Thursday, January 31, 2013

Army Green

Army Green

One of the requests for the WD Barclay refurb was that the loco should emerge in green.

Which green wasn't specified but I assume that Army green. As it happens, I had a couple of the excellent new Airfix QL lorries to hand also in need of paint. According to Airfix, the green is No. 159.

Using a fresh tinlet, I sprayed the lorries and then the loco. Colourwise, I think the shade on the lid is lighter than that on the model but not by much.

On the loco, I feel that the results look a bit dead so a coat of satin varnish will be required. Maybe a dead matt finish may be technically right, but it looks wrong. My suspicion is that it won't survive handling as well without varnish either.

The lorries - they can stay matt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Barclay repairs

Repaired Body on bench

The WD Barclay body wasn't in deed of much attention. The air cylinder on the front of the cab had come off and most of the bonnet handles were wonky. One cab corner, presumably the first part to encounter the floor, needed straightening and that was that.

Re-blobbing the solder inside the bonnet sorted out the handles. All now point downward and don't move when you push them. At the front of the cab, I tinned with 100 degree solder, then held the whitemetal part in place, heated the solder and once it had cooled - the thing was fixed.

Repaired Frames

The chassis needed more work. First, a couple of leftover strips of etch were fixed where the unwanted bends had been. These needed some filing to allow the motor to fit but this should have braced the frames to keep them straight.

Using the same technique as for the air cylinder, the vacuum cylinders and sand boxes went back into place.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Paint stripping without paint stripper

Barclay minus paintRemoving the paint from the WD Barlcay should be easy - it's an etched brass kit so I could dunk it in paint stripper and return the model to bare metal.

The right stripper choice was imperative as I couldn't remember which bits were glued on and which were soldered. Nitromoors is fine but it eats glue. My preferred option was Precision Paints Modelstrip. When I looked  at my bottles, one was empty (where had it gone?) and the other contained about 2 egg cup fulls of well-used liquid. Not enough to do the job.

Not a problem, I think, my local modelship has had a pot of modelstrip on the shelf for years. I'll go and get it. Except it had been sold and there wasn't any in the stock room. The owner suggested that I could try "Mr Muscle" oven cleaner from the 99p shop as that often worked.

Good thinking. It's not actually "Mr Muscle, the packaging might be orange and look at lot like the real thing but it's called "Dr Magic". Still only 99p though.

The model was popped in a jar and sprayed with the cleaner. I put the lid back on and left it for a couple of hours.

At the sink, things looked promising. A scrub with a toothbrush, poke with scalpel and general prod saw some paint peel off in sheets. I reckoned that if I gave it another dip, I'd get the rest. So, the jar was re-filled with loads of the foam and left overnight.

In the morning, prodding and brushing resulted in what you see. Apart from the "chimney", the model is paint free. I don't know how it has discoloured the nickel silver but that will soon vanish under some paint.

There's plenty left in the can too. I could clean an oven with it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Barclay Diesel refurbishment

Poorly Barclay

Long time readers of this blog will know that I've built several War Department Barclay diesel locomotives. I've done then in 3.4, 4 and 7mm but always from a Mercian Models kit. It's a nice looking loco that has a claim to fame as being the first railway engine dragged up the beaches on D-Day.

If you visit the Mercian stand at an exhibition, you'll see the test builds I've carried out. Well, at least you'll see the 7mm test build. The 4mm version has had a hard life including at least one free-fall sans parachute to the floor. Trevor has returned it to me for restoration. Oh, and while I'm at it, could I repaint it green for a change.

Looking at the model once I'd stripped it down, it really was in a sorry state. While I have been supplied with all the bits that fell off. It's not all bad - the buffer springing still works !Before I re-attach everything, I should sort out the frames which now are more parallelogram than rectangle. But before that, I better remove the old paint.

Barclay in bits

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Peanuts mystery

PeanutsSpotted when looking for a Viewmaster viewer on eBay, a set of slides for the cartoon Peanuts.

The picture looks like the characters are visiting a British railway station.

The sign is right, the porter looks British. They are carrying suitcases, so did our heros make a trip across the pond from the US of A?

Does anyone remember this? What sort of "hillarious" escapaded did they get up to?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wavemaster build

Wavemaster Build

On my Dad's workbench is a Vintage Model Boat company kit for a Wavemaster. The kit is based on an Aerokits model but with laser-cut frames.

Despite this, it still needs a building board - the flat base with strips attached to hold the hull profiles. This is just to keep things square. Once the stringers (curved bits of wood) are in place, the hull will be lifted off for covering.

So far, the model has been going well. At 34 inches long, it's no little model. The keel is supplied in two parts, joined by a jigsaw type lug. The join is braced with two layers of plywood either side so this won't be a weak spot.

Anyway, so far, so good. I'll let you know how it progresses.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Berliner TT Bahnen trains

German Train Set

Funny what happens when people know you are a railway modeller. Mostly they find boxes of old trains in the loft and ask if you know anyone who wants to buy them. Normally, it's a pile of old toy train junk worth about £3.50 which its owner thinks will buy him a new Ferrari.

