Monday, November 30, 2009

Bang goes the Waxoyl

For the winter months I've found my camper van some nice dry storage. No more gritted roads, snow, ice or rain for Ashly. When the weather is foul I won't look out of the window and feel guilty that he's stuck out in it.

Of course it doesn't do any vehicle good to be stuck away and not used for long periods of time. Every couple of weeks I need to go around a start him up just to get some oil around the engine and stop the tyres developing a bulge at the bottom. This time it also occurred to me that a squirt of Waxoyl would be an excellent idea in some of the box sections, specifically the drivers side that I welded up last year. It had had some treatment but more is always good and anyway, I didn't exactly enjoy doing the work even when I wasn't setting fire to him.

For the non-classic car owner, Waxoyl is a mush that contains a lot of wax. You squirt it into the car and it protects the metal from rust. Not like paint but in a soft and runny way. For the amateur it comes in a can which you pump up and them use a lance to spray it all over the place.

So I pumped up the can can it wouldn't come out properly. I pumped again and managed some squirting but the stuff wouldn't work properly. More pumping sort of got me back in action but again a few minutes later it stopped. At this point I pumped it up until the can bulged slightly (there is a safety valve in case you are worried) and then picked it up to move back to the van.

Waxoyl is slippery stuff and by this point my hands were covered in it - and I dropped the can.

Which burst.

Now I'm the proud owner of storage with quite a lot of anti rust protection. And a can with a hole in it. And I still need to treat the van.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More planning for the box

Having played with the Hornby track planning stuff and then decided that Michael seems to do a better job with paper and pencil for me, I'm going to have to move on and start working on the box layout full size. Let's face it, you have to do it sometime on any model railway and it's not like I have the excuse that I don't have the space !

If you are using ready to run track then Peco planning sheets - essentially full size photos of points - are available and are idea for this, and a lot cheaper than waving the real things around. Since my track will be made using SMP parts I've used the plans they supply with the point kits. A trip to the photocopiers has furnished me with a small pile, easily more than enough for a tiddler layout. One clever idea is to copy the right hand plan on to acetate and then flip it over to get a left hand version.

Initial thoughts involve the stupidly tight 36" radius Y-point playing a big part in the model but I have some others available just in case I can get away with them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chain suppliers

Goran asks:
Where can I buy chain in brass or blackened metal with a width of 1-1.5mm, (absolutely not more than 1.5) in bulk and best price. Do the chain always come from China ?? From where in China ? The chain I have found is always short and high price.
I normally buy chain from normal model railway or boat suppliers. Try:
Of course it all depends what you call "bulk". For most modellers a metre or two is plenty but if you need a lot more I'd be inclined to look at the jewelry trade. Ohio Beads seems to have a good selection although I've never actually used them.
Country of origin will vary but you can bet there is someone in China knocking some out. Low labour rates make it a popular manufacturing base. I would guess chain making is pretty labour intensive although presumably there are machines that do the actual work now. If you are relying on a blacksmith to forge each link then it will certainly be pricey. Mind you I've seen the wooden chains made by whittling a lump of dead tree and always fancied having a go - but not with 1.5mm links !

Friday, November 27, 2009

Packing model locomotives for postage

Packed BulldogOne job that I really hate is packing a model up and entrusting it to Royal Mail to transport across the country. After all my effort, having the local postie kick it around the sorting deport doesn't appeal at all, it's why I often try and deliver models by hand or have them collect at shows.

This isn't always possible though and so I've been taking a lead from Bachmann and their extensive foam box fillings. For the Bulldog I filled the box the kit had been supplied in with high density foam that I retained from a package of computer equipment years ago at work. The medium density stuff you can get in most towns under signs that say "Foam cut to size" will do just as well I'm sure.

The models profile is cut out with a sawing motion using a snap-off bladed knife extended all the way out of it's handle. Then the loco is wrapped in tissue to stop bits catching on the foam. Bubble wrap bread competes the foam sandwich and into the box it goes. A wrap of brown paper, half a roll of parcel tape and a very clear printed address label and I'm off down the Post Office. They charge me to next day delivery and insurance (7 quid this time).

And it works. OK so the next day delivery means next day delivery for a card saying "I couldn't be bothered to knock on the door, you can come and get your model from the sorting office" but at least the thing arrives (when collected) in good order.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mine tubs in Continental Modeller

December's Continental Modeller has a new look which is pretty exciting for anything from the PECO stable. More thrilling it has a couple of pages from me covering my build of On30 mine tubs.

Everything looks OK, although the photos predate the change of my photo backgrounds to pale which means the edges are lost on the white page. I notice but probably no one else will.

