Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I'll paint it the colours I want.

The paint colours on the 2CV instructions don't tally with the picture on the front of the box. According to the black & white details, everything is grey. According to the full-colour box picture, we get a brown cloth cover. And a chrome trim strip on the sill.

The later isn't moulded into the body, and I doubt was ever a feature of this most basic of cars. The much more attractive roof is only paint so I picked a colour I liked and went for it.

Before this, however, the body was dry-brushed with the grey let down with some pale grey. I wanted to highlight the raised areas and provide a little more apparent relief on the wings. It worked OK, you see the emphasis but it's not obvious that this is happening, an effect I prefer to the "hyper-realistic" painting seen on some military models.

Inside, the tan seats have a wash of Citadel Nulin oil to show up the stitching, although it just makes them look a bit grubby.

Still to do - was black ink over the radiator grille (not radiator, they were air cooled, but you know what I mean) and colour the front and rear window seals with permanent marker for that rubbery look. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trains Annual 1952

Arriving in a big pile of books donated to our railway club library last week was Trains Annual 1952 edited by Cecil J. Allen and published by Ian Allan Ltd.

Aimed at kids, it has a thick pasteboard cover and is slightly smaller than A4 in size. It's obviously been loved as the spine has been repaired with brown cloth tape. This is the 6th year of publication.

Open the pages and the content presentation would be unrecognizable to modern yoof . The articles are quite heavy, both in the amount of text used and the topics covered. We open with "Challenge to orthodoxy - Bulleid designs of the Southern" written by Arthur F Cook M.A. A.M.I.Mech.E.

Running at just over 3500 words over 5 pages, the style is dated but not pompous and just the sort of thing the young enthusiast might be expected to be interested in as he sat quietly reading on Christmas morning after the trip to church and before listening to the Queen on the wireless. Hopefully the description of Mr Bulleid's "Leader" class and double-deck coaches are sufficient for him, as no pictures make it on to the page.

Indeed, such were the productions restrictions back in the day that photographs are bundled up into batches of pages, presumably because these require shiny paper wheras the text in on a cheaper, rougher grade.

There is a definite attempt to excite the young reader, according to the editorial, "We are particularly glad to be able to include from the pen of Lord Garnock, who has spent some time actually in the service of American railways, a racy description of some of his footplate experiences in that land of spectacular railroading." but later on, we revert to type, "TRAINS ANNUAL 1952 concludes with a symposium on what the railway motive power of the future is likely to be" (spoiler, we don't know but we like steam engines)

Times have changed a lot but I bet some of the articles in here would sit quite nicely in modern magazines. They are well-written if a bit on the dull side occasionally, but dull can sometimes be seen as "worthy" in the same way that sour tasting medicine is considered to do you more good than the nice stuff. The best are still perfectly readable though.

Today, we would get to know the authors first names and possibly not their qualifications, but times change. The USA would have seemed as remote as the moon in 1952 for most children, now many will have visited in person and all will have seen it on TV and not just in cowboy films at the Saturday morning flicks.

The owner of this book was definitely an enthusiast though. He's ringed several British locomotive number in the captions - cops!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition 2017


Four days at an exhibition might sound like a long time but in my capacity as Engineering in Miniature editor, I knew it would make sense for me to be around as much as possible. The show being 10 minutes down the road helps of course, especially as while I wanted to be there every day, I couldn't be there all of every day. I was in the middle of editing the next issue for a start!

As it was though, I managed to have some useful meetings with contributors and even persuade a few more people to write for the magazine. There was plenty of feedback from readers, some good, some bad, but that's how it goes. Of the two magazines I'm now responsible for, EiM is going to take longer to polish as it's a different market to anything I've done before. Related, but with it's own set of preferences as to what appears on the page. That's why you go and talk to people.

