Saturday, August 31, 2013

British Waterways Barges

Taking photos on the canal a few days ago, I found this pair of British Waterways (now the Canal & River Trust) moored up and thought they were worth a look.

BW Boat 4000602 - 1

BW Boat 4000602 - 2

4000602 is the smaller of the two and appears to be powered by a hydraulic outboard motor. You can see the pipework on the tiller and I would guess there is a compressor in the cabin.

BW Boat 4000638 - 1
BW Boat 4000638 - 2

4000638 is bigger and wider. The bow is interesting with a deck that overhangs a log way. Presumably this allows the boat to get closer to the place being worked on. In the load area, the lump of wood looks like a chunk of a lock. although neither of the ones near the boat seemed to be under repair.

Both boats were parked up a long was from civilisation, on the Fosse Way near Leamington. Presumably the crew head to them in a van, the 4mph speed limit on the water precluding trips out and back from the workshop in a single day.

Both boats are very utilitarian and to my eyes, much more interesting for it. They were nestled amoung some brightly coloured "proper" barges and contrasted wonderfully. I've never been a big modeller of barges, but could see my way to building either of these one day, so any more information would be appreciated.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Karmann Ghia

Matchbox Karman Ghia

This is my new car. A Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Not a real one obviously, a Matchbox model.

For those who know nothing about the Ghia, it was VWs sport model in the days when the Beetle was the main product from Wolfsburgs factories. Using a slighly modified Beetle chassis (I think the front is a bit different but aren't entirely sure) the car was sporty in looks only. Indeed, the firm played on this with a TV advert showing it unable to punch it's way out of a paper bag!

As a model, this Matchbox item isn't bad. Compared to a similar shot wound on Wikipedia:

VW Karmann Ghia 02
The biggest fault is the wheels which are presumably a standard item. Apart from this, is a pretty accurate model.
But it's not a model. Well, I suppose it is but being Matchbox, surely it's a toy? I meant, it rolls well and the first thing I did when I pulled it out of the blister pack was to shove it along the table. Maybe I resisted making "brum brum" noises, but I still wanted to see it move.
The thing is that us grown-ups have taken over toys a bit. I could argue that this toy is the result. In 2009 (this is the 2011 model), someone decided that the range of metal cars needed an addition not made for many years that most kids will never have seen. Good grief, I'm a VeeDub fan and I've not seen that many of the things. As far as I'm concerned, Ghia's are cars to dream of, not to won. £10k gets you a half way decent example and even then you've got an old car notorious for rust.
Anyway, assuming, for the sake of argument, that is is a model, can it be improved? Yes it can. The paint is far too thin. All the panel edges show through and the windscreen needs more paint on the sides. Some detail picking out inside would be good too. The side stripes should be silver and so should the mirrors and door handles. I don't suppose I'll get any 1:59 scale people to drive it but that would be nice.
I'll still brooooom it along the floor though.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Your Model Railway Village

Partwork season is upon us again and this time there is one for railway modellers - or at least people who wish to become railway modellers.

Your Model Railway Village is a partwork from Hachette. Over 120 issues, the buyer is provided with a trackmat, trackwork, rolling stock and buildings to build a modest OO gauge train set.

The first issue is on sale for £3.99 and has been eagerly snapped up by modellers as for the money you get a Mk1 coach and straight length of track. The makers of both items are a mystery. They may possibly be simplified copies of Bachmann models, the coach certainly seems like theirs when you look at the couplings. The track looks a bit Hornby.

Carefully examining the photos, I think the footbridge appears to be a shortened Airfix/Dapol model. The road vehicles are diecasts but the rest is a bit of a mystery. It appears that the buildings will be supplied as pre-painted plastic kits split over several weeks.

By this point, most modellers will go into standard "I hate partworks" moan mode and whinge about the cost of the thing. £1073.80 is a pretty hefty price tag for a train set. Add on this this the loco, controller, baseboard and all the sundry bits required to make a model railway.

The biggest problem I can see though, is the time taken. Assuming this thing is aimed at beginners, and young ones at that, then the time taken will be a bigger issue. 2 years to complete the model is bad enough, but if you look at the trackwork being offered, in a month, you'll have 4 straights and a curve. On that basis, you could be looking at nearly 6 months before the tyro modeller sees a train run. Will they really stick around for this?

They will also need to build a baseboard, you can't ship these in A4 sized slices attached to magazines.

More of an immediate problem is that unlike other partworks, all you can do with the first issue is unpack the coach and length of track (which isn't even long enough to fit the carriage on) and read the paperwork. Other models allow a little hands-on building to get you in the swing of things.

