Thursday, October 31, 2013

Windows and door knobs

Wills WindowsOK, I can't just stick a pile of kit bits together. I've got to fiddle with, and hopefully improve, them.

Looking at the signal cabin, the first thing I spotted was that the real windows open by sliding. One set of panes is set back from the others but on the kit, they are all in one plane.

Not a problem. Running a sharp knife around the end frame is easy thanks to the depression for it to follow. The end 4 panes are removed and then fixed back a millimetre with lashings of plastic solvent. The middle bar is deepened with microstrip at the same time.

Needless to say, this doesn't show up in the photo, but trust me, it makes a difference.

DoorThe other tweak takes place on the door where instead of a handle, we have a little lump. Hardly surprising, moulding a proper handle would be impossible and an separate part would be tiny.

On my workbench there is a pot of track pins so after drilling through the lump, a pin was forced through the hole (more lashings of plastic solvent 'cos I didn't drill a bit enough hole) and trimmed inside the door.

Another tiny modification but on a little building, worth it to my eyes. Simple too.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wills Signal Box

Wills KitI like building Wills plastic kits. They generally go together well and the results look nice in a way that very few other manufacturers manage. Sometimes, like now, I need a little project to mess around with that isn't part of some larger work. Some fun rather than work.

SS29 Ground Level Signal Box is of no use to me but I picked up the kit from my final visit to the dying ModelZone store in Birmingham for half the marked price. It's one of the few I've not built in the range and anyway, was the last Wills item in the shop.

Based on a real box, the drawing looks like the resulting model should be pretty accurate. Back in 1986 when the kit was launched, that wasn't always a given.

There aren't many bits but what there are arrive cleanly moulded. The original moulds must have been pretty good as I can't imagine they have been refreshed during the kits lifetime.

Anyway, a simple project (I hope).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Digital photos win over prints

PhotoBoxThere is some sort of irony in me reading Chris Nevard's blog post the Longevity of Digital on Sunday. In it he makes the point that real, physical photos will probably out-live the billions of digital images taken every weekend.

That night we caught the edge of the really bad storm that had weather forecasters predicting doom in an effort to avoid Michael Fish style ridicule. While the winds didn't catch us, the heavy rain did.

Sadly, some of the rain made its way into our spare room. Some of this leaked into a drawer of photos that I'd been sorting out. Those that got wet became sticky and quickly turned into a brick of pictures stuck together as the print transformed into glue.

The box in the picture was full. I managed to save some pictures but not many. I would guess at about 150 being lost to water damage.

Would this happen with digital?

Well, they wouldn't get wet but the data does live on a hard drive around 7 years old. It could go bang at any time and I'd be in the hands of data reclamation specialists. Knowing this, I do back up the drive to an other hard drive and this box normally lives in a storage unit along with the layouts. Normally the worst I could lose is a months worth of photos and if I take anything specially, I make sure it gets backed up ASAP.

There's also a selection on Flickr so assuming Yahoo doesn't go bang, they will be OK.

As it was, I can consider myself lucky. The pictures lost were mainly shots taken for magazine article. These still exist and if I'm honest, most of the ones lost were rubbish that should have been thrown away long ago. Now they have been.

I also still have the negatives, admittedly in a bundle but it's a dry bundle so I could dig through and find some to scan or order re-prints from. I should probably box these up and put them in store too.

The moral of the story is, look after your pictures. Even those selfies you post on Facebook will matter to you one day, although judging by the yoofs I see taking them, you might not want to keep them all.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Remotoring a clock


I like clocks and have quite a collection. One of my favourites is this early Smith Electric mantelpiece number bought at a car boot sale or second hand shop many years ago. Maybe it's not really that special or valuable but its proportions are pleasing to the eye.

It used to run off the mains but a couple of years ago developed a fault that would see the motor stall. Not knowing why this was happening and with a little lubrication not helping matters, I decided that I'd better not leave it plugged in for fear that something would heat up and catch fire. This left me with an ornament rather than a timepiece.

Well, now I've finally fixed it. The first thing I had to do was replace the mechanism. To start with this requires the clock to be taken carefully to pieces.

Clock mechanisms
Antiques experts may gasp in horror, but I've used a modern quartz mechanism powered by an AA battery (left) in place of the mains motor (right). If this were a terribly valuable clock Id never have considered this but it's not, so I did.
Sadly, the old hands didn't fit the new mechanism and when I tried to open out the spindle hole to fix this, the hour hand broke. Therefore a new paid were ordered from the Hobby's catalogue ( picking a set that would both fit and suited the look of the clock.
Fitted mechAfter this, I just had to re-assemble the parts with the new works in place. The back plate needed a trim with some tin snips to accommodate the new parts and I can't cover them with the old plastic, possibly Bakelite, cover but as this is around the back, no one will see.
So far the clock has kept excellent time. It looks nice and I'm confident it won't catch fire. All the parts are stored in my clock repair stash but I like to think I've saved a nice old thing from landfill. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

National Festival of Model Railways 2013

ExpertsThis is a bit different. I'm used to turning up at shows with an exhibit, arriving at one AS an exhibit if a new thing. OK, I've done a few Hornby Mag shows with "Parker's Guide" models where I sit around talking about things I've made. This has all been pretty low-key. There would be a mention in the mag a month before that I'd be there and the stand would get a listing in the programme. To be honest, I could sit a shaved monkey behind the table and people would happily believe its me.

