Thursday, June 30, 2011

Branchlines Romford Slimline Gearbox

Branchlines GearboxI've always had a love-hate relationship with gearboxes in model locomotives. On one hand I can't mesh gears for toffee, on the other, making the gearbox work can be a real pain in the backside if the etcher hasn't done their job properly.

Branchlines boxes are usually better than most and it's rare the motor mounting holes have to opened out to increase the separation between the gears unlike some I've built !

This one is designed to take (supplied) Romford 40:1 gears and an open frame Mashima motor. Construction is simply a case of bending up the sides and fitting the super-slim axle bearings. As you can see I popped a jig-axle through these to keep them square. A touch from the reamer was needed to accept these

Once the metal was cleaned and dry, the motor was screwed into place, work gear fitted and finally the axles and final gear inserted. With a bit of power, the whole lot revolved beautifully first time. Very satisfying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Point testing again

Chassis on crossoverIt may not have power but Caledonia's chassis runs when pushed so now we could carry on experimenting on the points for the Isle of Man model railway layout.

Many years ago (OK, probably 2) we built a 12mm gauge test track on a plank. It's about 4 ft long and has two parallel tracks and a crossover. The points on this are longer then the last ones tested and I hoped that they would prove easier for the stock to negotiate.

This turned out to be the case in spades. I sat the 0-6-0 chassis on one end of the track and tilted the board. It ran down the line, through the crossover and down the next bit of track without even a hint of a derailment. I did it again in the other direction with the same result. In fact I spent a happy half hour (I'm easily pleased) eating wine gums and tilting the board to make the chassis run. At no point did we even bump through the points never mind leap from the track.

This means that:
A) I'm not completely useless at building chassis.
B) We need to re-plan Foxdale around less tight point work.

So good news and not so good. I just hope it all still fits on the board.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jigging the Caledonia chassis

Chassis on jigI'd hoped that the chassis construction for Caledonia would be quick and simple. It's got 6 wheels and I wasn't planning on any of that fiddly compensation stuff, so how hard could it be ? Better still, if I stuck the thing on the Hobby Holidays jig, assembly ought to be a matter of a few minutes work ?


First up I laminated the rods. These are very thing in places as per the prototype. No complaints there although I suppose the tags holding them to the etch could have been a bit thinner.

Then I used these to set the axle positions on the jig. The holes were too small for the ends of the jig axles but I reckoned I'd got them set properly anyhow. Despite this I had to move one axle bearing over 1mm inboard by filing the ole out a bit. At least the jig kept things flat I hoped.

Then with the wheels fitted, I tried the rods. They bound. OK, so try one pair of wheels at a time. After lots of hole opening I managed to get these to rotate. Then the third axle. More hole opening. At the ends of the rods, the holes are oval slots rather than round.

The chassis now runs when pushed along the bench but I have a nasty feeling that a new set of rods will be required to get it moving under power. What I can't work out is where the problems come from. Did I set the jig up wrong ? Is there a problem with the kit ? Was I just having a bad day ?

Monday, June 27, 2011


Caledonia Kit

One benefit of building a model railway based on the Isle of Man is you know what your locomotives are going to be. There will be two types - 2-4-0 Peacocks and one 0-6-0, Caledonia. I have a Peacock chassis so it seems sensible to build the other one as well. That way we know our track-work will be suitable for all the chuff chuffs.

Branchlines produce a kit for Caledonia. It's mixed media - nickel-silver for the chassis, whitemetal for the body and cast brass for a lot of the detail parts. Mechanical bits are a Tenshodo motor, Branchlines gearbox and Romford wheels.

Frame spacersThe chassis is designed to offer loads of options. Obviously you can work to the correct 12mm gauge but if you fancy an outside frames 009 model, this is catered for as well. Too well in my mind actually as the frame spacers have to be modified by snapping excess off the sides. Fine, except you then have to file the leftover half-etched metal away too which, if carried out too enthusiastically, will alter their width and therefore the width of the frames.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Errol saves the day

Errol saves the day

Racing is dangerous. We've all seen Formula 1 cars flying apart after a little touch with the track side wall or another competitor. It's no less hazardous (OK, perhaps a little bit) in the world of model boats and Club 500 racing.

On Thursday I was testing my newly mended boat on the lake. There was another 500 doing some laps and while we weren't racing properly, we did try and keep pace with each other.

Also afloat was a grey boat of some description. It's owner was pootling around for pleasure but often crossed our paths. Not that this was really a problem - we just steered around or slowed to let him out of the way. This was fine for a few minutes and then during an evasive manoeuvre, I clipped a buoy. Not a full bodied thump, just a glancing blow. Enough to roll my boat over.

For a couple of minutes it stayed upside down and afloat. Too far from the bank of course for reaching with any of  the poles available, but at least on the right side of the waters surface. This continued for a while and then the model rolled over. It stopped with a serious list but at least the propeller was submerged. Sadly the electric were dead and any hope of driving to shore was lost.