Costermongers Barrow

One novel feature of ME shows are the lectures. I dropped in on ones covering metal forming and painting. Both taught me things I didn't know already, although I think in metal forming, the speaker was a bit surprised the audience were more interested in the Araldite filled with steel dust mould forming material than anything else. After four explanations of what was in the black block, he could have wondered if some people had been asleep when it was explained the first time. The trouble is, it was interesting - who knew you could make press tools suitable for bending steel from metal filled glue?

There was also an excellent talk by a group of young engineers covering their wide variety of projects. Not only had they done the work, they managed to stand up in front of a gratifyingly full room and explain things. Not easy, as anyone who has done any public speaking will know.


You will, of course, be expecting me to talk about cake. Well, as usual, the food at the WEC was excellent - easily the best exhibition centre catering in the country. For the ME show, the restaurant is augmented with posh burger vans, one of whom served me a cranberry and brie burger I'd be happy to eat anytime. Outside, there was a cake seller with quality products and decent sized portions. Both carrot and chocolate cakes were welcome (I was there 4 days remember, and only 2 cakes!).

Anyway, more photos on Flickr and look out for full reports in future issues of EiM.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Film club: Let me talk about Cake Boxes

Yes, it's me doing telly again. This time I'm explaining the BRM Cake Box competition we launched in November. 

I'm really pleased with the way this competition has taken off. Nearly 30 build threads are running on the site and I know ScaleModelScenery have sold several laser-cut diorama bases to suit. Sadly, they didn't exist when I recorded this film but then the rules allow you to use anything as a base, it just has to fit in the box. 

Some of the ideas are brilliant and it's great to actually get people modelling something.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Flying Minion

You know how it is, take your Dad to a model engineering shows and what does he come back with?

Not a nice sensible lathe, but a plastic flying Minion.

It's silly, but quite a clever toy. And I like clever toys.

There's no remote control, instead, the feet have an infra-red LED and reciever in them. The toy flies up and when it can't see the ground for a while, drops down again. Stick your hand underneath and the blades speed up so he goes back up again.

Nifty. And great fun.

Now you think I'd film this hurtling around the room but no chance. It moves so fast the video would be vomit inducing. And I'd probably break something.

There is video here though, and you can buy one for only £4.99 more than we paid... 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Right hand drive conversion

I can't quick stick the 2CV kit together as it emerges from the box. It behoves me to correct one pretty major fault - the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

Some may point out that this is a French car and they drive on the right but as any good Englishman knows, this is wrong. Driving on the left is how nature intended and adopted by all right-thinking people.

Conversion of the kit started with a quick look how the kit goes together. Realising the dashboard could hardly be seen, I reasoned that a simple cut'n'shut would be OK. The results didn't need to be perfect as you'd hardly see them.

A few saw cuts saw the instrument binnacle removed and a matching(ish) section of the dash. Swapping them over with lashings of plastic glue and a couple of lengths of microstrip to fill the gaps and it's sort of OK. Good enough for the model anyway as the wobbly stuff is hidden in the windscreen.

Once dry and sanded flat, all the main parts were Blu-taked to a bit of wood for spraying with Humbrol 248 - Himmelblau Matt. The colour was chosen because my Dad has several pots for his Bismark project, and as far as I can tell, all the early 2CVs were painted grey. Someone will doubtless correct me, but I think you have to wait for the slightly more rounded nose before they went rainbow coloured. Pity really but there you go. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Signal box under repair

Kyle of Lochalsh signal box

Dating from May 2008, this shows Kyle of Lochalsh signal box in a pretty sorry state. Signalling has long been carried out on Scotish lines by radio to the driver cab, freeing many signalmen from lonely posts in some of the less hospitable locations in the country. There might be scenery but also snow, cold and very few trains. 

The box has now been converted into a holiday apartment. I must admit, it looks rather nice and certainly cosier than when the railway ran it.

Modellers could easily replicate the tatty box using a ready to plonk model. File the roof flat (wearing a mask!) and then add the detail. Cover everything with kitchen foil painted blue. Job done.