Will I buy the rest of the issues? Not a chance, but then I'm a long way from the intended market. I would like to see the buildings as they could be a lot of fun.

I'll be honest though and say this is one I can see not making it to the final issue. Aside from the cost and time taken to finish the thing, I suspect that modellers are snapping up every copy in WH Smith for the cheap carriage. That means none left on the shelves for those who would get something from it until part 2 arrives. And who wants to start at part 2?

Your Model Railway Village website

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Forget the Anorak by Michael G. Harvey

What trainspotting was really like

Michael Harvey recounts his life as a train spotter in the 1950s and 60s. Living in Portsmouth, he and his friends managed to travel over much of the country "copping" steam train numbers in quite mind-mangling numbers.

The stories cover many trips out sneaking in depots and spotting the locos found therin. It's a portrait of a long vanished world - steam engines, a pre-Beaching railway system and a generally simpler life.

Most of the tales revolve around traveling by train to some outpost of the country and spending 24 hours a day visiting sheds. Sleep happens but is mostly grabbed on the move or in deserted station waiting rooms once the Police have moved the post-closing time tramps on. Nowadays those rooms are locked up as the Police aren't very interested in clearing them. More to the point, young teenagers travelling around for days at a time are frowned on. This is an era before home telephones yet the authors parents seemed unconcerned that their sons location could be pinpointed no more accurately than "near a railway line, somewhere in the UK".

The picture drawn is fascinating and is very different from today's lives. For a start, it's pretty grubby. The spotters used to carry small haversacks with food, a packamac and notebooks. A weeks worth of travelling didn't encourage them (apparently) to take spare clothes or washing materials. Bearing in mind the extra dirty and grime around in those times on the railway anyway and I imagine the stench from the young urchin with the notebook must have been pretty unbearable yet no one seemed concerned about this.

I'm less comfortable with the attitude that the youngsters got up to a few japes but nothing as bad as kids get up to now and we did them so it was all right. There is a lot of coverage of some "Play up Pompey" gummed stickers produced and liberally stuck to anything and everything. He even comments that they must have been a nightmare to be removed yet considers this harmless while modern vandalism is a terrible thing. Likewise locking all the toilet doors on a train is seen as clever - I suspect he would have a rather different attitude now if the same thing happened. Nor would he be too keen to be on the recieving end of prank phone calls from youngsters singing "amusing" songs down the line at him.

Another area not clear was the authors age. From my reading, he started off in school but carried on spotting well into young adulthood. Since he wore the same pair of Tuff" shoes through the entire story, I assume that he was fully grown by the start. All this makes the antics seem very juvenile - OK, maybe I'm being a little po faced and there is undoubtedly a lot of the stories that were funnier if you were there, but the constant references to drinking Tizer, eating smelly egg sandwiches and being very proud rarely drinking alcohol started to grate a bit towards the end.

On the plus side, there is a lot of detail concerning the locos spotted but not too much. I skimmed it initially but the author pretty quickly tones down the detail which makes the thing a lot easier to read. The writer never forgets a meal - we are treated to a full run-down of each days menu in amazing detail.

Suitable for non-enthusiasts? No. If you want to confirm pretty much all the stereotypes and cliches, this book does it. Viewed as a period piece, it's fine but seen through today's eyes, maybe not.

Maybe I'm a bit young for all this. If you lived through the period, I can see this would be a top nostalgia trip. It's pretty well written, especially once all the spotting details stops, and I whipped through it pretty well. There are even some nice pictures in the middle.

Forget the Anorak at Amazon

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Working FLAT out

FlatsI'm working hard on a lot of non-blogable (Read: Stuff that will appear in magazines) work at the moment so finding time to produce stuff that can appear here is a bit limited.

However, if you follow Hornby Magazine on Facebook, you'll have seen some mock-up flats appearing on the new project "Twelve Trees Junction". Above, you can see the more finished version that I've produced.

The basis for the buildings are Skytrex castings. I've backed them with Dalerboard and added some bits from Slaters Plasticard.

Fuller details will appear in the Hornby Mag yearbook later in the year and probably on that Facebook feed too as Mike makes progress with the layout.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Filter change

FiltersIt's time to change the filter on my spray booth. A fiver at Squires stand last week saw me the owner of a new one and I wondered how long it had been since mine was blue.

Comparing the two - I obviously need to change it more often!

On the plus side, you can see the booth is doing the job, there's a lot of paint on there. If anyone can think of a way to scrape it off and return it to liquid form, I bet Humbrol would be interested.

Anyway, it looks horrid, I'm going to change the filter more often and definitely carry on wearing the spray mask!