No chance of that with British Railway Modelling - plastered on the stand were huge posters featuring what someone described as, "The ugliest boy bank in history." No need for a badge to identify me this time.

Much more impressive than the mug shots were the pictures of tools above our heads. I took these using a flatbed scanner and the results are really good even when blown up 20 times full size. I'm glad I used hard-working tools, they add some authenticity to the look. Brand new ones would have looked like clipart.

Anyway, out of the back of the car I unloaded some of the projects that had appeared in this magazine (yes, when picking them up, I did have to think hard to remember which was which) and a part-built layout (more on this another day). These were laid out on the stand with me taking up about 2/3rds of the demo area before I cleared off the the hotel on the edge of the site via a tasty burger in the pub sat next to a family whose kids were filling the tabletop with ketchup.

A good nights sleep later I headed down for breakfast aiming to get there when it started at 7:30am only to find the eatery was standing room only! Everyone else had decided an early start was a good idea despite the show being 2 minutes drive away. Add to this the desperately slow set-up at a Holiday Inn Express and I only bagged a bowl of cornflakes. To be fair to the hotel, their normal trade isn't entire shows of exhibitors who all want to eat at once. Toasters that work to geological timescales aren't an issue for sales reps who turn up in 1s and 2s at a variety of times.


Saturday flew by in a blur. The show opened, people turned up in front of me and I talked about making this solidly until about half past one. The crowds were good, often a dozen people listening to me expound on plywood baseboard construction and making little buildings. I only stopped at this point because I was due to do a turn in the lecture theatre at 2 and was flagging a bit.

Lunching on a Snickers bar, I headed to see if my presentation worked on the screen to discover the place was full. Presumably the post-lunch slot encouraged people to come for a nice sit-down.

My crowd on Saturday

The talk went reasonably well. Only half a dozen people wandered off. My topic was "Building your first layout" which I tackled by looking at the various layouts I've built and the lessons learned along the way. A few questions at the end and it was back to the demo stand for more plywood chat.

Chucking out time arrived and it was back to the hotel. Past experience tells me that the Harvester next to the showground is the most popular place to eat in Peterborough and I was feeling the effects of a day on my feet and not really enough to drink so I crashed out without bothering to be turned away at the door for dinner.

Sunday, I was prepared and feeling great. Breakfast was leisurely and I made up for missing out the day before. Half a gallon of orange juice, toast, sausages, scrambled eggs, cornflakes, yogurt - a good start.

The show was quieter - Saturdays always are - but there were still plenty of people to talk to. Oddly, we seemed to have travelled back to 1954 as three visitors seemed very keen on using Sundeala board for baseboards. It takes track pins well apparently. It also sags over time, expands if it gets wet and costs a fortune. I think I persuaded most that plywood, still as good for the Melbridge Dock baseboards as it was when be built them nearly 30 years ago, is a much better idea.

Lunch was purchased before opening time so I managed to bag some chocolate cake. Peterborough showground used to do the best choccie cake in the world but sadly the supply seems to have changed and while it's still good, the crown has been lost. Mind you, eating the first bite at 11 and the rest about 3pm might had had something to do with this!

My talk went better than the day before. Remembering to mention the Q&A at the start ensured a better selection of Qs at the end. The crowd was about 30 strong when I started yakking but filled 3/4 of the seats by the end. My ego tells me this is a good thing even if it was really just more people wanting a seat.

What I didn't do was look around the show. Flying round to buy some building kits at the end I saw a couple of layouts. There was a lovely little one with it's lights on before opening and that was it. Pity, as I think there was some good stuff on show.


Packed up, I was on the road an hour after closing. Tired but happy. An excellent weekend.

If we chatted, I hope I managed to entertain you. If you came to one of my talks, I hope I didn't disturb your snooze too much. Don't forget that you can hit the "Ask Phil" button on the right if you want to know anything more.

A few photos on Flickr.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition 2013

Blowing OffThere wasn't much time for me to enjoy the MMEE show this year - a couple of hours in the morning before heading off to sunny Peterborough (more on that tomorrow). I didn't get time therefore to gawp for a long period at anything.

Despite this, it was still well worth a trip. Well, that and I had a free ticket for supplying a boat for display...

The trouble with model engineering is that much of it takes a long time. Combine this with the reluctance of some, and over-enthusiasm of others to show off their efforts and you can feel that much of the show looks the same as it did the year before. Perhaps I wasn't studying everything in detail, but I'm sure some of the things that caught my eye were catching it in previous years.

Of course you can't build a miniature traction engine every year and even if you did, to a philistine like me they tend to look very similar. Road chugger anoraks will be much more forgiving. Having said that I don't care how many times I see one, I still marvel that anyone can make such a thing.

Stand-out item had to be the Meccano car just inside the entrance. Considering there was 7 1/4 inch Garratt there as well and I love Garratt's, you can see how impressed I was.