Or you could look at the modern version which would also make an interesting feature on a layout, just remember is has to be fenced off from the line. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2CV kit

This kit has been calling to me every time I see the Hobby Holidays stand at shows.  At Peterborough, I cracked and handed over my money, all £6.99.

No idea why, I'm a VeeDub fan really, but I just fancied sticking something together without having to worry about it. Yes, I know I've got lots of kits stashed away, but everyone likes a bit of retail therapy sometimes.

Two things struck me when I opened the box - how small the model is (yes I should have worked it out from the scale) and how simple. Some will be saying, "£6.99 for THAT?!" but it's too late now.

A more interesting problem is that when I look for photos on-line, not being flush with books on French egg-carrying cars, this is a bit of an oddball. The bonnet and grille suggest, as far as I can tell, that's a prety early model. Not one I know and pictures aren't that common. Fortunately, I don't care much, this is a stick it together for the fun of building a kit job, not finescale.

2cv citroen

Monday, October 23, 2017

When I am King...

All ready to run locomotives will have their quartering set very slightly out so they lump along the track as badly as most chassis I build the first time the power is turned on.

They will NOT be allowed to run as sweetly as this 65 quid Hornby loco straight from the box.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

The National Festival of Railway Modelling 2017

Carrot and walnut cake

Another busy weekend at Peterborough this year. You saw some of my efforts yesterday, but there was much more filming, some done on proper big cameras! BRM readers will be finding this on your DVDs in coming months, assuming Chris Meads has forgiven us for showing the state of his control panel anyway...

Now, as I was showing the Cake Box diorama stuff, there had been threats of much cake coming my way. As it was, there was some coffee and walnut from Mr Mead (he bakes as well as builds models) and a morsel from the organisers - the 10th birthday cake having to streatch a long way. Those were Friday, Saturday saw Mrs Snowdon send in, via her husband, excellent carrot and walnut. Sunday, nothing. Boo.

1970s yard

Never mind, there were excellent layouts and trade but I saw very little of them - I was there to WORK!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Film Club: I build a 16mm scale train

Last weekend, I built an IP Engineering train set, and filmed some of the work for your edification and entertainment.

Friday, October 20, 2017

EiM and Garden Rail - November 2017

A first for Engineering in Miniature this month - an article sourced from RMweb. When Gary posted photos of his MSWJR loco on the forum, I spotted it and cajoled him into giving me more details, it's a fascinating project.

There's also a fantastic Land Rover kit build that is within the grasp of anyone who is competent at DIY. Buy the pre-cut wood kit and there's little more than drilling and bolting required. The two guys who built the model on the page are somewhat over-qualified for the job but really enjoyed the work anyway, hopefully, the grandchildren who get to drive it will be just as happy!

Garden Rail has an unusual industrial line on the cover this month. Being a fan of odd-looking little locos, it was a natural when I spotted the photos. Staying with the unusual theme, there's a station based on the Taj Mahal, not something you'll find in most British magazines!

Finally, I've been doing some investigative journalism by getting hold of track used in the forthcoming Channel 4 series "The Biggest Little Railway in the World" and taking a look at what you need to traverse 73 miles of Scotland. Although the series isn't on air yet, hopefully, this will still be interesting. I just need to work out what to do with several metres of the stuff...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Off to the MMEE for the next 4 days

Out and about again - this time at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition.

My plan is to be there for all 4 days, but not all of all 4 days. However, I have a list of people to see so I'm certainly going to be around quite a bit.  If you'd like to talk model engineering with me, either catch me as I lioter or drop me a line and I'll expend some of my tea budget on you. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Wooden shingles

Wooden shingles

We don't really do wooden shingles on the outside of buildings in the UK in anything like the quantity our US cousins do. Basically, living in a damp country and having discovered bricks, we decided that dead tree wasn't an ideal material for entire buildings. We have wooden buildings, but they are generally sheds full of lawnmowers and tins of old screws. 