Then things got worse. The boat rolled forward and sank. Not completely, the back end and spoiler stuck above the surface. I couldn't watch at this point and assuming my model was lost, went and packed up my stuff including a now surplus boat box.

This wasn't the end though. The boat stayed floating like this. Attempts to reach it with poles failed, as did a member with a fishing rod and lure - mind you is was glad when he stopped as those hooks looked a bit big and I was worried he might catch another club member !

Finally Errol, our resident water rat, ignored our suggestions and pushed out the rescue boat to go on a salvage mission. It's not a big boat as you can see, and it had no oars. The idea is that you haul the seafarer from the bank using a rope. This should stop solo use of the boat and hopefully keep people out of trouble.

As it was Errol used his hands as paddles and quickly grabbed the orange casualty. It was full of water and he said it was difficult to get on board. Emptying it out a lot helped, but even when I got it back on the bench I recon to have poured 4 or 5 pints out.

What saved the model (apart from Errol) was the slab of polystyrene under the lid. This kept just enough above the water to trap some air.

The results looks promising. The speed control is fine and the steering servo looks savable. Only the receiver appears to be borked and I'll even withhold judgement on this until it has had a few days to dry out. The motor has been sprayed with WD40 so it might survive - if not replacement is reasonably easy. Once I've done this though, there's a lot more polystyrene going in this hull - and those of the people watching I suspect !

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Electric spaghetti

Parva Wiring

There seems an awful lot of wire under this tiny layout !

In an effort to keep things simple, I've done my best to colour code everything. Red and black wires are for track power. Blue and white change the points and yellow is the common return that completes the point control circuit. These last colours have been the standard scheme on my model railways for a few years - partly because it makes things easier to remember but mostly thanks to three drums of cable in those colours I was given many years ago...

At first glance, this looks complicated but it's really just repeats of the same circuit. Each point has three wires - a common and one for each directions. Track feeds are duplicated so the power goes in at the toe end of each point. There also a bit of wire on the point motors to switch the frog polarity - something you don't need for RTR points.

The electronic dubrey at the bottom of the board with two "tubes" is a capacitor discharge unit. It's job is to take 16V AC and store it up. When the button is pressed to throw the point, the CDU supplies a big jolt of electricity which makes the solenoid action more positive.

Finally the wires are stuck to the board bottom with glued strips of paper. I know you can get proper clips but the board surface is too thin for nails and screws. Self-adhesive clips always fall off the wood after a few months. Gluey paper has lasted for 25 years on one layout so I think I'll stick with it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The plan for the panel

Panel & layout

Before I start, perhaps I should quickly explain my plan for the panel on Melbridge Parva. If I were a management consultant, you'd have to pay thousands for this bit but since I am a nice person (sometimes) instead, here it is for free.

All of the layouts I've build since I was about 14 have been designed to be operated from the back. The reason is simple - when I exhibit a model railway, the audience is at the front looking at the display and I am at the back, making it all happen. I know there is a fashion at the moment for operating the layout from the front but I don't hold with this for a couple of  reasons:
  • The operator has to sit at the end of the display so he's trying to spot the uncoupling magnets at an oblique angle which is at the very least frustrating and possibly layout smashingly annoying.
  • They can't help but get in the way of the viewers at some point.
  • Since space has to be allowed along the front of the model for operator access, and since I'm a chubby chap, this puts the audience further away from the stuff I've built and makes it harder to see.
  • Occasionally we get people in front of the layout who consider are a stranger to soap and I want to be as far away from them as possible. We don't get extra expenses for olfactory damage !
But the Parva is different. I might want to operate from the back and I might want to sit it on a table and work it from the front. That means the control panel has to be movable. Fortunately a small layout needs a small panel which will fit on to the top of a plastic box from Maplin. The controller can plug in the side of this and all the wires come out in one bundle and attach under the baseboard.

I wouldn't bother with all of this for a larger model, or one intended for use as a "proper" layout rather than an adjunct to a demonstration stand. Then I much prefer to build the unit into the baseboard. It's more reliable and involves less plugs and sockets.

Of course there is still one issue with this plan. Where will I put my mug of tea ?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wednesday wiring

Control PanelI have a dirty little secret to own up about. Despite all the blog posts, and an appearance in the Hornby Magazine yearbook (Number 3, still on sale), Melbridge Parva is not as other model railway layouts. There is something lacking. Something that didn't seem that important but will always make it less of a layout than others.


You see, I had a deadline for publication. I was also about to start a new job which was going to munch up my time like I consume chips after a night in the pub. Something had to give and that something was the bits that would make the trains work. The photos were to be static after all so I didn't actually need to make anything move. If I didn't mention it, easy enough when you've been asked to write about constructing the above board stuff, then who would notice ?

But now I face an appearance at Hornby Live in a few weeks and think that part of the display should be the layout in the annual. So I better make it work.

Things aren't so bad. I made the control panel and even the leads that will run to it. I must have been having a good day as these wires are super-flexible silicon covered things, not cheapo stuff. A SCART plug and socket is in the "to do" box of bits along with a DIN plug for the transformer feed (that is where I plug the power in, not sustenance for robots in disguise). The point motors are fitted and the frog polarity switching is in place. I just need to join all this lot up and make it work.