This time though, we have something interesting.

It seems that back in the 1980s a friend was stationed in Berlin as part of his army service. Every so often he would head to the Eastern side of the city where Western money was prized. There, model trains were stupidly cheap and so he gradually acquired a few, as did his comrades.

The models are by Berliner TT Bahnen and 1:120 scale - continental TT.

According to Wikipedia, Berliner TT Bahnen was originally called Zeuke but changed its name on being nationalised in 1972. I love the ideal of a nationalised model railway manufacturer. Sory of Hornby meets British Leyland, although that doesn't sound like a recipe for innovation or quality...

The company became Tillig in 1993 and still exists. You can visit their website.

Anyway, the first two items I've dug out of the box are a set labeled "good play" containing a pair of railbuses, and 0-8-0 tank engine, 2 coaches and 2 wagons. The loco certainly doesn't look to have been run but given a taste of 12V DC, the wheels rotate and the valve gear waggles. It's charming.

There are several individual locos, one of which is shown below - a diesel shunter. This is still in the catalogue albeit with finer flanges and separate wire handrails.

What's this lot worth? No idea. One dealer reckons that no one wants East German stuff so the best price for a loco is a fiver. I think he's wrong. Surely pre-Berlin wall fall stuff is rarer? I'm certainly fascinated by it and would probably buy the lot except that I really don't need any more toy trains, especially in a scale I don't work in and using track I don't have.

Can anyone shed any light on these for me?

East German TT locomotive

Thursday, January 24, 2013

BT&HA Toy Fair 2013

Saturn 5Toys are big business. Just how big a business was brought home to me as I gathered up the free magazines and bag at the entrance to the Olympia exhibition venue on Tuesday. It's a long while since I've been to a trade show and none of the webby ones I turned up at handed out enough paper to make a telephone director jealous and then expected you to carry it around. Clever people picked them up on the way out.

I'd blagged a ticket on the basis of my MREmag editorship and picked up a badge marked "Media" at the entrance. Luckily, I'd taken a decent camera and intended to shoot as many new railway and boat products as I could. These would then be dispatched to the appropriate magazines in the hope I could cover the cost of my train ticket.

Needless to say, that means you lot don't get to see any boats or trains because I need these for other reasons. What you do get to look at are the weird and interesting bits.

The show is huge. Covering the floor of the exhibition centre as well as the balcony, everyone has very clearly marked out space. Many of the stands have only a single entrance so you can't casually walk on and off. Some scan the badge of any visitor for their records, presumably I can expect some interesting e-mail in the future.

Anyway, model of the day for me has to be the Dragon 1:72nd scale Saturn 5 rocket. At 1.5m tall, I'm already trying to work out how to incorporate it into a OO layout. I know what you're thinking, it's an American machine so they should have produced it in 1:87 or HO. That's true but I reckon it's only a little more surreal than Triang Battlespace.

Dr Who is 50 this year so punters will be able to get their hands on a 50th Anniversary Dalek, which looks rubbish to me but then I'm not convinced by any Dr after Tom Baker so I'm probably not the target market. If you are, then you'll be pleased to know that sonic screwdrivers through the ages and miniatures of the new assistant are on the way too.

Toy FairI did venture onto the Hornby/Airfix/Scalextric stand for a while. Men in suits were too busy to talk but I did get a look at some of the new materials, well those not represented by empty jars anyway. The Demolition Derby car sets look fun with Lego-like vehicles that can be built and crashed. This won a best product award so I'm not alone in being keen.

Finally, I headed for the Lego stand. A real warren of stuff. The plastic bricks are doing a lot of licencing this year with Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles and Lone Ranger ranges appearing. Interestingly, you couldn't take pictures of the later as they haven't finalised it yet. The man in charge was a bit scary too - a sort of chubby ranger complete with horse costume hung around his waist. Talking to one of his colleagues, apparently he loves doing this and has a new costume every year.

By the end, I had photos and a sore shoulder from carrying the ever heavier bag. It looks like there will be lots of goodies for Christmas next year. In fact if everyone there does reasonable business then Santa's sack is going to be bulging.

More photos from the Toy Fair

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

3 link shunting pole

Coupling hook

At the start of the Leamington show, I was missing a vital piece of equipment for an O gauge layout - a shunting pole.

Unlike every other model railway layout I've built, the couplings are accurate 3-link chains. They are coupled and uncoupled with a hook. Admittedly, modellers don't normally use a hook that is particularly accurate but that's because we are doing the "big hand of God" thin and coming at the job from above rather than the side.

We are also peering into a dark hole between two wagons. Tradition has it that model shunting poles are wire hooks attached to small torches.

I looked everywhere for a suitable torch. A dozen pound shops in Central Birmingham. Each one could sell me a big chunky torch but only the last, in one of the less fashionable areas, sold something suitably small. It seems that these things are easily available except when you want one!