I did find this example in the (normally) exceptionally damp world of Llanfair in Wales. On the sunny day of the year, it was interesting to see how the shingles had weathered. Like most wood, the turn silver-grey, but when near metal such as the guttering there is rust. Not bright red Humbrol rust, but a darker version. Arty types will see some purple in there but I just see brown because I am a philistine.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A little loco detailing

I've been messing around with a Phil Sharples laser-cut 16mm scale narrow gauge loco kit recently and the half-built model attracted a lot of attention at the weekend.

Price for the complete model - £35.

BUT, while built straight from the box, it looks OK, I felt it ripe for a detailing project so I've been adding bolts and rivet details on the underframe and building up the bonnet.

There's a way to go but I think this will make a nice couple of pages in a forthcoming issue of Garden Rail. I'm thinking it needs painting yellow...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pushing little stones around

Our railway clubrooms share a site with some holiday cottages. The people staying there often drop in to see the club and we have the pleasure of showing them around and trying to explain what we are up to. Mostly, this goes down really well and another small group of people are exposed to the hobby and realise we aren't all a bunch of weirdos.

It's not always easy though. Last week, a very young visitor was watching our N gauge team ballasting and I had to explain that when you grow up, you can pay good money to come along and push tiny stones around.

For fun.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Great Electric Train Show 2017

Back street garage

Finally, a model railway show I can go to just for fun!

GETS is only 10 miles away from home so even if it wasn't always a top quality show, it would be worth a visit. As it is, I know the layouts will be really good and the trade interesting. As usual, I wasn't disappointed.

Back gardens

Despite this not being a work trip, I still spent a lot of time talking to people. That's good because the show was busy enough that getting to the layouts wasn't easy, at least not without pushing in and I'm not going to do that - I have a public persona don't you know! (Actually, there were a few people pointing at the bloke they had seen on a DVD. If that's you, come over and say hello, it's always nice to chat).

Inspection saloon

Of course and non-work trip means I didn't take a "proper" camera along, just my compact. That's a shame because Hattons Dave was able to show me the first painted samples of the P Class and it looks lovely. Sadly, my photos weren't great but it certainly made me want to order one. Dave volunteers on the Manx Electric Railway doing some superb restoration work. We chatted IOM rather more than model railways if I'm honest...

Moggie tools

As usual, one of the other benefits of the venue is that entry gives access to the motor museum and since I last visited a few months ago, the display has been significantly re-worked with a few new cars and others in positions that made photography easier. There is also a new Automobilia gallery which houses cabinets of motoring "stuff". As the show opened, I was examining the rear light cluster section. I know this will seem odd to a lot of people but the various Lucas bits and other small items are fascinating to nerdy people like me and it's nice to be able to see them. The NRM does a similar thing with its Warehouse section and I find that more interesting than the big locos normal people love.

LWMRS stand

I'm not going to try to pick a favourite layout, but I did think our club stand looked particularly good hosting an O gauge layout. The larger scale just had so much impact.

Anway, another excellent show. I came away with a few goodies for projects and managed to resist some others (those Hornby advertising cards did look nice) but then it's only the first of many shows I'll be at this month...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Film Club: American shunting

Hat tip to Brian Macdermott again for todays film. Entitled "Taking care of business", the film by Model Railroader magazine follows the activity on the SMS industrial estate railway as they deal with inbound and outbound freight.

It's really a great big model railway, with the shunting, carried out in the slightly haphazard way I operate my layouts.

Bonus feature: Some of the "cars" (as our American friends call wagons) travel on the most enormous boat. 

Head to the Model Railroader website to watch the video.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Peterborough this weekend

All being well, today I'll be packing the car and heading towards the East of England showground for the 10th Anniversary National Festival of Railway Modelling.

I like Peterborough show - it's one of the most relaxed I get to go to. Maybe it's the venue, or just the people, but it's slightly less serious event than others.

My demo stand will have Cake Box dioramas on show along with some of the other projects I've carries out this year in the magazine. It's a great way for reader to see models from the page "in the flesh" so to speak. I'll also be doing some garden railway stuff.