A real, full-sized car, built from over-scale replicas of Meccano parts, this was a work of art. Much of the "model" is fibreglass and aluminium but the bolts are resin replicas scaled up from the ones in sets. While not licenced for the road, it's a massively impressive model and attracted a huge amount of interest.

Meccano Car

At the other end of the scale, several wooden horse-drawn vehicles impressed me. Displayed in natural wood finish, the quality of the workmanship was something I can only aspire to.

Anyway, in this case pictures speak louder than words so head off here for my photos of the event.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I was Princess Annes fiddleyard operator

HRH Layout OperatorWhile looking through an old photo album for yesterdays picture, I found this. As you can see, grinning like an idiot in the background is me. The foreground features none other than Princess Anne. Although she doesn't know it at this moment, she's about to operate a model railway.

Many years ago, my local model railway club used to organise the model railway display at a major local event over the August bank holiday - The Town & Country Festival.

This event featured lots of animals and crafts, classic cars and traction engines along with a grand ring display. It was a fantastic event that we'd visited since I was too young to remember better.

Being involved was really special. Walking in past cattle being groomed and smelling breakfasts on the cooker for those who stayed on site was a bit special. A little like the early morning in a city as it gradually awakes but with more manure.

Anyway, the people who ran the event were big in the horse world. This year they had managed to arrange for HRH Princess Anne to visit and obviously looked forward to one of the countries foremost horsewomen being shown all their marvelous nags.

How happy must they have been when her people announced that she didn't wish to see any horses during the day? Presumably that was all she normally saw and so something different was preferred.

I can't say this was the reason that we were added to the schedule but I wouldn't be surprised if the words, "If she doesn't want to see our horses then we'll send her to the model railways, that'll teach the uppity..." were uttered.

As it was, the visit went well. Keith Foster escorted her around the small show and when the photo was taken, she was meeting layout owner John Dunford. He had a plan. After a few words, he offered the chance to run a train. HRH gamely accepted and was quickly handed a somewhat scruffy controller. Turning the knob, she ran a train out of my fiddleyard and in to the station.

Because of this, the tour took longer than expected and worse, for the horsey set, when asked which bit of the show she enjoyed most, the answer was, "the model railways".

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Limiting the top speed of model trains

Richard asks: My 6 year old nephew, has a model railway we've all conspired to build for him. It's the usual roundy-roundy double oval with a couple of sidings, and he usually has the Hornby Flying Scotsman belting round at top speed. Which is the problem - top speed is a scale 150 mph or so, and we have regular derailments on the small radius points and (lack of) curve transitions. Being as he is, he loves watching the trains go by but doesn't have a real grasp of cause and effect on the crashes (and rather enjoys them, but we don't...)

Which brings me to my question. Do you have any ideas for slowing things down? I've suggested an appropriately beefy power-rated resistor in series with the DC controller (an ancient Gaugemaster), and we've also had suggested making a mechanical stop to restrict the knob on the controller from getting to higher speeds. Has this wheel been invented before?


The photo, scanned from a 20 year old print, shows the Leamington & Warwick MRS Thomas the Tank Engine layout. Dating from the days when Hornby only produced a couple of the engines, we had a full set (Full book set, this was before they started inventing new characters for the telly) mostly made by some of the top finescale modellers in the country.

Anyway, these ran on a layout operated by kids so we anticipated the same problem as Richard and many other parents is experiencing. Our solution was subtle - the front controllers were conventional mains-powered units. Their output was fed into some old H&M units and then on the track.

The back stage H&M controllers were designed to be fed with 16V AC but since they were essentially variable resistances, this just meant that they limited the top speed of each loco. I suspect any controller designed to be fed with a 16V AC output would work although older non-electronic models are probably a better bet.

The advantage of this method was that it allowed the controller hidden around the back of the layout to set top speeds for whichever loco was in use at the time. Since they all had different characteristics, this made life a lot easier for us all.

Hope this helps - good luck and happy modelling!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Y4 Drawings

Vincent asks:  I would like to scratchbuild a static detailed model of the LNER Y4 0-4-0 locomotive, in 1/20th scale. How could I purchase the drawings of the locomotive?

The Y4 is pretty rare in model railway terms - as far as I am aware, you can't even buy a kit for this stumpy little beast. It's certainly been on my list to scratchbuild for many years although the Walschaerts valve gear puts me off quite a bit.

If you aren't familiar with the class, try this link to the LNER encyclopedia. Ugly little devil isn't it? Just my sort of engine!

Anyway, as you can see from the picture, I have managed to find a plan but it was on a second hand stall in slightly tatty condition. Although no company is mentioned as producing it, I suspect it's likely still to be in copyright so I can't just scan the thing and sent it over. At a guess, I'd say the loco was drawn by Roche, so accuracy might also be as much of an issue as it is with some of his other drawings.

A plan is available from D Hewson models and I suspect this would be a better bet. It's also in a large scale so hopefully will be accurate enough to give you a starting point. 1/20th is an unusual scale, more akin to model engineering so I suspect there will be detail research required as well.

Someone is writing up his build of this model here. Apparently the model has been written up in Engineering in Miniature magazine. I'm sure an e-mail to the publishers will get details of which issues it appears in.