How long can this take ?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Grotty hut in Garden Rail

I'm building a garden railway, so what could be more natural than for bits of it to appear in "Garden Rail" ? That's what I thought anyway when I sat down and had a chat with Tag Gorton at the 16mm AGM earlier this year. He seemed interested, especially if I was the sort of person who can't stick to the instructions that come with a kit. That's me, so I submitted a piece to see what would happen.

This month, happen it did. Pages 39 & 40 belong to me !

The process was surprisingly quick considering the specialist nature, and tiny staff, of the magazine. The guest editor was in touch with me a fortnight after I mailed the words off to check a couple of points. These were were quickly sorted out and then I just had to wait, scanning every issue when it arrived in Smiths and even buying a couple because of the interesting content.

My article looks pretty much as I sent it off, which is a compliment, except for the phrase "32 Sovs" when they mean 32 quid. Regular readers of this blog will know "sovs" is not part of my lexicon !

Now, I wonder if I could follow the article on building a propeller powered Zeplin rail car in G gauge...

Garden Rail website

Grotty Hut

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The saving of Fireboat 94

Fireboat part builtA few years ago we were happily sailing on the model boat club lake one Sunday morning. A car pulled up and a man got out of it and came to chat. This happens quite often and usually it's just someone from the nearby holiday cottages who is curious to know what we are up to.

They weren't tourists though. It turned out that they were clearing a loft, had found a model boat and wanted to find a home for it. We were interested of course and out of the back of the car came the vessel in question.

A part built Aerokits RAF Fireboat. The big one - 46 inches long.

The work that had been carried out looked nice, although the model was pretty mucky thanks to it's long stay in the loft. Everyone like it, but no one wanted to take the project on. To be fair, this is a big model and not easy to accommodate in the average home. Also, while all the wooden bits were present, none of the fittings were. To get the thing on the water was going to cost money and take a fair bit of effort.The owner was happy to be shot of the boat, it probably freed up a big chunk of loft space, with the knowledge it had found a good home. Or at least he could image it had.

You are probably saying "Stick it on eBay". But that didn't seem fair. We'd been given the boat for free after all. Anyway, people don't really want half built Aerokits, they want upstarted ones in boxes or finished and ready to sail example for about 3 quid. Finally, it would be a hell of a thing to ship what with being fairly fragile and 4 feet long.

So, the boat went in to store again. Until one day when one of our club members, Tom, was showing off the 36 inch version of the kit he had built and explained that he was building the same prototype in lots of sizes, something to do with being given a small model as a kid and loving it. He was on the hunt for the biggest version now.

Knowing Tom would finish the model and do it justice, and not flog it, we immediately offered the boat in store. He was delighted and picked it up from the club stand at the model boat show at the end of last year. We sat it there to show exactly what a "loft find" model looks like. It attracted a lot of interest from people and I think even a couple of enquiries about selling it.

Anyway, fast forward a few months to last Sunday and we saw the boat again. This time finished and in all its glory. Tom has done a fantastic job - the model looks superb. Power comes from a pair of brushless motors, each developing one horsepower of thrust. On the top are a pair of working (squirt and rotate) fire monitors.

Fireboat 94

On the water, the boat is magnificent. Large Aerokits were intended to be powered by IC engines, electric motors of the day being heavy and feeble, but the modern motors really do the job. In fact for our smallish lake, they are too powerful. Still, all he needs to do is refrain from pushing the left stick all the way forward !

At the end of the day the model has been saved. OK, it's not a valuable old master of unique bit of literature, but someone started building it and now it's finished. They probably saved up for a long while to afford what wasn't a cheap kit. Why they stopped work and deposited it in the loft, we'll never know, but at least the boat is now on the water so the story has a happy ending.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shrink rule

Contraction Rule

Odd-ball tools fascinate me and so I couldn't resist this one. It came to me at the weekend while digging through a box of second hand tools for sale. I'd already acquired a spoke-shave,  for no better reason than I don't own one already, and was looking at a pile of steel rules when Dave shouted at me "You don't want to use those Phil."

Enquiring why, it was explained that they were pattern makers contraction rulers, sometimes called "shrink rules". These are used when producing anything that will be cast in a material, such as whitemetal, that shrinks when it is moulded. So the markings are slightly bigger than they should be. Each scale is marked by the amount of contraction so on the scale above we have scales for 1/40 and 1/30 contraction.

The only material I use that shrinks is polyester resin, and even that is negligible. Thus, this tool isn't actually of any practical use. Maybe I could make models with it that are slightly bigger than they are supposed to be. Never mind, it's another interesting addition to the toolbox.

Anyone else bought an odd-ball tool that they have never used ?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Filling in for Suzi Perry

I hate the Coventry ring road. Whoever thought that putting exists and entrances in the same tiny gaps in the surrounding concrete wall of death was obviously playing a practical joke. Or they were a sadist. Or hate the people of Coventry. Whatever, when I go to central Cov, it's the train for me.