So, please come along for the chat. Full details here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cake Box time in BRM

Filming the Titfield Thunderbolt

During the planning for November's BRM, we'd had the idea that this would be "the build issue" with the balance of article tilting in the direction of practical features. As part of this, we decided to kick off a new challenge for readers and since I'm the practical guy, I came up with "The Cake Box challenge".

Basically, readers have a year to build dioramas that will fit in a standard 8-inch square, 6-inch tall cake box. You can read fuller rules and a discussion on RMweb.

Anyway, I had to make the first example and chose to produce a slice of film history - shooting the famous road roller vs train section of the Ealing comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt.

Digging around on-line, it was surprisingly easy to find behind the scenes photos and film clips which gave me a pretty good idea what the thing should look like. OK, I've used a Langley Models film crew because they are available, but the mirror and modifications to the track are all based on research.

Signal box interior

A few months ago, I built a 7mm scale signal box kit from Polak. It looked a bit empty and talking to Andy from Severn Models, he was just developing the solution - a brass kit for levers and other bits. Needless to say, the instructions are good that I didn't need to provide a step-by-step, instead of covering the basics of handling etched brass. It's a material that scares people so I've done my best to demystify it.

Melin Llechi

Out with my camera at Llanfair, I shot most of the photos of Tony Hill's 16mm layout Melin Llechi. It's a lovely model, unusual in that it's a scale model in a large scale rather than the more normal cartoony efforts you find. Digital issue readers get 90 seconds of video of trains running shot by my Dad while I was busy doing something else that we'll look at another day.

Midland Railway 6 wheel coach

Finally, I've written a slightly contentious Tail Lamp piece explaining that no-one is born with railway modelling skills, we accrue them through practice and getting things wrong. I've illustrated this with a Midland 6 wheel coach I built earlier this year. The lining certainly didn't happen overnight!

On the DVD, I'm fixing the GMC truck shunter for Overlord and giving a few hints on fault finding for model locomotives.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Beam engine house

Engine House 3

If you are tempted by a Chris Nevard style beam engine house for your layout, these photos of a prototype from Elsecar might be useful to you.

Engine House 2

Sadly, the chimney has long since gone, but you certainly get the idea. It's actually, quite a small building, I'd always assumed these things were much larger.

Engine House 1

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Try, try again

With things not looking good, it was time to spend a bit more money. First, a new prop - something in red this time because red things go faster. Also, slightly smaller than the old propeller and without the hasty scissor modifications.

While I was at it, the rudder support box has been opened up properly both at the back and sides. Much neater, no longer will it work as a parachute. I've also shortened the rudder as there's no need for it to be lower than the bottom of the prop and I reckoned it might be increasing drag. Yes, I am a bit desperate.

Next, some weight loss. The C-cell battery pack has been replaced with an AA-cell one which weighs half as much. Moving it to the front of the battery box moves the centre of gravity forward too.

Back at the lake, does any of this make a difference?

Not really. The boat moves but once underway, the prop is still thrashing around in a void created by the hull. Hang on to it and with plenty of water, the thing really pulls. Let go and it's a bit rubbish.

Once thing, I've never, ever seen one of these kits made up. I'm beginning to understand why. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

First sea trials


Down to the lake with the speedboat for its first proper sail. I hadn't wanted to do this in the bath as I hope it will fly away so fast the length of the tub could be traversed in micro seconds.

Sadly, pretty much as I had expected, the model moves, but not very fast. Certainly nothing like as fast as it looks like it should. As soon as the motor revs, the model sits down at the back and cavitates like crazy. This is not good.

Scratching my head and taking it back in the clubhouse, I decide that there are two potential issue. The first is that the prop is too large. When this is the case, it simply can't move enough water and blows holes in it. No problem, I bodge a fix by taking the tips off with a pair of scissors.

Second, the rudder support box is filling with water and acting like a parachute. With my pen knife, I open a crude hole in the back.