Anyway, on the Saturday morning, I bent a bit of 0.9mm brass wire and taped it to the head of the torch using some masking tape pinched off the organiser who'd been using it to mark out the floor. The resulting tool worked a treat. I should have made the wire 10 mm or so longer for working between vans, but apart from that, perfect. Even the cheap tape held for two days of use.

I'll probably make a few more of these, and doubtless they will appear here. If anyone has suggestions for improving the breed, please let me know.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wintery station

Snowy Station

Snow has fallen, so here's the obligatory view of the garden railway station with a white covering. As you can see, I don't take my buildings in over the winter. However, I am very disappointed in the weather - that is now way a scale depth of snow!

Youd probably get a nice iced tea from the refreshment bar...

Even the lighthouse has the sort of covering that would get the BBC frothing with excitement.

Snowy Lighthouse

Monday, January 21, 2013

Leamington Show, Day 2

StirrerPropToday, the weather forecast said, "Light snow starting at noon". What we got was light snow starting at 8am. My first job of the day involved standing by the door, letting people into the building. Since it's a fire door, there isn't a handle on the outside so you can prop the thing open and freeze everyone, or some mug has to watch for arrivals and open it.

Thanks to the weather, the day was quiet. Despite this, I had more good chat about Clayhanger Yard. One thing I have learnt is that it should be pronounced "Clanger Yard" as in the knitted creatures who used to live on the moon. Saying it as "Clay-hanger" marks one out as a toff or even worse, a southerner.

On the board, I've been marking out scenery and today, added and embankment and pile of coal. The later will be explained later this week. People looked at me a bit strange but once I explained what I was doing they patted me on the head and told me I'd be all right one day. I'm assuming those looks were enthusiasm and not pity...

Operating the model is more interesting than expected. Despite the short loop, it seems possible that moving wagons around won't be too tedious. I might have to invent a shunting game to help but at least everything worked.

The photo, in case you are wondering, shows the Clayhanger Yard name sign. I laminated it , pinned this to the back of the board and then tapped a coffee stirrer to this as a support. It worked well - must remember that for another time.

By the end of the day, the traders reported decent business despite the lack of numbers. It seems that punters who made the effort were enthusiasts who were spending money. A good few families braved the snow as well today which was nice to see. A few even went home clutching a bargain from the second hand stall.

Hopefully as I write, everyone is arriving safely back home. A few left early to cover as much journey in daylight. That's fine - it's only toy trains and not worth anyone getting hurt over.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Leamington show, Day 1

Triple Sausage BapTo quote the BBC for a moment:


We drove to the showground at 6:30am, splashing through the puddles having not bothered to scrape the ice off the car - because there wasn't any.

That early start meant that after a couple of hours bringing the last layouts and traders into the hall (more mopping) I was was ready for a delicious breakfast bap from the restaurant. For £3.50, you can chose three items and I picked sausage, sausage and sausage. Since you should always have a vegetable with a meal, I added tomato ketchup. And tea.

After this, the day passed in a whirl of conversations. I'm pleased that so many people recognised the layout from it's magazine appearances. Better still, they were happy to chat and we came up with a few minor changes to the original plan. I'll be mulling these over and some will doubtless appear on the layout.

Sadly, thanks to the weather and despite my appearance on local radio for 2 minutes at 8:20am, numbers were well down on previous years. Those that did visit found the usual excellent selection of layouts and trade. Yes, there were a few no-shows for each but at least they generally let us know by 'phone. Most of them anyway.

Anyway, in the last hour, I took the opportunity to borrow a new shunter for the layout. A Garratt from Mercian Models. Despite not having run for a year, the locomotive trundled around perfectly and looked fantastic. It's short enough that I could even shunt with it if I chose - and I did, to the amusement of some visitors who particularly wanted to see it run.

The layout acquitted itself very well. I think there is an odd power-loss in one point, probably due to a dirty switchblade. Apart from that, perfect. Let's hope Sunday is as good. I wonder if I should have egg in my bap this time?

Garratt on Clayhanger


More photos on Flickr

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mops, buckets and a first appearence

Mop and bucketYesterday, I drove through the snow (I hate driving in snow) to the showground where we were setting up the L&WMRS exhibition.

On arrival, there were a couple of traders waiting on the doorstep so we let them in and started marking up the floor. The idea had been to keep everyone out while we did this, and they were very early, but the weather made this a bit unkind.

Of course, people driving in the side doors caused us a problem - wet floors from snow dripping off the vehicles. I spent most of my afternoon, largely with the aid of well known P4 modeller Steve Lee, mopping away. The hall itself isn't cold so if we smeared the wet around, it quickly dried up. It's just that with lots of cars and vans coming in, there was a lot of mopping!

Anyway, by about 6, we had nearly everyone who was likely to arrive through one of the doors near my layout spot, so I hoicked the Clayhanger Lane baseboards over and set up. To my immense satisfaction, it all worked. Since this is the first time the layout has been put together, that's great news. OK, I know it's not a complicated model, but you still worry.