As an aside, doesn't anyone know how to tell when a filter should be changed? The manufacturers offer little advice as obviously peoples usage rates vary a lot.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Midland Railex 2013

This years Midland Railex came with the promise of a "Shunter Special" event. With this in mind, when were asked at last years event if we'd take a layout along, the obvious one to attend was Melbridge Dock. Trouble was, that was the model we'd just exhibited and taking the same layout two years on the trot is bad form.

Clayhanger Yard YardDespite this, we didn't want to use Hellingly or Flockburgh as the accommodation is a bit basic what with it being a locomotive shed and all. Part way through the year, we worked out that Clayhanger Yard would do the job and so offered to bring this. It's a shunting layout after all and being new, it ought to interest a few people.

Anyway, that offer was accepted and so on the Friday before the show we set off. Our Satnav seemed to have developed some very odd idea about a route. The fastest and simplest was from Leamington is M69 and M1. Mrs Satnav seemed to have developed an aversion to motorways and speed, preferring to take us through a nearby town known for traffic jams.

A quick check on the settings confirmed on the device confirmed they were OK so we decided to ignore her and head for the M1. Sadly, the M1 developed queues, Mrs Satnav got in a huff with even madder routes such as off the motorway, along a dual carriageway, double back and head to the motorway again.

3 hours to do a 1.5 hour journey. Hmmm

Anyway, we quickly set up in the diesel shed and headed to get some food and sleep.

The next morning we cleaned the track and played trains. The early start caught us out a little - punters in the hall half an hour before official opening - at least were operating though, unlike the two layouts behind us who were still covered up! Andy (RMWeb) York and I uncovered them and switched lights on so the display looked OK. When the operators arrived a few minutes later, they were saved a job.

Anyway, Saturday went fine. The microswitches on the points had cured the electrical woes and generally the layout performed well. Those 3-link couplings are a bit of a pain but we've now had advice on different shapes of uncoupling pole so there is more work before Telford.

The shunting display was well recived - lots of people focussed on the Class 13. Several wished a RTR version would appear (come on Hornby, it would be easy and sell like hot cakes) and I pointed them in the direction of the Parker's Guide where the build process is explained. I told them how easy it was. I think only one person beleived me. Another wouldn't buy a copy of the guide as the knock-down price of £4, but tooks loads of photos from all angles of the model in the display case.

Coaling upSunday kicked off with a trip the steam shed to watch locos being prepared. How there were only 2 of use watching this is a mystery. Steam locos are lovely and watching them being stocked and cleaned by the volunteers was very special.

Less special was seeing Class 20 and 47 diesels being fueled and realising that locos I remember seeing as a kid are now obsolete and being preserved...

Sunday was also good. One highlight was meeting Richard Cooper, an annoying young modelmaker with tremendous talent. You can see some of his work over on MREmag. I hate him for being so good.

The biggest problem with the show was that neither of us got out and about much. Too much chatting with visitors limited our looking around so my collection of photos is a bit limited this time. Having said that, this isn't a bad thing as chatting is the best bit. Clayhanger is a nice model but not the most exciting to operate over a long period. That said, it's there to provide ideas and a bit of inspiration along the lines of, "If that idiot can do it, anyone can."

Woolacombe FishermanThere were some top notch layouts to see when we did escape. I suppose many will mention "Diesels in the Duchy" but I preferred the much more bizarre Woolacombe, a huge scale model of a fisherman's railway. Weird, but I liked it...

Mind you, I did check the van to make sure my Dad hadn't sneaked one of the owls from the birds of prey display in the back, he checked to make sure I hadn't brought back the Peckett Whitehead.

A cracking shows. Even if you ignore the prototype stuff outside there were some superb layouts and better trade than at many "proper" model railway events. If there was a disapointment, it was that thanks to a PW mix-up, the shunters were mostly marooned in the shed and not out on display or working for us to enjoy. Next year maybe.

Anyway, take a look at my photos on Flickr.

If you were wondering about the cakes - that was on the blog yesterday!

Oh, and the trip back took 1.5 hours with no Satnav.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The cakes of Midland Railex

There are two things I know for certain about the readers of this blog. First, most of you are here because you are bored at work and I'm more interesting than an Excel spreadsheet. Second, you like cake. The views on my Flickr account show this, so today, here is a special post just for you.

We ate lots of cake last weekend at Midland Railex. Well, not lots perhaps but an elegant sufficiency with a wider selection than normal. Here are the highlights:

Lemon MeringueFirst we have a mini lemon meringue pie. This came from Luke Evans Bakery found between the show and our hotel. Driving to the digs on the Friday night, we were alerted by the delicious smell. Returning in the morning, time was found to drop in and pick up supplies.