On the water again and things have improved, but only a tiny bit. We are a long way from being more looks than operation.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Hand drawn tram


Something a bit different for Sunday, but since it's so relaxing, a perfect interactive experience. Short Trip is a scenic tram simulator created by Alexander Perrin.

Hand drawn, it looks beautiful and is certainly a pleasant way to while away a few minutes.

Using the left and right arrows on your keyboard, move the cat-faced driver to his tram (the door opens when you get next to it) then use the same keys to drive the tram to the end of the line.

Along the way, you can stop and pick up passengers. Don't forget to ring the bell with your space bar!

Even the sounds are lovely. Birds sing and the tram rumbles away realistically.

Visit Short Trip. 

Hat tip: James Finister

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Making plans for XTC


A brand-new 70-minute film on one of Britain’s best-loved and most influential bands of modern times, XTC.

Emerging from the late 1970’s new wave punk explosion XTC amassed a devoted following with hit singles Making Plans For Nigel, Senses Working Overtime, Dear God and Mayor of Simpleton.

A colorful and vibrant journey into the world of XTC and their alter-ego psychedelic band The Dukes of Stratosphear – the film features brand new interviews with Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, Dave Gregory and Terry Chambers.

Through a mixture of animation, archive and specially-shot sequences, the film opens-up the world of XTC and into the brilliant minds of principle songwriters – Messrs. Partridge & Moulding.

"Why are you telling us about a programme covering a 1970s pop group that is broadcast on Sky?", I hear you cry, "It's not like you have Sky yourself so you won't be watching it."

That is true dear reader. But I've known for some time that thanks to the efforts of ModelU and my mate Paul's paintbrush, the stars of the show have been replicated in miniature. They will (apparently) be seen riding trains at Pendon.

It's a bit of a shame I'm missing this as I quite like a bit of XTC, however I shall console myself with a World-shaped biscuit (to feed my face) and all being well, a trip to the pub.

Hold on, they will have Sky...

Friday, October 06, 2017

Building a battery box

The biggest problem with this kit?

I've never seen one built up. In fact this is the only example of this model I've ever seen - and I have looked long and hard.

All this, combined with the lack of instructions, means I'm working things out as I go along. 

I have no idea how much battery power is required so I use my Club 500 as a guide. 6 C cells sounded about right so that's what I've fitted.

To keep the boat level in all directions, it became apparent that the pack had to sit quite well forward and I am worried that this would block access to the motor to propshaft coupling.

My solution, which I'm very pleased with, is a box on legs that straddles the shaft. Locating strips of plastic in the hull hold it in place and then underneath, on a big blog of silicon sealant, is some Velcro to hold the box down.

Will it work? I'll wire the model up and give it a go next week.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Brushless motor

Fast boats used to mean an IC motor with all the attendant noise and pollution. Then we moved to electric power but the motors were still pretty chunky. Now we have brushless motors is pretty simple - rather than have a commutator whirling around with pickups (brushes) bearing on it, switching on and off of the poles is handled by a small computer in the speed controller.

To be honest, it all seems like magic to me. I see boats at the club powered by teeny tiny motors that generate enough power to hurl the model around the lake. People have tried to explain the power classifications to me, something to do with astronomical rotation rates I believe, but the whole thing is still a bit of a mystery.

Anyway, the first impressions of my motor are incredible. The thing arrives packed in a padded box rather than (if you are lucky) a plastic bag. Price wasn't too scary either from Component Shop

Originating in the model aircraft world, fitting one of these is "interesting" as the body rotates. You have to provide a plate for the stationary end to be fixed to. Easy in a 'plane but harder in a boat. I cut a piece of plastic to fit in one and screwed the unit to this. That's a bit harder to do than say but everything seems to line up at the moment. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday - Small pit head gear

Pit Head gear

This is one of those annoying photos of a prototype too good not to share, but of which I know very little. 

From the Elsecar Heritage Centre, this pithead gear stands near the beam engine house. The adjacent board is entitled "Deep down to the Barnsley seam" and explains that this winding shaft drops down 130 feet to the coal below and was dug by hand in the 1790s. 