If anyone has any further suggestions, I'm sure we'd all appreciate them though. Maybe I'll tackle those waggly bits in 4mm scale!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What to throw away?

Leftover bitsEvery so often I have to much out my workspace. Recent efforts have involved making up a lot of model buildings which has seen me hacking my way through quite a lot of embossed plasticard.

All this leaves me with lots and lots of off-cuts. Some of them look like they could be useful in the future. The trouble is, am I just saving them for the sake of it?

Will I gradually disappear under a mountain of bits of card and plastic, very few of which will ever be of any real use?

Hoarders suffer from the same compulsion - they see a use for everything and while that potential use exists, they can't throw it away. Watching a TV programme on the subject, the man at the centre was being persuaded to chuck an old an broken umbrella but argued that there were useful bits in it that could repair another.

We are supposed to chuckle and say, "What an idiot". He's not going to repair any umbrellas. Those who have looked at these things with a practical eye will realise that there are very few fixable bits in them no matter how keen you are. Everyone else doesn't believe that anything can be fixed so can't understand why anyone would even consider trying.

I get it though and this is my problem. How small a bit of card, wood or plastic is likely to be useful?

At what point does the cost to store this stuff outweigh the cost of buying a new sheet for each model?

My current guide is if the bit is smaller than a credit card, it's rubbish. If it's an odd shape then it's rubbish. And when the box of spares fills up, no more can go it.

I'm not sure though, anyone have any advice?

Monday, October 21, 2013

NG Army train set - Video

I made a film! - Having been sent an OnTrack Army train set, a special commission based on the Busch mine train system, I played around and made this little video as an experiment.
Now loaded up as part of BRM's Model Railway Live TV, I'm quite pleased with the result. This is V3 of the film by the way, V1 suffered dodgy lighting and V2 dodgy cold-induced spelling.
Hopefully there will be more of these to come, I'll let you know. In the meantime, enjoy a couple of minutes with a tiny train, complete with a little surprise at the end.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On giving up the exhibition circuit

Several people at the weekend asked me about my post back in February announcing I was quiting the exhibition circuit.

They rightly pointed out that despite my stated aim, I seemed to be turning up at lots of shows with models. This is true.

Some had realised that I mucked my exit from the circuit up by getting seriously involved with writing for model railway magazines who not unreasonably expect me to pitch up at their shows. This is correct, and assuming BRM don't see through my mirage of competence, it's going to get worse.

At the very least I'll be wherever the "BRM Village" is to be found. I play the idiot (I know I did that joke on Friday, but I like it and it's my blog). That means Doncaster, Ally Pally, Peterborough and presumably Warley.

In addition, we'll be looking to get out and about a bit so I expect to haul myself to a few other events. Although these will deliberately be limited. It's my job and I need a life outside of it, no matter how much fun I'm having. I don't want to end up (like I'm not already there) as one of those weirdos who spends all the time talking about toy trains.

Model Railway Exhibitions - You can check out, but you can never leave.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Great Electric Train Show

Clayhanger FasciaOdd name for a model railway show isn't it?

When I saw it on the list of potential titles for the first Hornby Magazine show in Warwickshire, I wasn't keen to put it mildly. Since then though, it's grown on me. Now I really like it. There is a certain "Barnum & Bailey" feel - we are putting on a show to entertain you.

Anyway, this was to be my last hurrah with the magazine and so I volunteered not just to bring Clayhanger Yard along, but to help mark the floor out as as well. The Heritage Motor Centre is an odd-shaped place, but as it turned out, thanks partly to some handily printed carpet, the process went very well.

The show itself was, I am told, very good. Truth is, I spent both days behind the layout talking. An awful lot of talking. I mean some rally long sessions where I explained some of the Parker's Guide models on show as well as how we'd built the layout.

Man watching a train

Visitors came from far and wide. I spoke to people from Australia who had followed the Clayhanger articles in the magazine. A gent from the USA who follows this blog (Hello) and someone from Canada who takes photos for a UK kitmaker. Quite a cosmopolitan hobby really!

I did manage a quick walk around on Sunday afternoon. The layout quality was higher than any comparable show of its size. You'd expect this sort of selection at the NEC but there you have so much to see, time with each exhibit is limited.

Rivet Counter Detector

As far as the rest of the show went, well, numbers were really good. The layout of the venue worked OK although as I mentioned it's a really funny shape so a couple of years practise will be required to make best use of it. The driver from A-Line coaches decided to take his lunch when he should have been driving the shuttle bus and not when there was a break for eating. That's the sort of thing that makes organisers wonder why they bother...

There were a few complains about the place being a maze but I think this was caused by the layout of the museum. With the downstairs full of cars to see, the route to the escalators to the show wasn't as obvious as it should be - the museum signage isn't intended to get you into the conference centre after all. I was collared by a couple with a baby buggy who had been up in one lift which took them to a gallery not full of model railways. It took me a few minutes to work out there were two lifts and they wanted the one that wasn't obvious. Less obvious than me wearing a branded shirt anyway.