Elsewhere, being sucker for micro layouts, I love the market garden model. The prototype feature on the Pyrenean overhead electric railway makes me want to pack some bags to go and see for myself. It's very like the Sneafell Mountain Railway but with locos and coaches. And a rack system. And intermediate stations. Well the photo of the trains ascending the hill on page 776 looks a lot like the Laxey Valley anyway.

Completed train

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Finished Loco (2)

The Bulldog is finished. That nice quality black paintwork has received a good dose of dirt and in my opinion looks much, much better for it.

Weathering follows my usual format - lots of thin coats of underframe dirt and weathered black applied by airbrush. Since the model was to be really dirty I also puffed a touch of gunmetal along the top in among the smoke residue. The slight sheen doesn't appear on occasionally cleaned locos but if no-one even makes an effort with the cloth then it's what you get.

Finishing touches included real Welsh steam coal, a crew from my figure supplies and some Krystal Klear glazing. And a bit more dry brushing since I felt there was a bit more muck required. Well, it was to be a very dirty locomotive !

The results look good to me. So good that it's got me thinking about the Gibson 3F kit buried in my store cupboard and just waiting for its day on the workbench. But then I always think that and it has been maturing for a few years so perhaps a few more will bee good for it...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Box file backscene

Box file with backsceneThanks to Alan Searle, the box file layout now has a nice new custom painted backscene. At the start of the show he spotted the layout's nakendness in this area and resolved to sort this out as part of the demonstration. A piece of paper was already wetted and stretched on a board and he set to with emulsion for the sky and lots of acrylic for the buildings.

Over the two days, the scene was built up - I think it made a nice change from showing visitors how to paint clouds - and by Sunday evening the completed painting was being chopped about to fit in the file properly. The paper has to be shaped to fit around various clips and supports hidden in the buildings. Then it was fixed in place with some sticky tabs.

The result looks fantastic and really gives the layout another dimension. I'll be making up a big envelope to hold and protect the scene and be taking it out with the model when I display it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Warley - Day 2

Warley Wagon
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

A successful demo - this is my output from the entire weekend. A wagon seen in black and white !

Sunday started very quietly compared to the previous day. Should the mood have taken you, wandering around the layouts and trade was quite possible and even pleasant for the first hour or so. After this the crowds built up (everyone had had their lie in) and levels got to exhibition manager pleasing proportions. To be fair, moving around was possible but you had to queue a bit for the most popular stands. Doubtless there will be those bemoaning the amount of people and wondering why part of the hall was fenced off. The later is simple - if the show had used it they would have had to pay the NEC for it and that would have pushed up everyones prices. As for popularity - well, that can be fixed by hiking the ticket price up by a fiver or so - how much would you pay to have the show quieter ?

We had lots more chat. Yet again the cardboard buildings were popular but the kit built wagons also had fans. Several asked about weathering too as I had a couple of ViTrains locos on show. Several times there two chairs were full and others stood behind. This actually caused problems when people wanted specifically to see one of us, or we really wanted to chat to friends. One guy had some new 3mm scale wheels I was particularly keen to examine and it took three goes before he got to us !

Exiting the hall was easier than normal. I parked opposite rather than try to get the car in and we lugged the models, board and DOGA stand out the "hard" way. This was far quicker than the lazy option of driving up the spot. In fact we were on the road, or at least trying to find the exit in the maze that passes for the NEC road system, by half five which is something of a record.

Overall, it was an enjoyable show. People I talked to seemed to feel the layout quality was the highest it has been for many years. Trade was fine too. There were a few people missing but I suspect you could get most of the bits the average modeller wants and even some stuff for the specialist. Sadly the really small cottage industries were priced out of this event years ago but that's what happens when you need a venue this big, it costs a lot of money.

Oh, and the biggest complaint, apart from crowds, seems to be lighting. It's is very yellow, hence my black and white photo. If your stand has it's own lights this isn't a problem. If it doesn't, tough. Layouts don't have an excuse as they should know by now you can't rely on exhibition hall lighting. Traders aren't nearly as badly affected but can often compensate by spotlighting specific models if required. The NEC is built for trade fairs where all the stands light themselves. Mind you, if they could leave all the lights on until packing up if finished I'm sure we'd appreciate it !

More photos in the gallery

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Warley - Day 1

Warley CrowdThe first person sat down in front of our stand just after 10am and apart from a few short breaks of 3 or 4 minutes, we had people chatting until about 5pm. It's a tiring day but great fun.

You want more ?

OK, the item on the stand that gained the most interest was the Superquick engine shed. Dozens of people picked up up and had a look. Most were surprised by the sturdiness of a cardboard model, even more so when it was explained that there was no extra bracing, it's built straight from the packet. Actually this was a big surprise. The best we could work out was that Superquick has been around so long that it's now slipped under the radar and most people simply ignore it. Maybe they see the range as old fashioned and not worth considering, yet once confronted with a model they were uniformly impressed. I don't know how many rushed off to buy a kit but we did pinch some catalogues from a friendly trader and hand them out to help.