The pie was excellent, if a little explosive. That meringue has quite a stiff exterior around the soft centre. Were I to comment, perhaps the lemon could have been a little more tart but that is being picky. One to eat sitting down with a plate though as the state of the floor around the back of the layout testified.

Cake on boardAs is usual with model railway exhibitions, tea facilities were provided to refresh the exhibitors who were dehydrated from all the chatting going on.

Less common is to find a huge selection of cakes available, most in handy bite sizes. To help you work out how bite sized, the cake is displayed in the back of a 7mm scale GWR wagon. Obviously this was just for the photo and we didn't run the train around like this. That would have been unprofessional and anyway, some scroate could have nicked it.

The cakes were lovely. No payment was required but donation buckets were provided for Breast Cancer care and money was collected from anyone with a hint of decency as well as many of the exhibitors.

There is one cake that deserves a special mention. On the Sunday, a challenge appeared:

Chocolate and Beetroot cake
Regular readers will know that I like chocolate cake. They will also know that I am not afraid to try new cakes so the idea of mixing the devils own beetroot in with chocolate presented an interesting opportunity.
You will notice that the cake has to be cut, leaving it to the individual to decide how brave they are feeling. I was modestly brave. There's no point in trying a sliver, take a normal slice so you can properly assess the taste.
Well, the cake was fantastic. Moist and with excellent texture. The only trouble was the taste. Chocolate: Good. Beetroot: Not so.
I get the idea. It was certainly well realised, but half a slice went in the bin. After three bites, I admitted defeat. Asking around, opinions varied. Matt on the Hornby Mag stand agreed with me, his colleague thought it delicious.
Still, it was an adventure.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the rest of the show. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to annoy an "enthusiast"

DerailmentSo there I am, shunting on Clayhanger Yard and a wagon derails.

It's never happened at this spot on the layout before and there's nothing obviously wrong so I quickly pop it back on the track and carry on.

My crowd, both of them, run off with their noses in the air.

This isn't the first time I've had this happen. I know that they are thinking:


Which is probably fair enough. After all, I have ruined their day and probably their entire month with my derailments.

Of course, if I were a proper modeller I'd stop running and have an extensive post-mortem to work out exactly what went wrong. I've seen it happen and the crowd can enjoy watching modellers poking at trackwork with magnifying glasses for half an hour or so.

My take is that bad things happen. All derailments have a cause but sometimes getting on with the show matters more than sorting it out. If there is a regular problem with a bit of track or vehicle then it's worth a look after hours but most importantly, entertain the punters.

Punters - stuff happens. Get over it. We aren't doing it deliberately, in fact we like problems less than you as we have to fix them. Putting wagons back on the track is annoying and we don't like doing it so we do our best to avoid problems. However, bouncing a model railway around in a van and then installing it in a hall will a wobbly floor and variable heating can upset the best maintained of models.

To the gentlemen who huffed off - Sorry to have ruined your day. I appreciate that you are probably busy burning your collection as I write. A funeral pyre of old Railway Modellers doubtless blackens the sky. I didn't do it deliberately I assure you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shunter display

Shunter Display

Railex this year was promoted as a shunter special and so I promised to take along a display of model shunting locomotives.

To house the show, I borrowed a display case from the L&WMRS which handily is fitted with OO gauge track. My stockbox was filled to the brim with little locos and on arrival at our stand, I poured the contents of one into the other.

24 locos fitted in to the case, but I had another half dozen left over. This collection is bigger than I thought!

The display attracted a lot of interest. Most people got over-excited at the Class 13 and I explained that it is a pretty simple conversion fully described in the Parker's Guide bookazine. You get a build of the 02 diesel in there too and the Hunslet dock shunter making it excellent value for the enthusiast.

Incidentally, you can click on the picture to see a bigger version in Flickr.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hellingly Hospital Railway in Great British Model Railways

An unexpected appearance for The Hellingly Hospital Railway in a new publication arriving at a WH Smith near you - Great British Model Railways Volume 1.

This is a spin-off from Model Rail magazine. The opportunity has been taken to re-publish some images alongside new one from layouts previously showcased on the magazine. What you get for the bargain price is 30 layouts worth of excellent Chris Nevard photos.

For most readers, this is exactly what they are looking for. Reproduction is excellent, this is a keeper for the magazine pile, and you'll find loads of inspiration in the models featured.

There's not much in the way of modelling information but if you want that, pointers to both websites and back issues of the magazine are included.

The Hellingly pages include a double page spread and 4 other pictures. The layout looks brilliant, I'm not convinced I built it now...