Anyway, the plan is I'll run a few trains and generally have a play. Mostly, I want to be talking to people. Lots and lots of talking. If you are around, please say hello as I'll get lonely...

Crowhanger Lane's first show

Friday, January 18, 2013

Leamington & Warwick Exhibition

Leamington & Warwick MRS Show Poster 2013

Today will be spent crawling around the floor marking the hall out for the Leamington & Warwick MRS exhibition. Despite not being a member, I get to help out with this as many of the people who are members seem to find other things to do when the opportunity arises. There's not even enough snow to persuade them to cancel sadly, little more than a fart of it as one of my uncouth friends has posted on Facebook.

I'll be there with Clayhanger Yard - at this stage it's a demonstration of a layout under construction. Please do come along and have a chat. Trains will (hopefully) move but I'm not operating a full schedule or even pretending to. What I hope is to spend a couple of days chatting about this, MREmag and toy chuffers generally.

It's going to be a good show with lots to see and plenty to help empty your wallet. You even get a free A4 sized programme with a top quality Chris Nevard photo on the front to help you find your way around. Don't worry about eating either, as Strollers Restaurant on the foyer has rightly gained a reputation as one of the best exhibition eateries in the country with very reasonably priced quality meals.

See you there!

More details on the L&WMRS website.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Classic car influenced cable clip

Cable ClipWiring up Clayhanger Yard, I've used a trick to keep things neat that I picked up from a classic car magazine.

Cable clips are supplied with what I think are masonry nails. You hold them in place, whack the head and your wiring is firmly fixed to the wall. If you want to use them in a car, and who doesn't aspire to neat wiring in their classic, whanging nails into the metalwork doesn't work.

The trick is to replace the nails with small screws. Self-tappers for a car, brass for woodwork. I've binned the nails as bashing them into the baseboard seemed a bit violent. Screws seemed gentler and less likely to disturb anything.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't move this bin

Dont move this bin
According to the label, this bin is where London Midland technicians are stored at Leamington station. Presumably that means the equipment technicians use and not the techie staff themselves. Not the really good equipment either, judging by the less than state-of-the-art security system preventing burglar Bill from opening the lid.
In modelling terms, this could be rather fun to add to a layout. The wheelie bin might be available ready to use but even if it isn't, something simple could be knocked up from bits of plastic easily enough. I'd make a central box and then add the rim around the edge. Measurements might be interesting, does anyone have a plan?
The "Not to be moved" sign (does this mean the bin or do they hang them on trains while working?) might be more a challenge. Maybe the sign could be printed on the computer and then added to a plastic lamp arrangement. I think an etched do-dad would be nice here as those legs would fiddly but essential. Anyone know a supplier?
Hardest to do would be the bag stuffed behind the bin. Maybe some very thin polythene could be found and screwed up to do the job but it's going to have to be gossamer thin not to look out of scale.
Who says the modern scene doesn't have little corners of life ?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prototype for everything - Sleepers vs slitting disk

Gashed sleepersLoitering at Leamington station awaiting a train, I wandered up and down the platform to keep myself warm. Looking over the edge of Platform 1, I was intrigued by the sleepers.

They show all the signs of being attacked by a slitting disk being used to cut the copper surfaces of PCB track. We do this to stop electric juice flowing from one rail to another. Quite why they feel the need to do the same on the prototype, I don't know. Maybe the sleepers are wood-effect metal?

To think that (other, not me) people go to all the trouble of filling the grooves left by the insulating process to preserve the top surface. As it turns out, I was right all along!

Looking under the buffer stop, there is another prototype for anything, silver/grey sleepers.

Lots of people think that sleepers weather like normal wood and paint then grey to show this. Truth is, sleepers are pressure soaked in creosote  and then get a coat of brown railway muck on them. If they start to go grey, even Network Rail rips them out and bungs then in the bin. Real railway companies certainly wouldn't countenance anything other than brown wood between the tracks.

This isn't the case under the buffers though. We don't bother maintaining this bit, so the preservative has long since washed away and they really are grey and rotten. But only the ones where the trains don't go.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Parker's Guide - Cheap!

Discount Guide
In the work of WH Smith, bookazines have a shelf life of 12 weeks. My top publication is reaching the end of this and so they are clearing the remaining copies by knocking a couple of quid off the cover price. According to the shelf flash, you've got until Wednesday to grab your copy, or your extra copy if you sensibly bought one the moment it came out.
Don't worry if you can't get to Smith's, it will still be available on-line.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Move over GQ

Meccano Magazine Jan 1964The cover of the January 1964 Meccano shows a delightful scene with one of the ex-County Donegal Railways railcars standing at Port Erin on the Isle of Man. The picture caused me to snap the mag up from eBay when I saw it for a couple of quid.