On Friday, the train was unusually full of well dressed people, especially women in hats and fascinators (and I do know the difference). Then I remembered hearing something on the news about it being Ladies Day at Royal Ascot. This was a bit of a surprise - I hadn't expected that the sort of people who eye up the royal enclosure with envy would be seen on anything as common as public transport. Not to worry, I found a seat and read my paper.

The trip to Coventry was due to being invited on to the Shane O'Conner breakfast show on BBC CWR. This was my second visit as I'd been on in January to talk toy trains. As requested, I turned up at the studio by 8:30am and was directed to wait in the corridor that also serves as a production area. A mug of super-hot BBC teas was profered and accepted. Might as well get a bit of licence fee back !

The team (both of them) seemed to be co-ordinating some stuff about Ascot. They had a reported with a group of ladies boarding a coach to the races. By the sound of it, they'd hit the champers early and would be in high spirits buy the time they arrived. There were also several attempts to get Suzi Perry to answer her phone to do a planned insert talking fashion'n'stuff. These got a bit frantic, messages were left and not returned. This left a gap in the programme.

I was due on at 7 minutes to 9. The day before this had been quarter too but schedules change. However I was a bit more hopeful that I might get a bit more if they needed more material. As it was about 8:45, Shane came out of the studio, recognised me and I was ushered in.

The results were videoed for your entertainment. I think it went well. The important phone number went out and I made a few jokes. Still look like a prat but it's radio, so who cares ?

Go on - Watch the video in all its glory.

Does anyone have any jobs going for a top radio celebrity such as myself ?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sharks fin

Sharks finThe Club 500 racing rules say that all boats must have a number on the top so that laps can be counted.

No matter that I already have the number in massive size on the bow deck. The rules say number on a fin so number on a fin it has to be. The fin was even provided by the top bloke who organises our racing. He must have spent ages making the things. They even came with sticky foam pads on the bottom.

However kind it was to supply the fin, it looked a bit rubbish. Very square. Not at all sporty. And (my fault) the boat didn't fit in the box with it on.

So, the foam was replaced with some Velcro - which the rules do allow. I even put a little bit in the boat box so the number can be stuck in there when not required.

Then I rounded off the top edge. It looked better but I wasn't happy. Staring at it, inspiration struck. If I could cut another curve, I could turn the fin into, a fin. A proper, sexy, sharks fin. One that would scare my opponents out of the lake.

Drawing around the edge of a tin gave me the curve and I thought it looked fab. Then I remembered that we race anti-clockwise. So if I can't fin another number 9 sticker, then the fin will have to be fitted back to front !

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gentlemen of the press

Russell Joslin and David PledgeThis week I've been doing a bit of publicity work for the model boat club. A press release was prepared a couple of weeks ago and then passed to my PR-savvy friend to turn it into something that would have news editors salivating and begging to cover the story:

Issued: 8th June 2011
Hard work pays off for model boat club.

Knightcote Model Boat club, based on Southam, Leamington Spa, will be officially opening its new club house on the 19th June.

This south Warwickshire based group has over 50 members from the Warwickshire area who meet every week. The club is open to all with an interest in things nautical and members can sail electric, steam and sail boats on 1/4 acre lake. Those with a competitive streak can race speedboats while others prefer the relaxation of operating highly detailed scale models.

Chairman David Pledge said “The old clubhouse was starting to leak so we decided it was time for a revamp. Our numbers have increased so much since we built the old club house, it was also time for some more space.”

Now, four months later after 240 paving slabs, 20 tons of road scrapings, 11 tons of sand, over 1000 man hours and a giant crane; the new clubhouse is ready to be opened.

Work started in February with the help of a hired digger and lots of shovels. A crane normally used to move canal boats in and out of the water lifted the new building over a 30 foot high hedge. The old premises haven't been scrapped but are now to be used as storage.

With a limited budget and the environment in mind, the club house and surrounds have been remodelled with a lot of recycled items donated by local builders and friends. This has even meant rescuing some curbstones that have lain in a hedge for more than a decade.

David said “I'm really proud of the work put in by the members. A group of us have been putting in a lot of effort purely for the fun of it. We've had a good laugh, even when wallowing around the in the mud laying paths, but the results are something the entire club can be proud of.”

For more details about the club contact club secretary Derek Nelson on XXXXXXXX

I then sent it off to all the local papers and TV. A couple of hours later a phone call came in from Radio CWR who had received the press release from their colleagues on the telly side. Whilst we weren't going to get on camera, they were keen to send a reported to record a "package" for later broadcast.

I also had a call from the Leamington Observer. They didn't like the photos I'd attached but could they come and take their own ?

Of course they could. So on Monday, Mike, David and I posed with some boats for the man with the camera and an incredible 15mm wide angle lens. The results appeared in the paper yesterday and while the words are excellent, I can't help feeling that I would have picked this picture or this one rather than the shot used.