Needless to say, there are a couple of errors. Firstly, don't believe the contents page, Hellingly is OO rather than P4. Also, I am not "one of the country's most imaginative modellers", the correct phrase is "persistent bodgers"!

If you can't find a copy locally, buy it on-line. Well worth the money.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Safety first

One lesson learned at Hartlepool with Clayhanger Yard, was that the fascia panel hiding the lighting rig is a bit low. As we didn't have the protection of a barrier at the front of the layout, punters would often stick their head underneath to chat. A barrier would have held them back and provided something to lean on which brings their head down a bit.
The bigger problem came from people walking along and hitting their heads on the edge. It appears that all the marvelous modelling on display distracted them from LOOKING WHERE THEY ARE GOING.
Now, I'm not exactly sympathetic to this since grown-ups should pay attention but I also think I can make life a little less uncomfortable should this happen again. Originally the corners of the panel were square. Obviously even in 6mm plywood attached to a structure with a bit of give in it - more than in the average forehead - a square corner isn't an ideal target for headbutting.
With a bit more time, the fascia was built on the morning of the show last time, I've curved the corners. Drawing around a paint can provided the shape and keeps things consistent on all corners. A few minutes with saw, surform and sandpaper followed by a lick of varnish finishes the job. It is a very light bit of wood after all.
Despite this, we'll still set the model back a bit when possible. Ideally I want the fascia line about 6 inches behind the barrier line. We want the punters to enjoy the show after all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thornycroft Lorry

Thornycroft Lorry

The Thornycroft lorry is now finished and ready for the layout. Considering the fun I had with the kit, the model isn't bad looking at all.

OK, maybe it's not mega-detailed, but as a layout filler it will do very nicely. It's certainly different, which in my head means better, than all those diecast models that haven't even been weathered. A coat of reddish-brown Revell enamel and some weathering powder gives me something that is working but not in the first flush of youth .

On the back are more of the excellent Skytrex sacks. I'm trying to suggest that loading is taking place, hence they are dotted around. There driver is also the labourer and he's chucked sacks on from the goods shed. In a minute he'll finish his fag and tidy up the load.

Thornycroft Lorry back view

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Unexpected wagon underframe detail

Hornby Chassis

Messing around with a Hornby 4-wheel wagon the other day, I got a bit of a surprise. Looking at the bottom of the model, there is a terrific amount of detail in the underframe.

The work is amazing. Look at the coupling mechanism that joines the hooks at each end of the wagon  - it's all there!

I only know how this stuff works because of a recent issue of Model Railway Journal where someone built an O gauge wagon and went the whole hog complete with working leaf springs. I've never thought to add this sort of detail myself and if I ever do, it will be fun and my own satisfaction rather than any practical reason.

All this begs the question, why did Hornby bother?

The detail is hidden away. You only see it if the model is upside down. Nothing moves and even if it did, coupling is with tension-locks rather than chains. Making the mould must have taken time and therefore, money. It's a mystery.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chinese pots

Chinese Pots

Here's a handy tool - plastic pots for keeping glue fresh. They are purchased from our local Chinese take-away and each arrives with a delicious portion of Sweet and Sour chicken. The pots themselves are stocked with tangy sauce that has to be disposed of before we can put glue in them.

As far as the pots go, they are fabulous. In a drop text from a worktop, not a drop of sauce was spilled from a pot with a correctly clipped on lid. For model-makers, PVA glue is as fresh and usable after 6 weeks as it was when poured in.

Very handy. I bet if I took my empties to a show I could get the money I spent on food back...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Off to Midland Railex today

Later today, we should be loading up Clayhanger Yard and heading to Midland Railex at Butterley.

This year we should be on Stand 31, adjacent to the Hornby Magazine stand in the main shed. Since it's a shunting themed show, bringing a shunting layout along seems eminently sensible.

If there is space, I'll be adding a 4mm scale shunter display to the setup too.

Anyway, do come along. It's a good show with lots to see. Drop in and say hello. The layout isn't that exciting to operate - we need the chat!

Midland Railex 2013 website.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Brass Mudguards

Brass mudguards

Back on the Thornycroft lorry, I have been looking at prototype pictures.

They tell me two things - the first is that this is probably too old-fashioned for the era I'm using it in. Tough. Old vehicles hung around in pre-MOT days and anyway, modifying the cab to modernise it is more work than I wish to do.

The second is that the back wheels should have mudguards.

Looking around through my stash of metal bits I found a length of scrap etched brass that appeared to be just the right width. Bending lengths around a pen barrel that is slightly smaller than the wheel and then un-bending the part a little did the job. A slight flare at the back was in order according to the pictures.