The Boxfile layout was also popular. The Silver Fox shunter ran around on it to prove this is a working model. Several liked the idea of seeing that it is possible to build a layout in a small space, again whether anyone will actually go away and do something similar is doubtful but we tried.

Next door, Alan Searle is painting backscenes. Mostly these are hills and sky but I've persuaded him to have a crack at something a bit more industrial for me as the box company is a bit naked in this area. Alan always has a good crowd and I keep paying attention to what he does on the off chance I might actually be able to do something similar myself one day.

As for my output - half a wagon. Hardly anything in fact, which means I've had a good day demonstrating.

The gallery has been expanded a bit - not much as it was too busy to get out from behind the stand !

Saturday, November 21, 2009

See you at Warley !

Stand C62Stand C62 is set up in the demonstrations area next to a demo of backscene painting and opposite Gordon Gravett making France. All being well by 9:30 on Saturday morning I will be behind it along with my father Brian, and we will be happy to answer any of your model making questions.

Well try to answer anyway. The train to the show (always go by train on the Saturday, just because we can) leaves at 8:11 and than means an even earlier bus so if you turn up mid afternoon I might have dozed off.

In the meantime, here's the photo gallery, which I will add to over the weekend.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Regular readers of this blog who have been paying attention at a level that is frankly scary, will notice that this location has been featured before. The second appearance is due to the shop previously known as Motor Books being taken over and becoming ModelWorld@Oxford.

To be honest so much has changed in the transition, for all intents and purposes it might as well be a completely new shop. Apart from the doors and windows plus one member of staff, it's all new.

When I say new, I mean NEW. You walk in and there are shiny cabinets of ready to run models lining the walls. When the cabinets stop, light, modern racking holds components, trackwork, materials, tools, kits etc. I can best describe it by saying this is like a real shop, the sort of thing you find in any high street, that just happens to sell model making products. It's that good.

OK, so I prefer a dusty emporium with old boxes to dig in and treasures to unearth. A shop that has matured like a fine wine. But then I don't need to be converted to the hobby. If you are a beginner, or are bringing someone along with you who isn't a committed modeller such as a wife, then this is exactly what you want. Everything is easy to see and readily available. I'm pretty certain you could build a comprehensive layout in the popular scales exclusively from the stock contained in the shop and that has got to be A Good Thing.

ModelWorld Oxford website

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clean painted Bulldog

Clean painted Bulldog
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
This model locomotive is to be mucky. Really mucky. Which means there is some irony in the quality of the paint finish being one of the best I've produced for some time.

Body colour is Railmatch black - a good solid and slightly shiny base. It needs less thinning than Humbrol to spray though. The smokebox is hand painted in Humbrol Matt black.

Transfers are waterslide ones from SMS. The cabside numbers and power classification went well. On the tender, I applied the LMS letters as one item but the transfer film showed badly as there was air trapped underneath it. Despite lots of prodding and poking this wouldn't go away. In the end I let it dry and used a sharp knife to cut it either side of the letters and then peeled it off.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Silver Fox Shunter

This months Parker's Guide in the December Hornby Magazine covers building a Silver Fox Models Hunslet Shunter. It's a lovely little kit of a prototype I've had my eye on for a long time - ever since I built an etched brass version of it's larger brother the 05 diesel in fact.

This is the first loco build for the column but won't be the last. We've got a few ideas lined up but if anyone wants to suggest anything that they would like to see appear in print, let me or the editor know. Please note, all letters to the editor should start with something line "I only buy Hornby Magazine for the excellent Parkers Guide which I consider to be a greater contribution to English literature than the entire works of Shakespeare..." :-)

Elsewhere in the mag, you can read about Stoney Lane Depot. This is IMHO one of the greatest N gauge models ever. It's managed to get the atmosphere of a bit of London railway to a T. Seeing it in real life is even better than the photos (and they are good) as the operators keep stuff running all the time - just as the prototype does.

Also there is an Inglenook sidings from Ron North with his model Littleworth Sidings and I'm going to be looking hard for ideas for my layout in a box.

Hunslet Diesel Shunter

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tender brakes

Tender Brakes
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
I nearly forgot these ! Preparing the body for paint, I suddenly realised that there were some bits left on the fret. In my enthusiasm to get on with the powered end I left the tender brakes for another day. Brakes aren't my favourite part of the model and tender ones are pretty much hidden anyway.