Anyway, on Wednesday, Russell Joslin from CWR arrived and proceeded to record a load of stuff for editing together. I'm not sure what he made of us initially but like a pro, he quickly worked out a plan and we recorded what to me soudned like lots of good stuff. As part of this, we taught him to sail a boat since that always works well for media types who like that sort of "beginner tried something new with hilarious consequences" shtick. He left having been plied with tea, and then came back again to get a bit more.Then left only to return a few minutes later to say that the presenter had really gone for this and could someone go along to the studio in the morning to do something live for the breakfast show.

More on that another day. For the moment (and next 7 days), you can listen to the results here:

46 minutes in - Pre-recorded item with me and David Pledge done at the club.

2 hours 48 minutes in - I took a little boat along to the studio and had a chat. This will appear as a video soon so I'll link and tell a bit more when that happens.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Deja-vu trackwork

Track TestingTo get an idea of how Foxdale's track will work, we built a test piece. Nothing fancy, just a point with bits of track going off a little way.

I actually want to test the ballasting method with this, but before doing so I've gapped the PCB strip and put some power into it. The single part-built locomotive was dug out of it's box and placed on the rails. Then electricity was supplied and it stuttered forward.

So I reversed the power and it stuttered backward and fell off.

Looking underneath, the linkage for the handbrake wasn't attached to anything and when swung down, caught the rails. A touch of solder tacked this out of the way. While I was under there, the pickups had been made of stupidly thin phosphor bronze wire so they cam off and were replaced with "Phil's standard" stuff.

More testing and another problem appears. The loco won't go around the corner. Isle of Man engines may only be 2-4-0's but the front 2 is a long way out front so the pony has to be sprung. I'd done this with a bit of nickel silver wire which appeared to be too stiff to allow the truck to swing. Replacement with phosphor bronze helped a bit but not a lot. A touch of gauge widening also helped. These are really long-wheelbase locos and we want them to go around tight-ish points.

All this is horribly familiar. When we built Flockburgh there were many sessions of testing when rolling stock seemed allergic to track. In the end we fixed this, let's hope it is easier this time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Looking for Betto Tape

betto tapeI hate masking models for spraying but it is a necessary evil if a decent paint finish is required. Sadly I can't use the sort of masking tape found at autojumbles, markets and car boot sales at 50p for 10 rolls. It's far too coarse and doesn't give a decent edge to the paint line. No, it has to be proper model making masking tape.

For most people this means Tamiya. It is the best masking tape but it's also blooming expensive. For finescale model railways or even toy trains, this isn't too much of a problem. You don't use much even on 7mm scale models.

On the other hand a model boat, even a modest one, can use up several feet of the stuff at a time. I've just masked the waterline and deck of one such vessel and used 6 feet. Which is why I like BETTO tape.

Bought from a model shop that has long since closed down, it gives a nice clean line, is stretchy when required, comes in lots of widths and is reasonably priced. Or at least it would be if I could find any more.

Can anyone suggest a supplier ? Google isn't much help with an insistence of trying to palm me off with Betamax video tape. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ronco Super Saw

Ronco Super SawWhen I was a kid, school wasn't very far away so I used to come home for lunch. While eating my food I'd watch TV and most of the time it was the commercial channel. The only thing I really remember about it were the adverts for products by Ronco.

I suppose to a young lad, Ronco products looked exciting. For a start they were orange, a colour of the future and no mistake. Then they all seemed to be very clever. The record cleaner would polish up both albums and singles. Better still, the ButtoneerTM attached buttons to your clothes without sewing using some sort of plastic clip.

But the one I always desired more than any other was the Supersaw. This miraculous tool was like a normal saw except that it could cut through bricks and steel as well as boring old wood. It was all the cutting equipment you could need. Better still, the blade folded back into the handle for easy carrying. You could have it in your pocket for those emergency chopping situations.

And now I have one. As per the advert, the handle does fold back on itself. Except that the blade is longer than the cover. That means a rubbery cover for the pointed end. And to unfold it you have to undo a wing nut at the top, wiggle things about a bit and then it will open. I don't recall that from the telly. I'm sure it was a much slicker process when the man in beige slacks did it.

Worst of all, the blade is blunt. Too much cutting through bricks and diamonds or something. Still, at least I have my dream addition to the toolkit. Now, I wonder if I could find a Buttoneer...

Monday, June 13, 2011

The GMC truck finds a home.

GMC Truck on Overlord

Back in March I built an Airfix GMC truck because I wanted to see if the kit was better than the Hasegawa kit. It was but then I was left with an American war lorry. Of course I knew I could find a home for it.

Overlord is a fine layout and one of the features that gets people excited is the large number of military vehicles covering every inch of baseboard. Sadly, there is a bit of an attrition rate amongst even 4mm scale trucks, tanks and cars. They are glued to a plaster road surface and sometimes that glue gives way. This usually happens during setting up or knocking down when the baseboards are being banged around (you didn't think exhibition layouts were treated like fine china did you ?). When they fall off it's not unknown for them to be damaged or even lost. Thus, the board often shows white patches where paint and vehicle have bee removed. Sometimes a solitary wheel or axle remains but not often.