TR7 Fastback

I did wonder if the cars would delay the visitors. They didn't. The first were up in the show on the dot of 10am when we opened. Never mind, I'm sure they took a look on the way out. I bet I wasn't the only one who wanted to try to take his train set home in the DB5 near the entrance. Of course, the prototype TR7 fastback would have been much more practical but they wouldn't let me borrow that either.

Sticky CakeOh, and cake. There was some on sale, a very nice Belgian bun thing. Not too sweet or large so better than most really. If I'd spotted it on the first day, I could have tried the ginger cake too as that looked pretty good. Never, mind, I'll be a punter next year so my time is my own. Looking forward to it already.

Photos on Flickr

Friday, October 18, 2013

Preparing for the National Festival of Railway Modelling

Model Beach

Today I am mostly getting ready to head to Peterborough to take part in the National Festival of Railway Modelling. This will be the first time I've attended as part of the British Railway Modelling team so you can find me, being the idiot in the BRM Village.

I'll have a pile of projects already carried out for the magazine, including some of the special secret ones that didn't appear under my name such as the beach above or my defiled Waggon & Horses pub. There's a sneak preview of some upcoming projects too.

If this isn't enough, I'm due to give a talk each day about building your first layout. Being me, I'm not going to be conventional with a speech on woodwork or rail joiners, it's going to be more along the lines of a confessional where I talk you through the things I learned not to do as I built each of my layouts. Come along and learn from my mistakes!

The National Festival of Railway Modelling website

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Excuse me, Mr Hornby, is that your van?

Finished van

I am a bad modeller. All the photos I found of an Austin C van showed them painted in a single colour. Despite this, mine is two-tone.

Why? Because it looks nice that way. I'm sure someone felt the same about the prototype. If they didn't, they should have.

Painting the model by hand worked fine, masking the back was a bit fiddly and I haven't got it perfectly straight but no-one has mentioned it yet. Vac-formed glazing is included but I prefer Krystal Klear for this sort of job and didn't even try to fit it.

Final jobs include writing the numberplates which I will do at some point. The format would be very different from modern ones as well as colours, so I need a bit of research.

Stood on the layout, the model looks lovely. Those wire wheels impart a delicate air to it and make the price worthwhile. I could see myself doing another vehicle of this age, well if I didn't have a million other things to do.

The figures are whitemetal and that really is Frank Hornby on the right. You can read more about him and his miniature on the MRL website. Maybe I'll find a suitable set of Hornby transfers for the van one day, or perhaps he just likes to travel incognito.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Van building

Van unpainted

With the wheels built, construction starts with the chassis. Here I was a little disappointed that there aren't any positive location pegs for the rear axle or main chassis runners. It's not difficult to line things up but care is required. Some good superglue is called for, or better still would have been low-melt solder.

With the bits attached and wire axles cut, the van had a nose-down attitude that had to be sure by showing the rear to bend the chassis a bit - those wheels should fill the arches and the running boards are meant to be horizontal!

Fixing the wheels to the axles took 2-part epoxy as the superglue didn't hold well enough. I blobbed the stuff on so it covered the back of the brakes, not perfect especially on such exposed underpinnings, but you can't tell and at least the wheels aren't likely to fall off.

Part PaintedThe body is nice and easy but as I wanted a later model van, the headlamps were moved from the sides of the windscreen to the wing tops. This was a mistake as I glued them on somewhat less then straight and then realised that they should be either side of the radiator. Drilling holes in the bonnet side and using the spigots would have made fixing easier and more accurate.

Painting is made easier if you keep the body and chassis separate. The later got a spray of primer and then sating black. The top was primed and brush painted. This is prototypical as cars were finished with coaching enamel in those days, and it wasn't just that I couldn't be bothered faffing with the airbrush.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SE Finecast Austin 'C' Cab van

Van bitsMany weeks ago, I mentioned a couple of cars that I picked up to use on Clayhanger Yard. Progress was made as far as stripping the bodies of paint, then I was distracted and moved on to something else.

Anyway, wandering around Scaleforum, I picked up some Wills brick plasticard as I'm told it's better than the Slaters stuff. Stood on the stand, my eye was drawn to the whitemetal vehicle kits. A little voice in my head made me ask if I could look inside. I could.

The kit is made up of whitemetal castings plus some etched wheel spokes. These arrive in a neat little tray along with the instructions. I heard a voice asking if they took cards. They did.

Now you might wonder why I resisted a 20 quid kit at the O gauge do and then succumbed at Scaleforum. I don't know, but it might be that while my head didn't really want to spend the money, my heart did. There is something appealing about vintage vehicles with wire spoked wheels and while my efforts will look fine once I replace all the lost bits, I still hankered after a "proper" kit.

Anyway, I can eat and keep a roof over my head so s*d it, I was having me some toy van.

Wire Wheel makingBack at home I decided construction better start quickly so I began with the wheels.

These are made up of a whitemetal tyre (puncture free but a bit hard on the road) which is filled with etched spokes.

The outside set has to be dished and a little metal dome is provided for this, you push the etch over it and in theory the forming is complete. This sort of work but really the metal needs to stretch and I can't push that hard.