Fixing in place is with a blob of solder at the front, a blob of solder with some brass angle in it at the back. Low-melt solder is good stuff for this, it cools slowly so with a bit of practise you can tease it to cross gaps to do this sort of bodge.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sacks added

Sacks in shedWith the electrics sorted, I'm not doing the best bit of layout building - adding detail.

As a start, some of the Skytrex sacks have been added to the goods shed. The first lesson learned is to do this before glueing down the roof. The second lessons is that I am better at fixing a roof down than I thought - it was supposed to be easy to remove and it isn't.

So, there I am trying to manipulate whitemetal bags with a pair of sprung tweezers. Since the bottoms were covered in superlgue, I couldn't just push them into position, they had to be dropped as they would stay where they landed!

Ideally, I'd like to have placed a few nearer the sides of the building but that proved to be tricky so I'm assuming that they are in mid-move. I'll add some to the back of the lorry when it's finished to improve the effect.

Sacks outside shedOn the platform, I thought a few more sacks would be a good idea.

Here, I was a bit too generous with the glue resulting in a sack that looked like it was sitting in a puddle. "No problem", I thought, "I'll let the glue dry and bang some matt varnish on it. You'll never see it.

Obviously I didn't wait long enough for the glue to dry as a spray of varnish reacted with it and turned white. This isn't pretty but for the moment will have to stay as it is - you can't see the problem from the front of the layout anyway.

Maybe I can claim they hold some white powder (fertilizer/flour) and this one burst? A bit of weathering powder sprinkled around might make this more convincing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Micro-switching O guage points

One of the biggest "issues" we encountered when Clayhanger Yard went to Hartlepool was that the polarity switching in the Peco points is a bit rubbish. Well, it is once you paint and weather the track messing up the connection between switch blades and stock rails. Just like everyone said it would.

So, the first job was to work out what is going on electrically. Here's the diagram:


Where Red is one polarity, Blue the other and Green one or the other depending on the direction of switch.

All this is good. As long as the wheels have a sensible back-to-back and don't touch the switch rail as they cross the tiebar. Mine don't so all I have to do is switch the polarity, feed it to one of the rails at the frog end and all will be reliable.

To so this I've used SMSR45 standard micro switches bought from Squires. The arm, complete with roller, bears on the operating mechanism and is switched by it.


The green areas are wired to the common contact. Red and blue go to the normally open and normally closed contacts - I checked which each needed to be fitted to with a continuity tester. Feeds come from the ring-mail running around the model. I used fat wire for this and connected it to the track feeds via chocolate blocks so adding more feeds for the switches was no problem. In the end, there is only one soldered wire to the track, at the frog.

A quick test of the layout has locos running around quite happily with no stalling. Something we stood no chance of a few weeks ago!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Final proofing for the bookazine

Exciting times. Modelling British Railways Diesel Locomotives has reached the stage of final proofing. I can now log in to a clever system at the printers to see the whole thing. To date, I've been checking PDF versions of individual sections - 2 or 3 pages at a time. Now I get to see how the whole publication hangs together.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the bookazine is full of pictures. I'm thinking that these will be more useful to modellers than great chunks of text. This will hopefully get the page flickers in WH Smith to go and buy a copy. After all, it's produced to sell, not sit on a shelf. There are short histories and we have distilled the main points into sideboxes but modellers like pictures, so that's what you get.
One bonus is a discount available to purchasers from Model Fair. Buy the book for £9.99 and you get £10 off any purchase from them over £50. Basically, buy a loco and get a tenner off. Since their prices are pretty keen anyway, that's got to be tempting.
Anyway, the publication appears in Smiths 6th October or you can pre-order it now.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mystery lights

Mystery Lights

Eddy Webb, a member of our model boat club, passed away recently. A very sad loss and proof that the good die young.

The boat modelling part of his estate was brought down to the club rooms for the members to dispose of. Among the pile, I picked up some Plastrict off-cuts for a few quid that I'm sure will come in handy one day.

Among these though, was this mystery. Three grain of wheat bulbs carefully fitted into some trunking and wired together. I have no idea what it's intended for but a lot of effort went into making it. A mystery. Any ideas?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I love my country - but which one?