The remains go in a box or tin with the intention of repairs being effected. Most of the time this happens but not always. So a nice new truck was appreciated and promptly placed in a gap in the dockyard clutter. A tank shaped gap I think but at least the plaster scars were hidden by the 6-wheeler.

JeepOh, and if you like that sort of thing, here's a Jeep I spotted at the same event.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Armed Forces day with Overlord

Chocolate Fairy CakeI'm not sure how this came about, but Chris Mead had been asked to take his model railway layout "Overlord" to the British Legion Armed Forces Day celebration that was happening around the corner from where I live. It would have been churlish to refuse to go and help him out with it so I trooped (geddit ?) along to the sports and social club just in time to help him unload it from the van.

The layout was set up in the bar area well ahead of time. Not because we are particularly punctual but because the event didn't start until 11am. While waiting we sipped a NAAFI tea from impressive paper NAAFI beakers. Since it hadn't been used for a while and lives in the less than ideal confines of a garage, there was some nervousness about how well Overlord would work but apart from an electrical problem with one point, all was fine.

One of the things you have to do with this layout that I've not experienced elsewhere is to level up the sea. The front 2ft of the model is home to a large collection of boats. Ironically they sail on German water - the greeny mix comes from the BASF laboratories thanks to a helpful chap at Bremen show a few years ago.

The day went well. Not very busy but lively enough. We seemed to have people all round the layout rather than just out the front. Several even got to have a go at operating, or at least experienced the "interesting" wiring. They moved some trains around thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A couple of the youths involved we of an age when you wouldn't expect them to be interested in anything as uncool as toy trains but they seemed happy enough. Happy enough to help us load up again at the end of the day in the rain anyway.

I quite like doing this sort of show. At "proper" exhibitions, people know how to behave and aren't near;y as interested most of the time. This crowd were seeing serious toy trains for probably the first time and generally seemed to like what they saw, even if it was mostly tanks'n'guns. It probably helps if the operators are happy to chat rather than ignore their audience, but while we might not convert anyone to the hobby but we didn't turn up in grease top hats and make "choo choo" noises either so as to enforce the stereotypes more normally associated with this interest.

And the NAAFI chocolate cake ? Delicious. If an army marched on its stomach, then at least it's full of good cake. I think I'd just offer the enemy some if they stop shooting though, bound to work. Give cake a chance, I say.

Overlord Boats

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A quick H wagon

IOM H series WagonFoxdale track building has commenced but if we are going to build model permanent way, we need some rolling stock to try it out with. In my Isle of Man box I've collected several wagon kits and so I grabbed the top one from the pile to stick together. Sometime in the future I'll do a proper blow-by-blow build but for now, here's a few notes on construction:

The Branchlines Isle of Man 3-plank drop-door "H" series goods wagon is supplied moulded in whitemetal with a plastic floor. It comes with wheels and non-working couplings.

I built the model using Zap-a-Gap superglue in a hurry.

First up, the floor has to be trimmed to size. In the instructions this is 24mm by 53mm. That's too short as I discovered when putting the ends on. A couple more mm would be better.

The body assembled easily enough after this - although I made a pigs ear of the corner in the photo. Never mind, I'm sure this is fixable. Underneath the solebars have to be straightened (mine were a bit wavy but the metal is soft enough to tweak) and shortened a touch.

Axlegauards are drilled for bearings and then glued in place. Care must be taken to get the axles parallel and ensure the wagon sits level.

Finally, the door stops. I couldn't find a decent photo that showed them so the parts are in the spares pot at the moment. Once I'm happy they survived to the period I'm modelling - something many of the 3-plank wagons failed to do - I'll fit them.

At the moment the wagon stays unpainted as it's role is to be shoved back and forth over the trackwork. No point in damaging the paintwork by handling it with flux covered fingers after all !

Friday, June 10, 2011

G Van in G, Class 33 and G Scale Society in Hornby Magazine

July's issue of Hornby Magazine sees 3 articles with my name on the top of them. Starting with the supplement guide on Garden Railways, I've written what I think is my first feature article on the G Scale Society. At the 16mm Soc. AGM I had a chat with the very friendly and helpful members on the stand about this. A few e-mails later and I'd described the society and everyone was happy. The idea came about because my Dad joined them and the turn around of paperwork and in-house magazine was so fast as to be breathtaking.

In the main mag I stick with the whole garden thang and build an IP Engineering Isle of Man "G" van kit. Loads of plywood and some new and exciting tools that hopefully make the piece of interest even to the modeller not looking outside and seeing a baseboard rather than a lawn.

Viking and G van

Finally I've taken a Hornby Railroad Class 33 diesel and given it a bit of a makeover using a Craftsman detailing kit, a flush glaze pack and some bits of plastic. For some reason I'm more pleased than normal with this model. I know that the roof line is wrong and the underframe is iffy but the finished model is lovely. There was some disagreement over the removal of couplings at one end so in deference to the editor, I did both. But I prefer tensions locks all round 'cos that's what my layouts tend to require.

And if you fancy doing the same thing, you can download the headcodes from my free downloads area.

