough to stay visible under the dirt, something the much darker blue used on the last Garratt I built didn't.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Motor hole

Motor hole
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

For some reason, this motor in the back of this Garratt locomotive, doesn't fit. I'm sure it fitted when I carried out the test build. Maybe the supplied power unit is longer than before ? Checking the photos of the build, I think the configuration is the same one I used last time.

Anyway, the motor has to poke into the coal space. Not a lot but enough to require a hole in the metal. This was easily cut by drilling the corners of the hole and then "joining the dots" with a piercing saw.

A simple black plasticard box will cover everything up and then a pile of coal with hide this. Anyone looking at the model will never know.

Update: Problem solved. The motors are longer than before. Problems with Tenshodo supply apparently.

Monday, August 10, 2009



Does any other word strike so much fear in the model locomotive builder ? Walschaerts valve gear is wonderful stuff on an engine, it adds complexity and detail under the footplate. All those rods form a natural focal point. Built properly, every modeller will ohh and ahh over it.

And joy of joys, the Garratt has four sets. To be fair, if you ignore the connecting rods then the complexity is formed of only 6 parts. OK, so all of these are double thickness lamination's but that's not too bad.

No, the worst bit is jointing the parts. Most of mine are done with brass pins or in one case, a brass rivet. All are soldered. Some days this works, some days it doesn't. The first day I tried to build up the valve gear, I made the first joint 5 times before it flexed. The next day everything went perfectly. To stop the solder running I used the tin-foil method and it worked a treat.

One issue I did find was that the unit where I had fudged things to get enough clearance between cross head and front crank pin didn't work. The joins were too small and kept breaking so I had to bit the bullet and dismantle it, rebuilding with the cylinder faces moved out to gain space. It just shows you need to do each step properly before moving on or it will come back to bite you.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Kinder disapointment

Kinder Smart Car
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

On my way back from Birmingham a couple of days ago when I felt the need for something to eat. The handy mini-market opposite Smiths on the concourse was available and I purchased some chocolate and then , on a whim at the counter, a Kinder egg.

I may have had some beer inside me which influenced this.

According to the assistant, I'm not the only one who does this either.

Anyway, like everyone else who does this, I'm not really interested in the chocolate shell. It's OK but not really enough for a grown up, we never believed that a finger of fudge was just enough either years ago. No, what I wanted was the toy inside, the idea being that its assembly would provide a little entertainment for the train ride home. I like making things, even enjoying the challenge of flat-pack furniture, and fiddling with stupid little toys like this is fun. Especially when your faculties aren't in tip-top operation.

For a change a seat is selected with a table - hoping the lateness of the hour meant no-one would join me and disturb my building. After all, I wanted to be able to spread out the parts and instructions on the workbench.

I open up the egg. The chocolate is disposed of in the normal way. Then the yellow plastic container is split.

Disaster !

Inside is a car. A Smart car. A ready built Smart car.

What's going on here ? When did the Kinder corporation stop putting kits in the eggs and start putting ready made toys in ?

At some point in Kinder Towers, there has been a board meeting. In front of a PowerPoint slide someone has stood up and with Teutonic efficiency announced that children's ability has dropped below the point where they are able to take some brightly colour plastic parts and assemble them into a toy. Tests will have shown that your average child will now stick the bits up their nose or into other bodily orifices as they are too stupid to know how to do anything else.

This is obviously A Bad Thing. Where is our next Brunell or Barnes Wallace going to come from if this basic engineering practise is gone ? If you give them ready built cars then what you will produce is a nation of Jeremy Clarkesons. Fine if you thing pushing a Smart car around a train table shouting, "Powerrrrrr" and pretending that the tyres are smoking makes you a useful member of society, but the car will be German or Japanese 'cos we don't make anything any more.

Then it occurs to me, Kinder is a German company. By inserting ready built toys into the eggs, the crafty Hunn is destroying our engineering base. A clever plan but I have seen through it. There is only one way we can save Blightly - Children of Britain, I call on you to take up your Meccano !!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Grab that Garratt

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
How do you hold and work on a Garratt locomotive engine unit ? There aren't many flat areas it can sit on - and you don't want to bend those delicate waggly bits yet you still need to be able to get at the thing from lots of angles. With both hands.