Dear BBC
I had the good fortune last Saturday to see the first episode of your new quiz show, "I love My Country". As a die-in-the-wool, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, John Bull waistcoat wearing British Subject, I have been looking forward to this programme for many weeks. Any quiz where at least one answer will be "Her Majesty the Queen" sounds like my cup of Tetley tea.
Within minutes though, my joy turned to abject horror.
What do I see running back and forth behind the delightful Gabrielle Logan - A GERMAN train!
Do you not realise how offensive it is for those of us with a full collection of Prince George newspaper souvenir issues that you can't be bothered to look at the scenery on screen? That locomotive is a Krauss prototype. Krauss - sounds a bit like Kraut doesn't it. Are you getting the message? Good heavens, even the manufacturer of the model is part of the same empire we stood against in two world wars.
You can be sure that MY television will not be tuned in to this channel again to witness this travesty.
Major Hufton-Bufton (Rtd)
Dear Major Hufton-Bufton
We don't care. Quite frankly all steam engines look the same to us and in truth we think that anyone who can tell the difference is a weirdo who can just pay the TV licence and shut his face.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Army paint


Major Hufton-Bufton writes:

I see that cove Nevard keeps banging on about not using official model-making materials. Not sure that we want that sort of commie talk in this blog but I think I might be indulging in a bit of this myself now.

Heading on down to the stores a few days ago (Can't tell you which stores. Official Secrets and all, but if I tell you the cost was 99p you can try and work it out for yourself) I spotted some cans of Army Issue Spray Paint. It seems that some wallah from the MOD has hit on the cunning wheeze to dump all the left-over tank colouring into aerosols and flog it to the sort of person who likes to wear fatigues while stationed on the sofa and watching war films on their giant plasma screen. Jolly good plan which should help us pay for Trident in a jiffy.

Anyway, I tried out a can of "Mud Brown" and "Beige Grey" on the base for a diorama. A quick squirt of mud followed by a dusting of grey produced a realistic finish in a matter of seconds. You might want to ignore the colour printed on the cans, the mud is far lighter than this suggest but then that's MOD mis-information for you.

The only problem is that the dashed things smell so bad. No idea what the paint is made from but I wouldn't be surprised if those chaps in Porton Down have had a hand in it.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Industrial shunter in Hornby magazine

One of my best models ever is the Parker's Guide feature in the September 2013 issue of Hornby Magazine.

People have been banging on about the lack of industrial locomotives ready-to-run for a long while. As I was building the model,'s letters page was full of people requesting one.

As a starter kit, it's a good one. I built the model with superglue. At no point was the soldering iron plugged in. If you can build a plastic kit, you can build this locomotive.

Just as the build was approaching completion, and with a deadline looming, there was very nearly a disaster. I'd given the model a very heavy weathering job. It really was filthy. A finishing touch would have been to clean the handrails a little to show the muck had been brushed off by the crew. A damp brush was flicked on the saddle tank handrail - and I took off a chunk of dirt from the tank side.

What do do? I couldn't re-weather that corner. The only option was to take a deep breath and try to clean the entire model. Damp cotton buds simulated the cleaners cloth. The result was amazing. My model transformed from a filthy dirty beast into a filthy but cared for one. A little re-weathering along the tank top and cab roof completed the task and I think looks pretty good. It's certainly a relief!

Barclay Shunter

Elsewhere, we wrap up the Clayhanger Yard story taking it to the Hartlepool show. Finally, this issue arrives with a booklet of Frequently Asked Questions. 29 pages answering common modelling problems. Guess who took care of the kit building ones? In fact, there is a clue to the next Parker's Guide subject in there...

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Getting the sacks


The final installment of my O gauge bits'n'bobs is a pile of sacks, again from Skytrex.

Each is a whitemetal casting and they are very nice indeed. The modelling is superb with every single sack "slumped" as those it has been plopped down on the ground. Other sacks have been dumped horizontally on top of each other.

Painting the sacks raised an interesting problem. While I could have just gone for a plain beige/brown colour and left it at that, but real sacks are printed to identify them. Trouble is, what was printed on them?

Perusing photos in books didn't help a whole lot. Where you can see sacks they are often piled horizontally, hiding the print. When they are vertical, old photos don't show the detail because the colour is blown out.

I did manage to spot a few examples. The diamond pattern, some circles and lettering running down the bag are all prototypical.

What I wasn't willing to do was go the whole hog. Some sacks are covered in lettering and I'm not spending days lettering each one to that level. It might be possible to do something with a John Bull printing set but I'm not sure. More likely, some sort of transfer to be applied to the surface would work. Maybe you can already buy these but I've not seen them for sale.

A business opportunity perhaps?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Skytrex piles

Pile of stuff 1

Painting complete, I'm quite pleased with these. The picture above shows the SMRA13 Piles of Crates & Oil Drums by Skytrex. It's a one-piece resin casting in 7mm scale.

Painting something like this can be a bit of a challenge. You've got to be careful when picking out the different items in the pile. This becomes a real problem when some dry-brushing is required such as the wicker basket. To be honest, you struggle to do much as the tendency is to colour surrounding objects.