In the middle, a turned brass pieces replicated the brake drum and gives you something to glue on the axle ends. All this is assembled with superglue - I found the thin stuff run in around the edge of the spoke etch worked well after experimenting with thicker stuff.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A lesson in cable drums

Cable ReelOn the Hellingly Hospital Railway, I've modelled a couple of cable drums. The line is in the process of being electrified so ti seemed a pretty reasonable assumption that there would be drums of overhead wire knocking around.

One drum is on its side, the other standing up.

This caused one visitor to a show to explain that I'd made a mistake. Full cable drums are never allowed on their side.

Apparently once they are, it's nearly impossible to get them upright again thanks to the weight of the wire on the spool.

I'd never thought of that but it makes sense. While I've no idea what a full drum would weight, it's going to be seriously heavy.

Anyway, finding myself with a nice Skytrex spool, I've glued it in the proper orientation on Clayhanger Yard.

Sometimes I do pay attention.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Daventry 2013

A new show in the calendar? Are those Daventonians mad? Surely there are more than enough toy train shows without another one?

It seems not.

Anyway, after getting a little lost on the way into the town, we turned up at the school where the show was being held after lunch. There's no need to go first thing in the morning as it's much quieter in the afternoon.

The show is held in 3 halls, no classrooms thank goodness. First thing we see, an excellent display of model boats! Some really fine models, especially the scratchbuilt Clyde Puffer. Well displayed with clear information on each, this was an excellent show. Maybe lost on railway modellers but we enjoyed it.

All the halls held excellent layouts - something that will dismay people who look down on local events. I could see at least 5 of the layouts fitting in well in any company and have pointed a magazine photographer at some of them as they really deserve a wider audience.


Starting small, we had Roneat, a tiny N gauge layout that easily comes under the banner of "inspirational because everyone has the space for it" as well as being good enough quality that everyone (OK, mostly everyone, not the people who never build anything) would be proud to have built it. A small Scottish station with shunting is so unlike most 2mm stuff we see, it stands out for this alone.

Fryupdale StationDespite the amusing name, "Fryupdale" is a small LNER station beautifully modelled and with a very impressive painted fascia panel. In fact as a display it was a treat.

None of the buildings could count as conventional, in a way that tells that the owners have looked at real buildings and then produced miniatures from scratch.

Pride of place went to a Sentinal Railcar of a type that reminded me I've always fancied scratchbuilding one.

A set of well-modelled coal drops completed the scene. Again, these fitted in well in a way that made me think someone knew the real thing in depth. This wasn't a case of having bought a set of Skaledale drops and then looking for an excuse to stick them on the train set.

Backing on to this was Burton Bradstock. Whilst a longer scenic display and making much use of kits built structures, there was still a lot of "railway" about it.


The kick-back private siding was my favorite feature but the overall impression worked well for me. It also looked like the sort of layout you could enjoy operating for a long period. Well, as long as 4mm scale 3-link couplings don't drive you mad!

HieslerFor those with a broader outlook, the On30 module display was full of top-nothing modelling. American modellers seem to get the hang of dusty and rocky scenes in a way we Brits don't

Perhaps it's because you don't have a choice and we very rarely need to model a desert, but when you see it done well, I for one appreciate it.

Trade was also very impressive. A couple of good RTR sellers, Merican Models, Blackham Transfers, a good bookseller and even loco stock boxes. Not bad for a first event!

Finally, the catering.

Just so I had something to write about, cake in chocolate and lemon flavours was purchased and I am happy to report tasted lovely. Moist, not too sweet and just the right portion size. It was so good, we took 4 more slices home...

All in all, an unexpectedly good show. In a year or so, I expect to be boring people with tales of seeing some popular layouts before they appeared at the big events.

More photos on Flickr

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Improving the Lima Class 20

David asks: I have a Lima class 20 bought off ebay some 10 years ago which I am thinking of upgrading to run as the "delivery" loco to a fictitious shunting yard (4' by 18") running an 08 DCC shunter - is it worth it?

I have no model No but a running No of D8129 early BR (I think) in green. It's a heavy beast; body comes off by simply easing it away from the battery boxes and it has pick up on one bogie and driving off the other by a central motor with shaft going to the drive bogie. It actually runs quite slowly and was hoping to get away from rubber tyres and change to Ultrascale wheels but as the layout will be using Peco set track for ease of use to demonstrate to kids will this work or will it foul up / derail on turnouts, etc? I seem to get conflicting info from the net.

If that worked I aimed to do some bodywork detailing as hooks etc are poor mouldings; replace buffers (one missing); replace fan grill with etched version and possibly side vents as ultimately am thinking of adding sound to it after / as converting it to DCC.

The loco shown above is my Class 20, which is a Lima model fitted with Ultrascale wheels and some Craftsman detailing parts. The model runs slowly and smoothly all over Melbridge Dock's PCB trackwork.

Will the Ultrascale wheels work on Peco? Hmmmm.

It might depend on the Peco. Code 75 shouldn't be a problem. Older Code 100 Streamline might be more of an issue. Some of the points had pretty generous clearances in important places to accommodate a wide variety of wheels.

My suggestion would be to try an modern wagon on your track. If it works then I'd expect the loco to work too. I am assuming the track is reasonably well laid. If it isn't the Lima wheels will be more forgiving.