Assembly isn't difficult. Red label flux from Carrs should ensure that those joints I can't clean won't go green and fall apart. Putting the pull rods on the right way around would have speeded things up as well. Never mind, soldered joints are easy enough to break and re-make properly...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kidderminster 2010 - Cancelled

Bad news arrived in a letter from Wyre Forest MRC over the weekend. The Kidderminster show in 2010, which we were due to attend with Flockburgh, has had to be cancelled.

According to the letter an administrative error by the management of the Glades Leisure centre has resulted in a double booking for the weekend. Instead of honouring the booking made by a group who have been regular users of the centre for as long as I can remember, they have left the club without a venue.

Kiddermister is a reasonably large show and finding an alternative venue hasn't been possible - these sort of places simply don't grow on trees - so that's it for 2010. Changing the date at short notice isn't possible either. While many of the layouts may be OK with a move of a week or two, the trade is a different proposition. Most have back-to-back shows in the springtime and so finding a weekend when they are able to attend is probably impossible. Without trade, the show will look empty and the punters will be unhappy.

Personally, I think the behaviour of the leisure centre management is disgraceful. This isn't a one-off booking, it's a regular event. They have been good customers for many, many years. The thanks they get is being dumped in favour of someone else. I suppose DC Leisure who run the place see it as a minor and very unfashionable event in their countrywide network of centres. Just as they feel the corporate website needn't work properly, or at least it didn't when I tried it looking for someone to complain to.

I hope the Kidderminster show recovers and with John and his team all the best for the future. Hopefully they will return in 2011 and if we can be there, we will.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

All change

Patrick Hughes Train
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Some of those who know me personally, will know that I'm not really a proper professional modelmaker, it's something I dabble with between real jobs. I have known for a long while that I don't have the drive or commitment to earn a living wage building things for other people. It's a hobby that has grown.

This probably sounds like nirvana to many but in reality you lose your hobby as it turns into the day to day grind. That's not to say I haven't enjoyed myself - making things is good fun but man cannot live by toy trains alone. Anyone who has talked to a trader realises that none of them are making a fortune at what they do.

In real life I am a webmaster. For 6 years I looked after the Warwickshire County Council website, before that one at a horticulture research centre. Now in a couple of weeks time I'll be working elsewhere doing a similar role in the education sector.

That means I need to make a few changes. First: No more commissions for model locomotives are being accepted for the time being. There are a few kits sitting in the queue and I'm in the process of getting in touch with their owners and asking what they would like me to do, hang on and complete the model eventually or return the model to be passed on to someone else.

As far as this blog goes, I'm going to carry on posting to it but might not be able to guarantee a daily entry as I have for the last eighteen months. There will still be a lot of material 'cos I'm going to be able to go back to just enjoying my hobby with some more varied railway and boat modelling. However before anyone complains, you aren't paying for this (even if you click on one of the adverts on the right hand side, this doesn't cost you anything although I get a few pence), I do it just for fun and as writing practise. Posts might be a little bit less frequent but I'm not planning to give up. You don't get rid of me that easily !

You'll still see me popping up in print too. I'm not giving up the fame and fortune that goes with seeing my name in print. Likewise the show calendar continues so I expect to see plenty of happy, smiling faces at exhibitions in the future.

Hopefully this will all work out OK. With a bit of luck I can start adding to my unbuilt model pile again in the near future.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

G1 Ruston in Railway Modeller.

Just a quick hello and welcome to any new readers who've spotted my letter on building a Gauge 1 Ruston locomotive in the latest issue of Railway Modeller magazine.

Please browse to your heart's content. There is lots to read so don't forget to add this page to your favourites and come back regularly !

Of course if you are simply interested in the G1 Ruston, the full story of the build is here.

Boat building resources

Pirate Ship Cake
Originally uploaded by springlakecake

Serdar Bilen asks:

I'm not even a beginner, just got the idea to build a model ship tonight. Prepared some sketches and than start to search the Internet for any additional inspiration. I want my ship to be a very special, elaborated, neat and a functional model.
I mean it should be able to float -without sinking of course:) -.

What I plan to make is a rowing wood pirate sail boat.

Can you suggest anything useful? Recommendations, available resources, practical techniques.. Anything is welcome!

Getting started in any hobby is difficult - there is always a steep learning curve, but once you've started, the journey can be a lot of fun. You'd hope so anyway otherwise it's not much of a hobby !

Anyway, where should you start when you fancy building a model boat ? Well, the first thing to do is get yourself down to the local largeish newsagents, probably WH Smith if you are in the UK, and buy copied of Models Boats and Marine Modelling Magazine. For under a tenner you'll get a load of adverts and some interesting articles to read. OK so they won't be exactly what you want but it's a good start. If you are really keen and you intend to aim at scratchbuilding in wood rather than just knocking our kits like the rest of us, get a subscription to Model Shipwright Magazine. It's good stuff but pretty hardcore. Try to get some back issues first or find somewhere where you can browse a bit - Aberdeen maritime museum keeps it as I recall.