Inside, the editorial made me laugh. Under the title "A new look for your magazine", the editor writes of changes taking place from the next issue including this:

Out in mid-February, the March issue will contain the regular articles on hobbies, road and track, railways, shipping, aircraft, space travel, which you have always enjoyed. In addition there will be news from all the model manufacturers month by month and also features about your favorite pop artists and TV personalities. Young me today are more interested than ever before in matters of style and taste, so we will present regular articles about clothes for the modern man.

Yes, fashion advice from Meccano magazine.

Can you imagine it?

The best dressed engineer is wearing his boiler suit in cerise this year with fine shoulder detailing and a peplum frill to disguise the waist.

More to the point, can you imagine the editors any of the model magazines published today thinking to themselves, "I know, what we need is a fashion column. That'll boost sales."

Neither can I, any more than I can imagine GQ deciding that it's readers need to read a technical treatise on the centrifugal clutch or axial piston pump. Or even those railcars.

Saturday, January 12, 2013



Recently discovered in NASA archives is an alternative design for the famous lunar rover. While the version launched might have been practical, it didn't really fit in with the groovy 60s and 70s vibe. In an effort to engage the kids, it was decided to ask George Barris, designer of the original Batmobile, to come up with something new. The result is shown above. Sadly, the moon launch programme was cancelled just before it was sent into space. It's interesting that in addition to the usual radio antenna and video camera, Barris has been asked to include a ray gun. Maybe some of those rumours about alien finds are true?

In reality, this is an AMT Moonscope plastic kit assembled by my dad. Not the easiest kit in the world as part fit isn't brilliant. There are plastic bits included that aren't mentioned on the instructions including a rather nice windscreen to keep the astronauts visors clean.

There are lots of chromed bits, which is what you want on a custom car kit, more than shown on the box lid for some reason. The wheels are chromed but shown as red on the box. I used some Humbrol translucent paint for this effect and it's gone quite well.

The kit was also offered branded as a spin off from the TV Series Space 1999 "The Alien" although this version included a covered canopy, moon display base and figure. Prices of these are many times the tenner I paid for this kit!

It's not completely a flight of fancy. Barris really did design Moonscope but it looks very little like the miniature version. See the full-sized version on his website.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fowler diesel body

Fowler Shunter Body

Looking at the Fowler shunters upperworks provides me with a bit of dilemma. On first inspection, I've not done too bad a job with the whitemetal parts. They are soldered together pretty well with really tiny amounts of solder. Smug people looking at the cab roof will be saddened to know that those blobs are Blu-tack holding it in place before detail and paint.

This must have been one of my first attempts at low-melt soldering, a process that separates the men from the boys. The very concept of approaching metal with such a low melting point with a hot iron terrifies most sensible modellers. I probably used a 12V iron run off the back of an old H&M Controller. Nowadays I'd go for my Maplin cheapo variable temperature unit, or for castings this chunky, a normal iron and work fast.

They are massive bits of metal - the entire loco weighs in at 600g with a few more parts to add.

All of this is as per the instructions. Unfortunately there is a slight snag. If you read this excellent web page, then you'll realise that should I wish to model the LMS version of this loco (I do, the livery is a lot easier), there are quite a few differences that the kitmaker ignored. Checking my copy of "LMS Diesel Locomotives and Railcars" shows that while I have placed the auxiliary engine on the correct side of the footplate, this should be half as wide again. Worse, the louvres show above should be half way up the bonnet side and there are only a single line of them. To cap it all, the sandboxes aren't chubby enough either.

This leaves me with a decision to make. The sensible option is probably to dismantle the body by boiling it in water, then re-assemble the model to represent GWR No.1. Trouble is, I think this engine was fully lined out and quite frankly, I am confident I'll mess this up and the results will look horrible. Anyway, what normal person wants a Great Western loco, even one that will offend the purists?

Another option would be to scrape away the excess louvres and make new ones. How do I do that? Well, if we assume I don't have access to machine tools, then probably badly.

Finally, what about an industrial engine that never saw main-line service? That would work as several of these machines were built and a version with the options I'm using isn't out of the question.

After writing all this, I think I have a plan. I do want the LMS machine. I can't alter the louvres so they will be left alone. I could make a new auxiliary engine box, which will balance the proportions up a bit. If anyone spots the other anomalies, then I'll hold my hands up and admit the model is less than perfect. However it is MY model and it's MY train set so I'm not going to worry about it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forge and Plywood baseboards in Hornby Mag

Cotswold stone forge

This month's Hornby Magazine sees one of my more beautiful projects - a Cotswold stone forge built from the Wills Finecast kit. Not a complicated model by any means but well worth spending a bit of time over.

As well as assembling the building, I've detailed it with the Wills parts sold as an accessory kit. A little bit of scratchbuilt detail around the forge itself and the result is a modestly priced but intricate model. I was surprised how much I liked the result once it was set in a small landscape diorama.