The trick, as far as I can tell, it to give the whole thing a wash of dark colour once all the base colours are fully dry. This sits in the gaps between objects adding shadow and more importantly, hides little mistakes made when delineating one box from another.

Pile of stuff 2

Most of the rest of the pile is supplied as separate items. On the left is a smaller one piece resin stack but the rest are individual white metal goodies. I might point out that all this detail comes at a price - £15 for the stuff you see in this post. While I don't consider this expensive, it does mean I want all the items on display and not hidden away in a shed!

Those with more time than money could easily build all the items from plasticard with the exception of the oil drums wicker baskets. Without a lathe you'd struggle to do drums well so you are probably left buying them in. Wicker baskets - I've no idea where you'd start with those.

Monday, August 05, 2013

String detail

Packing stringDetail painting is one of those jobs I really enjoy. Noodling away with a small paint brush and tiny amounts of paint, bringing a model alive, it's a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours or so in the evening.

The noodling this time is on some Skytrex boxes and crates. After their initial coat of colour, there's all sorts of string to be painted. Being raised detail, it's easy to take a small brush and rub it along the "string" to colour it.

The method is more like dry-brushing than normal painting. The detail pulls paint from the brush which hopefully means that the end result is neat, although a brush full of turps is handy to remove mistakes just in case!

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Finally, the worst bit of making the bookazine

"Why is there a photo of you on the blog?", I hear you cry.

"That's a bit egotistical. We come here for picture of trains and boats and stuff."

You're right, it IS egotistical but it's my blog so shut up.

The photo represents the worst bit of writing Modelling British Railways Diesel Locomotives. Worse than trying to fathom out the differences between the Peaks - something no-one ever bothers doing as it's so complicated. No, it's taking the mugshot that is supposed to adorn the Introduction page.

I hate having my photo taken.

I felt I should be holding a loco and happily had a Heljan Class 26 around. O gauge works better for this, OO tends to disappear and N gauge might as well not be there at all. The flipping thing weighs a ton and I had to hold it for a while to get a halfway descent shot. Let's hope it was worth it. And that the designer heads my request to use the picture SMALL.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

A surprise exhibit for the Model Boat show

Model Boats magazine reports that there will be a special guest appearance by renowned vintage starlet Kitten von Mew on the Sunday of the International Model Boat Show.

She will, we are told, be regaling us with a selection of wartime songs in tribute to the fallen servicemen and women.

Aside from the thought that the perfectly supported 2 minutes silence combined with a display from the Surface Warship society might be considered a more fitting tribute (this will also be taking place as usual), a quick look at Ms von Mews website suggests it could be a lot more interesting than expected.

Vintage Pin-Up model and Burlesque artist Kitten von Mew specializes in depicting the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's! Kitten is one of the UK’s leading Vintage Pin-Ups.

Now, if you take a look at the site as I did (for research and probably best not to do it at work) then you might sport some of the more interesting costumes. If she turns up dressed like that, I reckon they are going to be carrying out half the punters on stretchers!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Alan Gibson Photos: City of Truro


Let's finish this weeks selection of photos from Alan's album with one of the most famous steam engines ever to run - City of Truro.

I'm fascinated by this model as it's one that defeated me many years ago. Based on the old Airfix, or possibly even Kitmaster, plastic kit, Alan has produced a chassis to make it into a running model. That's not an easy task as it involves tackling the outside connecting rods. I couldn't persuade the Romford cranks to stay quartered. The trick, apparently, is to fit a locknut behind them but I didnt' know that at the time.

Anyway, in addition to making the model work, the kit has had all these raised lining removed and replaced with accurately applied transfers. Close inspection of the photo reveals that the handrails are still the moulded ones from the kit, although once painted silver, it's difficult to tell. The name and number are etched so I assume that the handrails were left as removing them neatly is a bit of a pig to do.

I hope you've enjoyed the selection of pictures. Perhaps I'll return to the albums again in the future as I do feel they deserve more of an airing than being stuck on a shelf. Of course, it you are a member of the L&WMRS, you now have an idea what is on those bookshelves!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Alan Gibson Photos: North British Coal Wagon


When you are interested in railway wagons, live in a time when we aren't over-supplied with RTR models and aren't scared of having a go, you will probably end up scratchbuilding some rolling stock.

This North British Jubilee type open coal wagon still isn't available in 4mm scale as far as I know (Parkside produce a kit in O gauge), so this model is probably unique. Built from Plasticard with Jackson wheels and, I suspect, cast axleboxes and buffers. As with yesterdays Persil wagon, this one has a hand-painted livery.