Solution - stuff the motor down the central tube of the reel of solder. It's heavy enough to stay put and the motor/tube interface (as they say in management apparently) is good enough to ensure it remains stable while hot irons, pliers and bad language are brought to bear.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fag paper clearances

Cylinder backs
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
You don't get a lot of space between the back of the cross heads and the front of the leading crank pin on this Garratt locomotive. In fact unless you do some serious fiddling, the clearance is nil or less than nil - the crank will wallop the bars as it tries, unsuccessfully, to rotate.

On one end a combination of things (error probably, but fortuitous ones) allowed me to cheap and fit the slide bars to the outside edge of the cylinder face. This bought me enough space - just.

On the other end this ploy wasn't going to work so off came the cylinder ends courtesy of the RSU. The holes were elongated towards the outside edges and the spigots thinned down on one side. This bought me about 1.5mm on each side, enough for the wheels to rotate freely. Wish I'd thought of this before I put the thing together first though !

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Blue is the colour

Blue Garratt
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
How do you decide on the colour a model locomotive should be painted ? Normally it's easy enough - look at the photos of the real thing and copy them. Sadly, the real thing is currently painted in a sort of mustardy brown, a shade it never wore during it's working life.

According to those who know, when the Garratt worked, it was blue. Probably dark blue. Or black. That's why I painted the last one I produced S&D blue. Personally I think it's too dark, it may be right but in model form doesn't suit the engine (IMHO). A bit of weathering helps but unless you chuck lots of light at it, the paint looks gloomy. Now on the stand there is a nice spotlight to brighten things up but the new model is destined for display in a church in a case, which means there will be less light.

So, the decision has been made to go for a lighter shade of blue. Humbrol No.25. To my eye, it's not a bad match for NCB blue and certainly sits well on the locomotive. Fresh from the airbrush the colour is a bit flat, it is a matt paint after all, but give it a coat of satin varnish and this give it life.

Mind you, there is a long way to go. Quite a lot of this model is black and that's a hand painting job.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hard Brass

Cast Brass
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Most of the Garratt Locomotive detail is, as is usual for model loco kits, cast in whitmetal. However this material is too soft for some of the working parts, especially surfaces which will see a lot of wear. Ironically on real engines, whitemetal bears were quite common but of course these were lubricated and replaced as required.

For the slide bars and cylinders you need something harder and in this case that means brass. The castings are made using a lost wax process and arrive on sprues like any other. Cutting them free requires big cutters or piercing saw. I then had to remove a chunk from the stub at the back of the cylinder face before drilling out the centre for the rod.

The front castings are for the valve guides and these are more of a problem. They too have to be drilled out but in this case there are two tubes that have to be tweaked to be in line and then put on the drill. Quite a bit of accuracy is required here and I'm struggling a little bit. I think the solution is to drill each part separately and then line them up rather than the other way around.

Update: That idea doesn't work. Instead I drilled through in one hit from the front using a 1.3mm bit which allows more than enough leaway for the valve spindle. Where the hole wasn't accurate enough in the cylinder wall, a broach could be slipped through fronm the buffer beam end to open the hole out a bit.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Garratt progress

Garratt progress
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The good news is that I am rapidly running out of etched bits to attach to the Garratt locomotive. All the major lumps are in place as is much of the detailing. It's all looking pretty good. At this point the 80:20 rule is running things - 80% of the time is spent on 20% of the model. In other words, sticking a boiler together produces a sizable chunk of steam engine - but the character of the model is in the detail such as handrails and pipework and they take a whole lot longer to form and fit. I never was any good at plumbing !

But, and it's a big one, I still have to fit the valve gear. Hopefully the motors and gears will arrive in today's post so that task can commence in earnest. With a deadline for delivery of this Saturday looming, I'm hoping my skills with the waggly bits aren't too rusty.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Some things I like, some things I don't.