One issue might be haulage - those traction tyres add a lot of grip compared to the steel finescale wheels. This probably wont' be an issue in a shunting yard but if you want to haul great long trains then it can hold you back.

Personally, I'd give it a go. The conversion involves drop-in wheelsets that will be better than the old Lima pizz-cutter wheels. If they cause problems then put the old wheels back in and pop the Ultrascalies on ebay where a finescale modeller will give you most of your money back. Or if Ultrascale are going through a period of supply shortage, you might even make a profit from someone happy to pay a premium!

Friday, October 11, 2013

3F in Hornby Magazine

A final project for the Parker's Guide column in the latest Hornby Magazine and this time it's personal.

The very first model locomotive I owned was a second hand Triang 3F. This model did many miles around my train-set, nattily painted in maroon with a brass dome by my Dad who thought I wouldn't really want a boring black engine.

By the time the insulation around the axle gave way several years later, I was well on the way to being a proper anorak. Along the way the loco was repainted into an unexpectedly weathered black and gained a crew. I still have it somewhere.

Anyway, when Bachmann released their 3F, I just had to have one. It's a lot more accurate than Triang's effort and will look great on any layout. Despite the advances of the past 50 years, it's still not perfect. The tender brake shoes are in the wrong place for a start.
Fortunately, Brassmaster sell a detailing kit which covers more modifications that I can see the point of. Thus, the guide covers giving the 3F a light working over. I've taken the opportunity to renumber the new model to match my old one and replace the BT badge with the words "British Railways", partly as this 3F was scrapped early but mostly because I think this "sits" better on the tender beading than the crest.
So there we are. 4 1/2 years of Parker's Guide. Over 50 projects. One bookazine. When Mike Wild invited me to writer a column, I was incredibly flattered and happy to take the job on. Over the years I've built many fascinating and enjoyable models. Both on-line and in person I've been proud to meet many modellers who have followed my words and produced their own versions. Trust me, it never gets better than seeing something someone has built inspired by you.
Anyway, there's one more chance to have a look at my Hornby Magazine projects. This weekend it's the first Great Electric Train Show and as you read this, I should be setting up Clayhanger Yard and laying out some Parker's Guide projects for your enjoyment. Please come along and say hello.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Suncole PO coal wagon now with added weathering

Suncole Wagon

Having fiddled with the Skytrex wagon over the last few days, it came time to slap on some paint.

As I've mentioned before, all the black bits on the model are self-coloured plastic. While the body looked OK, and repainting it would defeat the object of buying a RTR model, the chassis was horrid and shiny. Nothing that a coat of matt black paint wouldn't cure though. Thanks Mr Humbrol.

Since I couldn't be bothered to fire up the airbrush, weathering is pretty old-skool. A dry-brush with rust, then tank grey, gunmetal and track colour. These were left to dry overnight so the next stage, a wash of thinned matt black, wouldn't wash them away.

Finally, a good dose of black weathering powder imparts some texture to the dirt.

Inside, the coal load has had its legs cut down and a layer of the real thing glued over the top.

At the end of all this, it's a nice looking wagon. Pedants will notice that I haven't sorted out the safety loops yet. Sadly, I was busy with other jobs so these will have to wait for another day and me to be sufficently bothered to find some strip metal for the job. In this respect, 4mm models are lot easier as you can use old staples.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Titivating a wagon

Suncole Moded

A couple of hours work and this is where I am:

1 - Body corners have been stuck together with superglue and then filled. Pedants will spot that this probably means the sides lean in very slightly. They probably do and I don't care as it's such a tiny amount. I have spent time smoothing these corners as they should look like bent metal.

2 - Some plastic strip was trimmed and superglued in to place to fill the solebar hole. Gap filling glue is handy as it hides the worst of the fitting. The brake lever and bolt detail make filing difficult here.

3 - Drilling through the sides of the conjoined V-hanger and then carving away the excess plastic makes this fitting a lot neater. Replacement with etched parts would be better but I don't have any, can't be bothered to make any, and this will look OK on the layout. The safety loops still need attention but I had forgotten this when I took the picture.

4 - Slightly sticky wheels were traced to a little excess plastic on the face of the moulding around the axle. Trimming this back sorted it. Adding some lead weight underneath will help too.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Skytrex PO wagon

Suncole PO Wagon

My collection of O gauge wagons doesn't include many Private Owner ones. Increasing the fleet can be expensive, those wagon side sized transfers aren't cheap and you still need a vehicle to stick them on. Slaters do a nice set of kits but I've gone ready-to-run this time.

Skytrex produce a range of RTR wagons and some of these emerge from the factory in a less than perfect condition. Those find themselves sold off as seconds for a bargain price, normally £15. At the recent Daventry show, this had dropped to £12.50. I've always wondered what they are like so paid up and brought a new toy home.

Suncole inside

I should start by saying I have no idea how well this model conforms to the RCH rulebook. Others far better versed in the subject can talk about this. To my eye it looks like a wagon but I wonder if it's a bit short. Not enough to worry me, just the proportions look a touch odd. I'm probably wrong about this though.