Next you'll want to do some stuff on-line. The top resource and somewhere to while away weeks of your life if you let is, is Model Boat Mayhem. Read the site and join the forum - all you could ever want in the way of resources are here. You might also want to try the Model Boats Website.

Next, see if there is a model boat club near where you live. On-line help is fine but real people can be more use a lot of the time. They can actually see the problem and offer advice, hopefully based on experience rather than conjecture. They will also have access to some water to sail the model on. That's harder to find than you might expect as you need to avoid fishermen and full sized boats. You can also gain a bit of experience sailing other people's models which is a great help when you are new to the hobby. After all, how do you know what is wrong when you've never tried something right ?

Finally you'll be wanting to spend some money. Since it's a wooden boat you want to build, check out Mantua Models They retail a lot of wooden boat kits and materials. There is a very good chance you can find a kit that does what you want - you'll still need a fair bit of patience and care to assemble the model, it's not like sticking an Airfix model together. Another useful supplier is Westbourne Models who stock pretty much everything you could want.

Hopefully these will give you a starting point - it's a big hobby and any blog pot that covers it all would take a week to read. As with all hobbies though, I caution that you need to start small. While the wooden pirate boat might be the dream, something simpler might make a good first model. Perhaps a Robbe kit that could be built and on the water quickly. That way you'll understand the radio control aspects before commencing the big project. These need to be planned in early. If it really must be a sailing boat powered by the wind, try a Footie which again will have you on the water quickly and with less worry about damaging the vessel as you learn to steer.

Good luck with your new hobby.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bulldog in Primer

Bulldog in Primer
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
At last the locomotive is in primer. As is my way, I've coated it, left the model overnight, and then inspected the results carefully to see what needs fixing before the paint goes on.

To my relief, the snagging list is short. Worst problem is the boiler band near the firebox. As you can see from the photo, it has lifted slightly. Cutting this with a sharp scalpel, shortening the band with some nail scissors and then re-fixing with some superglue cured this.

A few little lumps of solders showed up and have been trimmed away. Even though this is to be a dirty model, the weathering looks better if it goes on smooth metal.

Apart from this, I can look along the boiler and everything still looks square - not always a given as unifying the colour sometimes does strange things to a model !

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Plasticard detailing

Plasticard detail
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Nearly there with the Bulldog locomotive. I'm down to the fiddly detailing, something not helped by the incredible number of changes applied to these locomotives through the years and the lack of assistance in the instructional diagram. The later shows parts that aren't supplied being fitted in holes that don't exist. Thankfully February 1983 issue of Scale Trains magazine has the only useful batch of images I've found anywhere.

At the top of the firebox I initially managed to fit (very neatly actually, I was so proud) the parts I later decided were for the sandbox tops. There are some fusible plugs (I think) up there in the era this model is set. The form of these seems to vary but in LMS days all that is visible is a round, flat, plate. Some suitable plates are supplied on the etch but cutting them out, I lost one and so had to replace them with disks punched out of the thinnest plasticard I could find. It's about the same thickness as the boiler bands which is correct according to the photo - although in the model these are a touch over-scale.

Plasticard is sometimes easier to work with than metal. Once superglued in place, it's a lot easier to gently sand to a perfect fit with fine emery. Once painted, who can tell what materials have been used anyway ?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Checking the dome

Checking the dome
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
I always tend to leave the lumpy bits stop the boiler until the later stages of the build. Too early and I'll probably knock them off r they will get in the way when I'm doing something else. Anyway, it's only a case of inserting the spigot in the hole, once the later has been opened out as required, and soldering.

The worst part of the job is making sure that everything points properly skyward and doesn't lean to one side. Checking this is usually a case of looking at the model locomotive from as many angles as possible to see if any hint of wonkiness is seen. Trouble is that if you look too hard you can make yourself believe that there is trouble when there isn't. Even worse, you can miss a problem which then becomes obvious at a later stage of the build when it's much more difficult to fix.

This time I had some inspiration - I can use science, or at least empirical measurement, to help me. Sitting the footplate on a square, I used a set of calipers to measure one side of the dome to the square and the other. That way I knew how far out I was and could correct the lean as required. I just hope it still looks OK when the primer goes on, you can't trust numbers you know.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Loco kit recomendations

loco paradeAlastair asked:
I currently model in 009, and would consider myself a fairly experienced kit builder - having built a lot of the Backwoods range including thier NG16 and part way through a stalled K1. Etched brass is great, whitemetal less so ! Quartering outside cranks doesn't scare me, nor does miniature valve gear.

The reason for the e-mail is that I really fancy building a 4mm standard gauge kit, but without knowing the market I'm weary of choosing something horrific and making an expensive mistake.