Elsewhere, I'm knocking up some plywood baseboard for Clayhanger Yard. Trying to be different, the front edge of these is concave. Hopefully this will exaggerate the length of the layout slightly. I will have to drop a copy of the mag into my local hardware store though, as their man with the power saw features very prominently.

The most revolutionary step is to use a heavy duty paste table as a support. I know it's cheating and a "proper" modeller would make something from real trees but time was of the essence, the table is sturdy and cheap, and anyway, I couldn't decide how to do them anyway.

Elsewhere, I've reviewed some nice 3D printed vehicles from Finney & Smith and couple of books.

Hornby Magazine Website

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Book Review: Narrow Gauge Adventure by Peter Kazer

Wild Swan publish some pretty idiosyncratic book and this has to be one of their more unusual.

I've known Peter Kazer for years through a mutual friend for many years. Over this time, I've marvelled at the layouts he has produced of ever more obscure narrow gauge lines is ever stranger scales. Each model is to a standard I can only dream of achieving.

Admittedly, these models take time and so they have tended only to replicate things inside the railway fence. The last model to go beyond these boundaries was his masterpiece, Corris, and that took 10 years to produce!

Peter now feels that age is against him and has called a halt to layout production. This book is his modelling autobiography showing each layout and looking at the prototypes that inspired it. Additionally, there is a large section of "possible" models that he has considered, and in one case even started, but will never build. For me, this is the most interesting part as I can see the appeal of several of these schemes. Plenty of people will be measuring up for another set of baseboards after look at them!

For anyone planning to emulate the work, a discussion of tools, equipment and materials fills the later part of the book. I particularly like the insistence on calling "basswood" it's correct English name of "Lime" but that's probably just me.

A very personal book but one for narrow gauge enthusiasts. It's chock full of beautifully reproduced photos showing lines in their heyday. Even if you don't want to know about the model making, you could enjoy it simply as a picture book.

As I say, slightly oddball and at a very strange price of £26.95, but well worth a read.

Narrow Gauge Adventure from the Talyllyn Railway Bookshop

If you want to know more about construction methods, Peter's earlier book Narrow Gauge Railway Modelling is worth tracking down.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Fowler chassis

Fowler Shunter Chassis

As soon as I awoke the Fowler locomotive from its slumbers, the model was plonked on some track and fed a dose of 12volts. To my surprise, it sprang into life and trundled around pretty smoothly.

Removing the body, this chassis is a bit different from the norm. For a start, those brass frames are super-hefty milled brass. None of your wafer-thin etchings here. The rods are also milled. Presumably both processes were carried out with terrific accuracy judging by the quality of the running. All I had to do was screw the frame together square and all would be OK.

Another departure from the norm are the sprung plunger pick-ups, something that would have been in the kit and I'd have no choice over. Big holes in the frames would have resulted from me leaving these out. As it happens, I think sprung plungers are a good thing. When they work, they should work well and seems like a much better engineering solution to the job than my normal bent bits of phosphor bronze wire.

Powering the beast is a chunky Mashima can motor driving a set of gear (can't work out the ratio and don't care much) in a robust gearbox. Why the wiring includes a chocolate block is a mystery to me but I suppose there was a reason at the time.

All of this could be for naught if the jackshaft drive didn't work, and they are notoriously difficult to set up, but even this is behaving itself. Whitemetal cranks on the end of a long axle appear to be the order of the day. I'll take a closer look at this some time as I hate making these things yet this one works. Perhaps I can nick some ideas for future models.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Fowler 0-4-0 diesel shunter

Fowler Shunter

While digging in the O gauge stock box to find the Barclay Diesel, I unearthed yet another half-finished project from my collection. This ones an Eric Underhill kit for the Fowler diesel shunter, GWR Number 1.

I bought this model at least 10 years ago from Tennants Trains in Halesowen. At the time it came complete for a nice, round, £100. That might seem like a reasonable price for a 7mm kit but I can assure you that it was a heafty chunk of cash for me to spend pretty much on a whim at the time. Admittedly this is a loco that I've always wanted to build. There wasn't much chance of doing it in 4mm scale either as it's not very big - squeezing a motor in would be "interesting". On the other hand I could afford it, and we were building a club O gauge layout as well as dreaming up a personal project at the time.
Churchill on the Derwent Valley Railway
The model progressed to running stage with the main lumps of body assembled (more on both of these later in the week) but then the personal project was abandoned, others appeared on the workbench and the Fowler was stuck in the box carefully wrapped and awaiting a revival of interest.

Well, that time has come. I need a project for the blog. I need to reduce my stack of unfinished models. I need to complete the little Fowler.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A cold day with a Black 5

Steamy Black 5Some things just can't be made in miniature.

On a January day at the Severn Valley Railway, a Black 5 had just brought it's train into Kidderminster station. There was low-level sunlight, smoke and steam.

It was lovely.

You can't do that with a smoke generator. And you can't make the wonderful smell either.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

3mm scale Matador


Around 9000 AEC Matadors were built fro both the Army and RAF. According to Wikipedia, the flat fronted cab was framed in ash, clad with steel. Whatever, the simple design has made them a popular subject with modellers for many year. It's a far easier shape to make than the curvy, but probably more useful, Bedford.