Anyway, inside you see some economies immediately. Under a rubbery, but quite nice, coal load, the floor and wagon interiors is nicely planked. The sides are missing the metal strapping and at the bottom, incorporate angles to allow them to be screwed to the floor. Boo.

Probably because my wagon is a second, the corners aren't touching each other either. I could take them apart, remove the angles and then glue the bits together but for the moment, it will run loaded and no-one will be any the wiser.

Incidentally, the load hold extension rails in place when the mode is carrying coke (lighter than coal so it can be piled higher whilst no overloading the wagon). Taking this out sees them drop away, and I've managed to lose one of them doing this.

Suncole underside

Underneath there is more economy. The plastic wheels are fitted on metal axles. One set runs free, the other turns but not as well. The wheel profile looks a bit sharper than metal wheels tend toward.

Brake gear is very simplified. The inner and outer V-hangers are a single moulding with no space between the two and this looks clumsy. Solid safety loops that look a lot like those found in OO kits are fitted and the brake shoes are nowhere near the wheel treads.

Presumably so the chassis can be used for several prototypes, there is a rectangular cut-out in the solebar which I suspect locates a shorter brake lever. The chassis is a shiny self-coloured plastic (so is the body but it isn't as shiny) that needs toning down.

On the plus side, buffers are sprung and so is the coupling.

So, there is work to do. Mind you, what does anyone anyone expect when they pay OO wagon money for an O gauge vehicle? Like the eponymous Hachette MK1 coach, this is going to be great raw material for a quick makeover.

Monday, October 07, 2013

A new face in BRM

Some of you might have spotted on RM Web that I'm going to be appearing in the re-launched British Railway Modelling magazine from this month.

My writing career launched back in the 1990s with a couple of articles in this magazine so it's interesting to be invited back as a more permanent member of the team.

My remit will (unsurprisingly) involved quite a lot of model making but hopefully I'll be allowed to dabble in a few other areas too.

In truth, I've been a contributor for a few months - some people have worked out who the new "BRM Staff" member was. Apparently I have a "style" that can be spotted!

Of course, I can't be a "name" in two magazines at once . Well, technically as a freelance I can, but it doesn't seem right to do so. Thus the next "Parker's Guide" in Hornby Magazine will be my last. I've really enjoyed working with Mike for the last 4 1/2 years but it's time to move on. Mind you, he has a few bits and pieces on the books so I'm not quite done yet. I'll still be at The Great Electric Train Show at the weekend too.

In the future you can look out for more Phil stuff both in print and on-line. I'll keep you all up to date with progress. Don't worry, the blog isn't going away. In fact I'm hoping that with a slightly more settled working life, I might get to build a few more models for me!

I should point out of course that this is MY blog and all opinions you find here are mine and not necessarily those of any publication I'm writing for.

Anyway, what do you get in the new-look BRM that have my name on them?

Well, first up we have a new feature called "2 Hour Challenge" where I complete a project in under 120 minutes. The first example is a small coal yard.

Sticking with the coal theme, I'm building a wagon kit, my subject being the Parkside French door mineral wagon. One of the very, very few not available ready to run.


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Banrail 2013

Dentdale ViaductAfter yesterdays finescale fandango, time for a trip to a more traditional local show. I've been visiting Banrail for many years as it's just down the road. Previous Banrails have been held in a school with exhibits dotted around various classrooms, this year they have a sports hall and the first impression is "Wow - This looks loads better"

Schools may be cheap(ish) to hire but classrooms are a pain both for organiser and visitor. Putting everything in a single room makes an enormous difference to the event.

Anyway, we took a tour of the trade first and while there weren't loads of specialists, that didn't matter. More to the point there wasn't an overload of box-shifters. In fact some really interesting goodies found their way into the Parker rucksack including a pile of cheap books from the RCTS.

I was very tempted with a 1980s plastic kit for a lifting bridge from Hornby. It's the first example I've seen in the plastic and if I'd been confident all the bits were there, I'd have snapped it up for a very reasonable 30 quid. Mind you, the same trader has two Triang Giraffe cars including a mint boxed one with both ears on the giraffe!

WesternAnyway, the layouts included a couple of interesting N gauge models - Dentdale is a long Settle to Carlise model with towering viaducts and descent length trains circling the continuous run. Some excellent model buildings show that not everyone buys ready to plonk resin items.

City Basin Goods is a work-in-progress model of a 1970s blue diesel yard. The modelling so far is really nice and when I sat in front of the baseboard at eye level with the ground, there are some cracking views across the oil depot.

Of course there were other nice models including some Japanese Z gauges and a new TT model, but I must move on to the bit you are all interested in - refreshments.

Two cakesI'm pleased to report that the cake on offer was delicious. Since I'd taken my Dad we tried two flavours - chocolate and lemon drizzle. Both were superb. Had we stayed later, the pork batches smelt very inviting too. Indeed, they smelt so good, I had to leave City Basin Goods as my tummy was rumbling!

OK, this isn't a major event but in the new venue it's a great way to spend a few hours. People are sniffy about local shows but here there was free parking and an entrance fee of a fiver leading to a few hours entertainment. You can't really go wrong.

Banrail photos on Flickr.