Have you any suggestions ?

Any manufacturers to be avoided ? Or recommended ? I'd love to build a Cambrian coast model one day so maybe a loco that worked on that. Or I quite like shunting locos...

I realise that this is quite an open question but I'd be interested in some pointers. I model 009 partly because I enjoy kit building so much, but I need a break from these tiny engines !

Good question ! Normally this runs along the lines of "Can you suggest a beginners kit..." but for a change we have an experienced modeller wanting a crack at something different. This leaves me with a lot of scope because by the sound of it, Alistair could probably make a good job of pretty much anything on the market. Let's face it, once you reach a certain proficiency with brass, you can take a rubbish kit, throw the contents of the box away and still make end up with a good model. It just takes longer that way.

So, where to start ? Well I don't know a lot about the Cambrian other that it's in Wales, GWR country. This means locos with tapered boilers which are a pain to form, not impossible but something with parallel sides is a whole lot easier. A bigger problem is that a lot of the locos you'll need will be available ready to run (If you are howling at your computer that this is wrong, then let me know via the comments section) and I find this a disincentive to get the soldering iron out as I know the results will be greeted with the question "Is it Hornby ?"

Which would tend to point me in the direction of shunting locos. The RTR makers have tended to leave these alone as the variety precludes the sort of sales required to make the model commercial viable. There are several possible ranges to look at but if you simply want a model that you can enjoy building, I'd suggest the High Level Models range. For your money you get a well designed kit with plenty of detail and enough challenges to satisfy the experienced builder - not the "bit doesn't fit and needs to be modified" challenges but the sort where care and a little patience is rewarded. Prices are slightly higher than most other ranges but I think this comes down to more extensive R&D and excellent instructions.

If you really must have something mainline, I'll first fall back on my usual suggestion of Craftsman Kits. A lot are suitable IMHO for beginners but they are good, solids, well designed models. Perhaps a bit more basic than some but you should be confident of ending up with a nice model at the end of the process. Be warned that nothing has been updated with the 1980's so you still get suggestions for DS10 motors whereas something from Mashima and a nice gearbox is a much better bet.

Alternatively I've some experience of stuff from London Road Models which is usually pretty good. Since their market is definitely the finescale, and therefore pretty gobby if they aren't happy, modeller you can be reasonably sure everything goes together.

Finally I'll give an honourable mention to Mercian Models whose kits are regular features in this blog. There's plenty of good kits in the range and the after sales service is second to none. Ruin a part and is will be replaced for you. I've seen this happen at shows and know it is appreciated by the more kack-handed amongst us !

Ranges to avoid ? Well this is much more difficult as what some people find a nightmare, others love. It can also be the case that experience with a single duff kit in a range will unfairly colour the attitude towards the rest. My best suggestion would be to look for anything designed in the last ten years. Standards started to rise in the 1980s but the last decade has seen increased use of CAD and higher standards of draughtsmanship. As I said earlier, every kit can be built but the process isn't always as fun as it should be. However some people will delight in saving themselves a few quid by assembling a horrid old bag of bits dug out from under a second hand stall even though it's consumed 2 years of the their modelling time and the results still aren't pretty or owe much to the purchased parts. If you are building for fun, spend the money and get something that you'll enjoy.

Hope this helps - let us know how you get on.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Making space for the motor

After lots of deliberation and quite a lot of time digging through pictures in book on trains, I've fitted the Bulldog cab interior as it comes in the kit. The only picture I found of a cab showed boxes the same length as the ones in the kit but a lot shorter. However Just Like the Real Thing make a 3F kit with boxes that look very similar. Working on the basis that Pete Waterman has a bigger library than I do, and that I don't have any hard reason to disbelieve the original designer of this kit, I've assumed he was right or at least as right as makes no odds.

With the sides and floor fitted, I hit another problem - the motor and gearbox wouldn't go in. Although it fits fine without filling the cab, to actually insert the thing, the 'box does have to take up space that it subsequently relinquishes again.

So, on the basis that this is supposed to be a working model, I had to make space elsewhere. The obvious thing to do is trim away the back end of the boiler. Initially I used small files but quickly realised that I needed something bigger and moved on to the minidrill and slitting disk. The motor used is quite tubby the hole is wider than I'd like but once on the track you won't see it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Track planning

Track planning
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Some people can draw track plans for model railways and some people can't. I fall into the last group. Micro layouts demand planning though and luckily I have just the thing to help me - a Hornby track planning set.

This consists of quarter scale plastic pieces of track that can be clipped together jigsaw style to quickly produce a scale plan. Draw your baseboard out on a bit of paper and you can try things out and then read off the part numbers should you wish to build from the Hornby range.