Class 33 loco

Hornby Magazine Website

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hobbyrail - Sutton Coldfield

HobbyRailHobbyrail style themselves as "the original Aladins cave for enthusiasts" and I can't see any reason to report them for trade descriptions. The shop is located a little off the beaten track in Sutton Coldfield. Walking from the town centre or station takes around 10 minutes if you don't get lost.

From the outside, the place looks small and like an inverse TARDIS, the inside is smaller still because of all the stock on the shelves. This is not a shop for those who need to have everything presented to them on a plate. Everything is neat and ordered, but there is a lot of it.

As an example, I dug through the Kinghtwing box. Most of the range was there as far as I could tell, but you had to leaf through them. Same with the 2 boxes of Wills kits. Ratio and Peco get wall hangings but at about my knee height.

In the middle of the room are the Woodland Scenics items along with other kits and bits. I'd not seen Heljan working lamps before but resisted. Even the back of the door is used, this time for Merit packets. Behind the counter are the RTR locomotives, most of which have photos added to the ends of the boxes so the helpful proprietor can find them.

4 or possibly 5 paint ranges are stocked and the displays all appeared full with no gaps for missing colours. There's plenty of balsa wood and plasticard. Glues and oils too along with lots of other modelling chemicals.

If there is a problem it is that the shop is snug. 6 people inside would seem to the the limit and even then they would have to be friendly and non-smelly. If you are in this bit of Birmingham then it's worth a visit. Just my sort of model shop.

Update: The shop has now moved to the shopping centre.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Leonardo de Vinci Paddle Boat Part 2 - On the water

I know what you are asking - after all this, does the boat float ?

First, I tested the mechanism. All the careful painting of different woods, except for the "teeth" on the cogs which were left natural plastic finish, had paid off an the model looked rather nice. Complicated but in a good way.

The drive is wound up by rotating the paddles in the opposite direction that you want them to work. After about half a minute of this, taking your finger out will make things happen - as it so often does.

Three drive shaft heights are available. I chose the lowest as this offers the most dig from the paddles. Presumably the higher holes give greater speed but I haven't experimented yet. On the water the model works superbly. I reckon it would be good for a couple of lengths of the bath, around 15 feet. Sadly it won't cover the boat club lake but that doesn't make it any less fun. To be honest, I just like watching those cogs working.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Leonardo de Vinci Paddle Boat Part 1

Paddle boat kit

Many more years ago than I care to think, I went all the way down to that big London town to see a Leonardo de Vinci exhibition. After queueing for an age to get in the door I skipped the first two galleries and raced ahead to the middle of the event. This was partly because they were very crowded but mostly because they were concerned with his art and I wasn't that bothered. To be honest I think I made the right decision 'cos I've seen the Mona Lisa and it's rubbish. Mind you, displaying it behind a brown glass screen and a dozen badly dressed Americans doesn't help.

Racing past the hoi-ploi, I was heading for the Leonardo does engineering drawings bit. The centrepiece of the display was a life-size recreation of his famous flying machine. The one with a bloke in the middle and some wings. The result was as air-worthy as my car but that's not the point, this bloke was a Wallace (of Gromit fame) years ahead of his time.

Anyway, for some reason the model kit world is full of chances to build some of Leo's inventions thanks to at least two different manufacturers. Being a boat fan, I've picked the Italeri Paddle Boat kit to have a go at.

The model arrives in a decent sized box. As well as the sprues there is a clockwork motor, instructions and a full colour booklet explaining the point of the thing. As Jennifer Aniston would say, "Here comes the science bit."

The boat was designed to be sailed by two men. One would win the toss of a coin and get to steer. The other had to peddle on some planks, just like a cross-training device found in a modern gym. Lots of effort with the only consolation being that your mate has you waggling your bum in his face and so if he isn't very good at the steering, you dole out punishment with a little "jet propulsion". Through a clever mechanism the paddles would revolve and the boat move forward. It's the mechanism that everyone gets excited about.

Paddle boat motorWhich is a shame as that's the bit you don't get. Instead there is a look-a-like powered by clockwork. That's not a bad thing as it means the boat can be sailed without needing mini people. According to the box the model can be assembled without glue, paint and in only 30 minutes. That's true but it looks rubbish. I painted the different woods varying shades of brown and it all looks a lot better to my eye. And since I paid over 20 quid for this kit I want to spend some time building it.

Buy the kit from Amazon

Monday, June 06, 2011

Making narrow gauge points

TrackmakingBefore we embark on the full model of Foxdale, a little bit of test track is being constructed to allow us to experiment with both building and ballasting techniques. My Dad is in charge of track making on all out layouts, partly because he enjoys it but mostly because I'm not very good at it. I can adjust and make the stuff work but when I try and build from scratch it all seems to go wrong.

Anyway, a few basics. A quick note on the Isle of Man forum established that the sleepers are 6ft 6 inches long and 2 and half foot centres. This is the sort of detail that matters - the track needs to look right after all - but it surprisingly difficult to find out.