One thing I don't like is trying to solder steel. So when I found the nuts and bolts supplied for the Garratt locomotive were steel, these were swapped for far superior brass alternatives. I suppose you can make solder stick to steel, car bodywork experts have been doing this for years and calling it "lead loading", but for precision work you either end up using a really nasty flux, or the bit don't stick.

Good job I stocked up on 8BA brass fixings at the last Model Engineering show. I knew they would come in handy one day. If only I could say the same about all the other stuff in my "store".

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More boat boxes

A bit of deja vu for regular readers. As you know I like to make boxes for carrying model boats once they are built. After putting all the working into attaching details, the last thing I want to be spending time doing is sticking things back on when those same details have been knocked off moving the model to the waterside. Of course making boxes isn't exactly exciting so it tends to get put off until there is nothing better to do.

In this case it's not just me but my Dad who is guilty of this, his Puffer has aquired a nice coating of dust since it was finished. Anyway, enough was enough and we decided to have a bit of a box making session.

In the past the boxes have been made from 3mm ply with corner strengthening. This is fine and light but fiddly to work with. On a whim we decided to try 6mm instead - the theory being that the corners could be pinned and glued. Fillets would then be glued in to beef up the joins later.

First up we needed wood, and this is really the point of this blog entry. Time and time again, people bemoan their lack of woodworking skills and I say, "Go to a proper shop and get the stuff cut for you then". They look at me like I've gone stupid, smile politely and wander off shaking their heads. I'm not kidding though. If you get the stuff chopped then you can walk away with what is basically a kit, be it for boat boxes or model railway baseboards. The cuts will be dead straight too, not the sort of straight that you (or at least I) do with a handsaw but proper straight like a ruler. The corners will be bang on too.

All this makes for a nice, neat, professional job. So why doesn't everyone do it ? Well I think there are a couple of reasons. First, over the last few years we have been encouraged to think that big shed DIY stores are the only suppliers of material. This has lead to death of many local hardware shops. Of course, some big sheds will cut wood, our local Homebase will, but most want you to pick up the stuff they have in stock, no matter how wonky it is, take it to the till, pay, take it to your car, and sod off.

For only a little more effort you can get much better service - go to a builders merchant for gravel and similar stuff and not only will it be better quality but they will load it in your car for you or even deliver. I know it's perhaps a touch intimidating to walk through the door but if you admit you need to ask questions and ask politely then the results are unfailingly good.

It's the same with dead trees - DIY store wood is often rubbish. They cut it, wrap it in plastic and then dump it in the store where is dries out and warps. Of course they don't get a new batch in until the old stuff has sold. Go to a wood shop that the trade uses and if the stuff is rubbish, someone with a scruffy van and pencil behind the ear will tell them in no uncertain terms.

Torry's BillThe other show stopper is cost. We've all be taught by the telly that cheap and value for money are the same thing (they aren't - in the toy train world there are plenty of cheap kits but many are so bad that they can't be assembled. Value for money ones are those that go together and give you a finished model at the end of the process.) and that DIY sheds have the exclusive ability to dish out cheap. Again, they don't.

Exhibit A is the bill for wood which we bought from the excellent and friendly Torry's Hardware in Warwick. £21 for material for three reasonable sized boxes. If it helps, the biggest one holds a 1/32nd Clyde Puffer. That's 21 quid for the wood including cutting to size. Of course they can do this because they get to use up offcuts from other jobs but then this isn't cabinet making so who cares ?

So today's lesson is - lay down your saw and get the Yellow Pages out. Go forth to your local hardware store, preferably one where the "corporate clothing" involves a brown overall. You will be welcomed with open arms and your woodwork (benchwork for our American readers) will improve no end.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The first thing I did before embarking on the Garratt build was read all the blog posts from last time. The second thing I should have done is put my brain in gear.

If I had, perhaps I'd have realised that fixing the back boiler former against the end of the tube would stop the boiler fitting on the raised ring of the firebox front. Idiot.

I couldn't even persuade it to unsolder, in the end I cut through with snips and rolled the former around some pliers like rolling the metal when you open a can of corned beet, gradually breaking the solder joint as I went and making an interesting spiral of metal.