I find this sort of thing much more fun and a whole lot easier than using a computer program to do the same thing. Perhaps for complex layouts where the ability to virtually operate the model is useful, computers have their place but I much prefer templates. Plugging the bits of track into each other or messing around with point plans just seems more organic and natural to me and makes the process more enjoyable.

One thing the exercise has shown is just how small the box is. Some sort of removable fiddle yard/cassette looks to be essential if this model is to work. In the meantime I'm going to move on from the plastic bits and try some photocopied point plans in case the geometry of the SMP hand built track isn't the same as RTR Hornby. At least I have an idea of the challenge now.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

International Model Boat Show 2009

Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker

Friday will be quiet we thought. It's the best day to go and have a look around.


Friday was busy. Very busy indeed. The field that acts as a car park was surprisingly full by 11am, on hour after the show opened. Admittedly there wasn't a queue at the door but that's 'cos they were all inside already.

The show is the usual mix of boats on display, trade stands and a reasonable sized pond for models to exercise. Trade numbers were down this year (No Model Power, Scoonie or Reade Models, Anglia Model Centre plus at least one other I can't put a name to) which is possibly down to an increase in costs. There aren't any gaps of course, those spaces are filled with even more models. And BP Mouldings, a new trader to me, appeared to fill one space with a fantastic range of resin castings.

It might seem treacherous but I think the best club stand this year belongs to the Luton MBC who have actually built a stand in the shape of a boat complete with bridge. This must have taken a heck of a lot of work but looks great. Most of the displays are impressive but this club is obviously trying to give the lifeboats a run for thier money in the "best stand" competition !

There are too many superb models to describe but a couple that caught my eye were the Rother lifeboat made from a currently available Russian kit for an Oakley. Apparently the hull is very close and simply (!) scratch building a superstructure gives the more modern boat. I've one of these hulls in my stash and it's inspired me to have a go.

Best model of the show though has to go to the pictured French fishing boat which has appropriately, come from France, Bateux Modelisme Brestois to be precise. A large scale scratchbuilt mode is impressive enough but this has been put together by a real artist. While the construction is good, it's the excellent weathering and detail that brings the model to life. Various tools are casually tucked behind handrails, just as they would be in real life. Rust contaminates every seam and is running down the paintwork. I absolutely loved it.

You can find my photos on Flickr - I'll be adding to the gallery over the weekend.

The official web site for the show.

Update: Apparently the Friday crowds vanished by mid afternoon and the show was closed a bit early. On Saturday, the attendance didn't seem as great but arrived steadily through the day rather than in a rush at opening time. At 3:50 an announcement was made that the show would close at 4pm again despite there being plenty (IMHO) of punters wandering around - I've certainly seen model railway shows with less bodies in the hall that have stayed open - which suprised us all as we thought it was 4:30. Mind you, the web site does say 4pm so I assume we just hadn't been paying attention.

Another update: Picking up the boats on Sunday I got in a couple of hours early and took the time to chat to a few people. Crowds were still good and those in the trade seemed to have had a very good event. I know at least one stand had re-stocked and others wish they could have done.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Inside the cab ?

Big boxes
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
According to the diagram, this is how the inside of the Bulldog's cab should look.

Really ?

I want to see photos of the real thing before I solder these enormous boxes in there. That just doesn't look right to me. I know prototypes can throw up some "interesting" things but my feeling is that these leave the driver with no where to go. Even if he did stand there, how does the fireman do his job unless they have some sort of circus act where driver leaps in the air while shovel is swung.

I think I need to go back to the bookshelf today...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ready to Run Y3

ex-LNER Y3
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Model Rail magazine has commissioned Dapol to produce a ready to run Y3 shunter. It will doubtless be available in the next year or so and sell by the bucket load.

I say, "Oy, Model Rail - Leave the nice easy to build shunters alone ! Go and do a fiddly loco instead !"

I say this because I have a Y3 in my locmotive stud for Melbridge Dock. It's built using a Crownline kit and runs on a Tenshodo SPUD. Being based on a motor bogie is a probably the reason Dapol plumped for it as they can use parts from existing diesel power units rather than going to the expense of tooling up the parts for a proper steam engine.

Sadly, that's what has made it appealing to generations of modellers too. Nu-Cast produced a kit in whitemetal, Crownline did the same thing in etched brass. Higfeild (I think) made a vauum formed 7mm scale version which to be honest wasn't that good. As for scratchbuilding, there isn't much that is simpler. But no more.

The new model means mine will stay in the box in the future. Y3's will appear on every layout. They will be on the front of passenger trains (wrong), goods trains (wrong), shunting branchline stations (wrong) and generally infesting the scene a bit like the ex-L&Y Pug, another excellent RTR model, does. People haven't paid good money to come into a show to see me running out of the box models, they should demand more than this, or at least I want to provide more.