After military use, many lorries found their way into civilian roles. Sadly, not nearly as many as railway modellers would have liked. Plenty of layouts in the old days saw ex-Airfix models pressed into use. Most civvies were recovery or heavy haulage trucks - positively massive compared to their companions on the road.

Anyway, while 4mm modellers are over-supplied with nice de-cast models, 3mm scale fans can chose from Continental stuff at too small a scale or pretending that HO models are right. Thus, the appearance of a Russian plastic kit for a Matador by Zvezda was welcomed by the community. Some preliminary measurements indicate it's not perfect (sligthly too tall, slightly too wide and a bit short) but we'll take it.

The kit is intended as a wargaming model. It is made of a nasty, brittle plastic. Construction is glue-free and the windows are solid.

I opened out the windows, did away with the glue-freeness, bust an axle (repaired with plastic filler) and threw the rather odd "crew-cab" style tilt away. A replacement scratchbuilt out of plastic sheet makes the model look rather less massive than it otherwise might.

Not bad for a penny under 3 quid. Or 2p under 6, since this is kit number two as I b******d up the first attempt...

Zvezda Matador at ModelZone

Friday, January 04, 2013

Barclay 0-6-0


If you want to build a model railway layout, at some point you'll need a locomotive. I'm knocking up an O gauge layout, so I need an O gauge loco. The trouble is, the layout is based around a Dapol Class 08 diesel and this won't be available for months.

Once upon a time I aspired to building in 7mm scale. Our layout got as far as a couple of baseboards and some C&L based pointwork. Then other projects happened (Flockburgh mainly), the boards moved to the shed, where they still are, and the points were stored in the stock box for the model.

The stock box doesn't just contain trackwork, it has locos and wagons too. Just because I didn't build the model doesn't mean I didn't construct some stock. One of the models in there was this Barclay industrial.

By rights, I shouldn't have this model at all. Bought as a kit from the second hand stall at Warley years ago, I built it to see if there was any money to be made. Having picked up some wheels, I made up the etched Wychbury Loco Works parts into this rather handsome beast.

From there, the loco spent some time on eBay and then out club second hand stall. Priced at a slightly negotiable £350, the best offer I had was a derisory amount less than the cost of the parts, so I hung on to it.

Now, I'm glad I did. It's a perfect test machine. As long as I'm careful with those side handrails, there's not much to damage. The model runs perfectly, even on a 1960s H&M controller. At around 13mm shorter than an 08, I can check siding and headshunt lengths. It's been hauling a couple of wagons around for the last week perfectly well. There's a bit of dust around for baseboard drilling but this model will be simple enough to clean.

So, if you want to buy this loco, tough. I'm keeping it. Sometime it will be weathered and the cab will fill with crew. Maybe a re-paint is in order with one of those funky modern liveries but I quite like green and anything else would mean more work. but who knows?

The kit is now available from Mercian Models

Thursday, January 03, 2013

P Class history

Old chassisA few weeks ago, I was approached by the guy who runs out local club second hand stall to advise him on a couple of kits he'd had passed over for sale.

One was a bit of a surprise - an original P Class tank engine. Just like the one I completed recently.

I think this is an original Wills production from the 1960's. While the body appears to be the same, underneath the modeller is expected to use a cast whitemetal chassis.

The theory is that it's a good idea to supply the scary bit of construction as a ready to use part. The fact that it looks a lot like the solid chassis found under contemporary RTR engines is a bonus in the "not scaring the modeller" stakes too.

On the face of it, this is good. Look, the axles holes are even ready-bushed with brass bearings. How fab is that?

Fabness depends on the lump of metal. Whitemetal shrinks as it cools and although an expert toolmaker can work out how much shrinkage will occur, (using a Shrink Rule) it's not easy. Nor is it an exact science as different thicknesses will change different amounts. To make things worse, even if you unpack a perfect chassis from the box of bits, being a soft metal, twisting during construction, through something as simple as over-tightening the body retaining screws, will turn a sweet runner into a bag of nails pretty much instantly.

Finally, for good running to occur, the holes in the con rods should match the centres of the axle holes. Making the two parts out of different materials just makes this match harder to achieve.

All this explains why we now tend to find etched chassis. While they require construction and effort, the chances are the results will work properly.

The kit? Well, I understand it will be on the L&WMRS second hand stall for about £35, with room for negotiation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Book Review: Mono-Rail by David Voice

With an eye to the more "interesting" railways, this is an obvious addition to my bookshelf.

Subtitled "The History of the industrial monorails made by Road Machines Ltd., Metalair Ltd and Rail Machines Ltd." the cover might mislead readers on a couple of counts. First, Road Machines Limited made monorail based vehicles, not road machines. Originally, the intention was to produce dump trucks and other construction machinery but the monorails were the most popular product.