The sleepers are OO ones chopped to length and then the first point is assembled on a plan. To ensure reliable spacing a little jig has been made up from cardboard. This seems to be working and a longer version for plain track.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Job well done

KMBC Patio

Friday morning and we have done it. The Knightcote Model Boat club new clubrooms are finished. Well apart from a little tidying, some guttering and the roof sheet being cut to size. The last one has to wait for a few weeks while the membrane relaxes a bit.

The main thing is that all the heavy work is done. At the front we have a patio of around 240 slabs. We paid for the first dozen or so to be laid but after that our aged club chairman took on the task having watched and learned from the professionals. The result is very impressive and gives us plenty of space for tables and benches.

Around the back (the bit I worked on)  is a chippings path edged with kerb stones retrieved from the pile in the hedge. Not as pretty but just as useful. Now anyone can walk around the cabin without getting their feet wet or dirty. Best of all, it keeps the site tidy. After all, we want to sail model boats and not spend our time looking after the place !

The stats are impressive:
  • 240 paving slabs
  • 200 tons of road scrapings
  • 11 tons of sand
  • over 1000 hours of work

and a giant crane ! Not what you normally associate with a model boat club. but then that's part of the fun of belonging to this sort of club. Best of all, while it's been hard work, it's also been fun. There has been plenty of banter between those getting their hands dirty. Quite a lot of it laughing at anyone who has come down on a sailing day and made comments along the lines of  not much done then" or our favorite "There's no water in the test tank !". The person who whined the last one was promptly handed a bucket and told to do something about it !

Saturday, June 04, 2011

S9500 vs D5000

Camera comparison

A few months ago I bought myself a nice shiny new Nikon D5000. For various reasons I've only just pulled it out of the box and charged the battery. A potential new project, along with the desire of designer to push my current photos just a little bigger than they really should be used has persuaded me that I need more pixels, or at least more buttons on the box that takes them.

After a asking around the Nikon became the worthy successor to my Fuji S9500. The later is still an excellent camera despite being 6 years old. It's certainly better (IMHO) than the replacement in that line. The only problem us that the CCD isn't any bigger than a compact. To be fair, for 90% of my work, this isn't an issue and since I like the handling and have had plenty of practise getting the results, it will still be seeing a lot of action.

The Nikon will hopefully give me the opportunity to see my pictures blown up over A4 in a magazine and not cringe at the visible pixels. All I have to do is read the big, fat manual. For the minute, point and shoot mode will do the job along with lots of experiments.

First results are OK. This comparison is between the Fuji on manual, 80ASA, F11 and as long as it takes compared with the Nikon on closeup mode and let it work the rest out for itself. As you can see, the DSLR makes a better job of the colours (the loco is green, not bluey green) but with both images saved as JPG and shrunk to something suitable to head for Flickr, the rest isn't to different. What I know, well hope at least, is that while with the older camera, I'm at the top of the stairs of possibilities, with the my new one I'm standing at the bottom looking up.

Watch out for more experiments as the weeks go by.

Friday, June 03, 2011

C15 up on its wheels

C15 on wheels

A big moment this. Normally I'd have a model engine up on its wheels very early in the build process. With this kit however, this is a little trickier than normal.

The front end of the chassis, the part of the frames that carry the bogie, are part of the body. This means fitting them provides an annoying lump up the front end while you are trying to work above the footplate. Therefore I simply left them off until the last minute. That way, I can work with a model that will sit flat on the workbench and not rock around all over the place. I need all the help I can get after all.

Anyway, the big bits and even some of the small bits, are complete so I added the front frames and screwed the bogie into place. Finally, I get an idea what the finished model is going to look like. To enhance the effect I plopped the chimney and dome in place as well. Obviously I will sit them down rather better than this later on...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Chuffed by steam pipe

Steam Pipe

Along the footplate of the C15 tank engine, there is a steam pipe. The instructions suggest making it from a length of 1.2mm diameter wire. There is also some mention of cotter pins to represent the clips that on the prototype, would hold it in place.

I identified the wire, cut it to length and then looked at the clips. While I have some split pins that would do the job, I fancied that a method used for 4mm scale downpipes would work on this 7mm scale model locomotive.

Where there should be a clip, a length of 5 amp fuse wire is wrapped twice around the "pipe"and the tail at the back twisted tight. Then this is flooded with solder and the tail removed - on the downpipe it would go through a hole drilled in the building - and the back filed flat.

A few spots of heat from the RSU and it's a nice neat job. The pipe really is held in place by the clips, just not quite in the same way as in real life.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Tiny lifeboat

Atlantic Lifeboat

A bit random this, but an important moment - my first finished lifeboat model.

This 2mm:1ft Altantic Class Lifeboat is a whitemetal model from the Knightwing kits stable (boatyard ?). It is supplied unpainted so I had to have a go.

The boats liveries have varied over the years but I found a suitable photo and did my best to copy it. With the model being only 46mm long, this wasn't easy. All the writing was carried out using a Bob Moore lining pen and the black line is thanks to a bow pen.

Now all I need to do is fit some radio-control...