Nowadays we are blessed with some excellent quality ready to run models which let newcomers into the hobby far more easily than the fold days when you had to make every single item. Prices aren't bad either. Despite comments in one magazine that a £135 9F locmotive is poor value for money, the costs aren't that high either in my opinion. Building kits certainly costs as much in money and you still have to invest the time !

I suppose this still leaves Toby. But I bet they do one of those one day too.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Are you wondering what to get your nearest and dearest to buy you for Christmas ? Is there a space on your bookshelf that is A4 sized and 128 pages plus covers wide ?

Well, this blog brings you the answer - The 2009 Hornby Magazine Yearbook (not annual 'cos that's for comics obviously).

You'll be especially please to learn that on page 74 you can read an excellent article on building the early Southern Diesel, number 10203, from a Silver Fox kit. It's a project I did earlier this year and since delivery to the editor, has been earning its keep on his layout "Bay Street" where it looks very nice.

Aside from my words, as if these weren't enough of a reason to add this fine tome to your library, there are articles on building a layout in two weeks, several layouts, building features and a review of the year. Highlight for me though was the excellent picture of "Overlord" spread over two pages - it looks magnificent and yet you can hardly see any trains for all the boats ! If I have a complaint it is that the layout I'd like to have built in this book is an ex-GWR line along the Devon seaside. At least it is ex-GWR I suppose, and a very nice model and just the sort of thing any club could build and stock very quickly yet to great effect.

So, stop reading and go and buy a copy at discount price from Amazon now !!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Boiler handrail

Boiler handrail
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The downside of using a nice piece of tube as a boiler is that it doesn't come with any handy indications as to where you might attach the boiler handrail. That's not as bad as it sounds, I'd rather mark this out myself than fight an etched lump to make sure all the pre-made holes were level.

The problem this time is the plan. As I've commented before, it's nearly 4mm scale but not quite. Far enough out to preclude taking any measurements from it. Happily there are prototype dimensions marked on so with a little calculator action it's possible to divine the correct positions for the handrail knobs.

The height above the footplate is taken from the beading on the cab and extended simply with a pair of dividers along the tube. Gently.

Knobs came from Eileen's Emporium - long for the barrel and medium at the front an back which gives a nice straight run along the side.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Electrical pickups

Bulldog pickups
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Fitting pickups has never been my favourite part of locomotive building, so when I spotted a method different method than my slighly random attachment of wires in the latest Model Railway Journal, I thought that it was worth a go.

Roy Jackson, a very pragmatic model oocmotive builder in my opinion, fixes copper clad boards under the chassis and then fits simple U shaped phosphor-bronze wires that bear in the flange edge. To date I've always attempted to grab my electricity from the back of the wheel but his method is pretty well hidden, you only see the crosss section of the wire by the wheel, so worth a go.

My attempt on the Bulldog isn't quite as neet as Roy's, due to the boards being below the bottom of the frames, the wires have to point down (up on the photo of the inverted chassis) but otherwise things are the same.

And it works. Normally I spend ages fiddling around trying to get all wheels picking up. The first pickup (which covers two wheels) took two goes but the second went straight in. I reckon I halved the time I'd normally spend fiddling and reduced the frustration a lot more than this !

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Plastic box or new layout ?

Plastic box
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
At the Midland Model Engineering Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, I was perusing the excellent BB Engineering Services stall. It's always worth a look as there are definite bargains to be had, fat fibreglass sticks for 2 quid as opposed to 7 on a model railway stand for example, plus loads of other fascinating goodies even if I don't know what they all do !

Beside the stand there were some plastic boxes. Nice and very useful but I'm sorted for small part storage at the moment so I wasn't worried. Under the table though, I spotted this. It's a clear(ish) plastic box with internal dimensions 73x20x14cm, price £11. At that moment I knew I had to have one to build a small model railway inside. In fact I was more inspired by this box than I have been in model making for a long while.

You might think that I had enough train sets. You'd be wrong. For a start it's not possible to have enough model railways. There is always one more to build. Also it would fulfil several important needs - as a background for photos of rolling stock in magazine photos, a test track for locos I build for other people and most importantly as a layout I can take to shows where I am demonstrating by train.

Anyway, I have my box and now I have to work out what to put in it. 73x20cm isn't very much space in OO so I'm looking at micro layout ideas. I'm very pleased with my box file layout and keep looking at other people models and thinking "I want to build something like that", something other than rolling stock anyway.

My first thoughts are around a shunting puzzle. Inglenook sidings should be compressible to fit. Paul Lunn's book has been providing me with inspiration (and at least one more model I'd love to build) as has Carl Arendt's website.

So, there will be much planning to come. Any reader suggestions are welcomed too.