Second, the steam engine on the front cover isn't representative of the firms output. It's pretty and certainly unique but the bread and butter products were ugly skips on a rail. Ugly to some anyway, personally, I find them fascinating.

The slim, perfect bound, A4 sized publication takes the reader through the entire history of this particular monorail system. The biggest surprise is just how ubiquitous it was. In 1966 there were 800 users! 100 sewage farms, many building sites, London Transport and one James Bond film all used the system.

Well illustrated with B&W photographs and plans, the 50 pages cover a system that I was largely unaware of. Whether I could now build a model of it, I'm not sure but it's certainly tempting. The text is as solid block of information. I doubt there is much missing.

Sadly, the words are a bit clunky and don't really flow. There's nothing wrong with that, you just don't want to read it as a conventional book. There's also a 17 item errata slip included. I know how easy it is for the odd mistake to slip though, and to be honest you'd probably not spot any of these if you weren't told, but this doesn't give a great impression.

On the other hand, this is a very reasonably priced book at a tenner. The system it describes is fascinating and I doubt you will ever need a second volume on the subject. A massive amount of research has gone into writing this. The system was normally hidden away from the public gaze and at the time, enthusiasts of the time will have been pointing their cameras at the main line. It's a good job there are plenty of official photos.

Highly recommended for those who like their prototypes a little odd.

Mono-rail at Amazon

Rail Machines website

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

7 Up!

7The trouble with looking back over a years blogging is that I realise how long some of my projects have been running.

Just re-reading January's efforts, I see that the 3mm scale Class 25 is now 12 months old. How can that be? I've just put the box away while I work on Clayhanger Lane too.

Anyway, we traditionally begin the New Year post with a few stats:

  • There have been 366 postings this year. Some have been longer than others but I've still managed my 1 a day, which makes me proud.
  • Visitor numbers continue to rise - 376 per day including 88 regulars, a figure slightly dented by the traditional Christmas/New Year lull when you are all away from work and don't need me for entertainment. Total as I write is 137,700 visitors for the year who looked at 235,400 pages. Not too shabby for a specialist blog.
  • Google Analytics has broken so I can't tell the most popular posts, although fixing indicators and headlights on the Peugeot 206 keep popping up in the daily stats on Ho Hum. Something else to repair...

According to last years post, I was anticipating finishing a couple of Garratt, well that didn't happen, maybe next year. A G2 and HO scale Dunalistair were also in the queue, the first progressed until I ran out of information and handed it back. The second was turning into a bit of a nightmare and I began to hate the model, so I paid the owner all the money he'd spent on it and flogged the thing on eBay to recover as much of this as possible. That's the trouble with making models for other people, when they go wrong, you are left picking up the pieces and paying out to escape.

On the boat front, the 1/20th Brede did see some action. Sadly, I found out that my basic hull work was rubbish and the boat headed for the bin. I'll be having another go at this as it's promised to a magazine.The Airfix Canberra was a lot more successful despite being a bit of a challenge due to the age of the kit. Finally, there was  rather good looking Pilot Boat on the water thanks to a nice kit.

That's the bad news, but there have bee some successes. Biggest of those has to be the publication of my Parker's Guide Bookazine. I'm still stupidly proud of this and lots of people have told me how much they have enjoyed it. If that was you, thank you. If you haven't got a copy yet, it's still available from the publishers.

Next up, I must mention taking over the editorial reins at It's been an interesting ride over there but we seem to have got the hang of it now!

01 DieselModelling wise, well, I completed an 01 Diesel and Southern P Class, both of which I'm really pleased with. They were "me" projects in that neither was built with a magazine article in mind, although at least one will probably end up in print in some way. Looking back at the posts, I'm fired up to do another so watch this space.

Finally, there has been an awful lot of book reviewing too. I've been sent a few to cover on the blog (note to publishers, I'm happy to do this and can sometimes arrange extra expose too, just get in touch) and also picked the odd one up myself which I wave electronically under everyone's nose.

Anyway, I suppose I should make a few predictions. This year I will build an O gauge layout. Clayhanger Yard appeared in Hornby Magazine last month and will continue to do so until it's finished. As I write, track is being laid and the first show it's booked into is three weeks away at Leamington. With a bit of luck, this will finally push me to get the Garratts built to run on it 'cos that's what a 7 foot long shunting plank really needs.

Talking of Garratt, I have a K's kit in the cupboard and also a Hattons RTR model on order. Will I ditch the kit? Nope. I've order a rotating bunker version and will make the kit up as the better looking (to my eyes) standard bunker.

The Manx test track still awaits. So far all it has proved is that the chassis under the existing wagons are rubbish. I'll need to do something about this and when I do (note, I don't say "if"), then you'll know about it.

So, there is a lot of model-making to do. Plenty of kits in the stash and lots more calling to me from every trade stand at every show. Hopefully, this time next year, there will be a post labeled 8 with another review of the previous 12 months. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone. May your modelling board be productive and never empty.