As a modelling subject it has the benefit of being modest, no more than 30 feet high. Made of concrete, it could be built from plastic strip, but I'm assuming that the structure is a lot younger than 227 years.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

More MEK

Time for another Mek-Pak refill post. Last week I broke open the latest big tin bottle. The previous one having lasted since 2015.

Price for the latest is £26. That's up 80p on 2 years ago and £4.70 on the one bought in 2012.

And yes, I know I could buy it for 10p a gallon on-line but I don't buy that much from the proper model railway trade so I'll take the easy option of picking it up at shows. After all, to leave an exhibition with nothing new seems like a failure, at least this way I'm coming away with something useful. The kit cupboard needs no more occupants!

The permanent marker didn't last on the tin though did it? Since the can stands out of direct sunlight, I wonder why? 

Monday, October 02, 2017

RIP Dave Elbourne

Last week, after a short illness, one of the greatest influences on my model making career and someone who played a significant part in me ending up in my current job, Dave Elbourne passed away.

I first met Dave at the Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Society in the early 1980s. He was involved with Pat Taylor and Keith Foster in building a Scotish layout - Macduff. As I recall, he was building track, the first time I'd seen anyone doing this.

Dave went on to build his own Magnum Opus - Scotland Street Yard. This was a revolutionary model being an almost scale (actually, sligthly longer) model of a shunting yard in Edinburgh. At a time when most layouts were long and thin, Scotland Street was almost square.

At the front of the model there was a shunting yard, split into two electrically so the operators worked either the front or back, passing wagons between them as required. At the back the main line ran through, operated usually by a DMU on a shuttle controller.

All this was accomplished with DC control. There was not such thing as DCC in those days but Dave worked for British Telecom and so was well versed in electrical systems. In fact his job provided a handy workshop in Kenilworth with enough space to assembled the layout for work between shifts.

One of his ideas on layout wiring stays with me. Long leads dangling from control panels are easily damaged in transit, make this up as a separate item with a plug at each end, and you reduce the chances of damage. OK, this means more soldering but hopefully the result is greater reliability and a less stressful setup at each show. It certainly works for me!

A winner of the Railway Modeller Cup in 1988, the layout was very popular at shows and Dave certainly enjoyed taking it out - which is where I come in. You see, Dave wasn't quite so good at organising operators and several times he would appear at the club on a Thursday night and ask if anyone fancied a trip to a show that weekend.

With no ties, I usually did and certainly enjoyed many thousands of miles with him and the layout along with several traditional Little Chef meals on the way back home on the Sunday night.

As I got into the hobby and started kit building, Dave encouraged me. My DJH 02, the first serious loco I built, did a few stints on Scotland Street, although its width limited the places it could shunt. If I'm honest, it didn't run as well as Dave's Portescap equipped shunters anyway - these had to run flawlessly as poking at stalled trains towards the front of the layout was impossible.

Dave had grand plans and acquired quite a pile of kits for future projects. Some of these were generously passed on to me for little or no money. The 07 at the top of this post was the first. Dave had built the chassis but wasn't going to get around to the body so this became my second kit built loco.  It was the mainstay of Melbridge Dock over the years and my pride and joy, partly because it ran so well since I didn't build the working bits. After it was stolen, I made a replacement but couldn't get the lubricator mechanism to work like Dave did.

Later there was a Class 17 - passed over simply because one would be perfect for the layout and Dave wasn't going to get around to building it. I received the kit for no money on condition I finished it for a particular show. I did, but being whitemetal, it weighted a ton and needed considerable work on the pickups before it would drag more than itself along, something that disappointed us both.

I have no idea how many shows we attended with the layout but they were all good fun and it was a pleasure to be involved with the project.

There is a page about both the prototype and layout here. 

After a really intense time building Scotland Street, Dave lost his finescale modelling mojo (the work workshop became home to a RC car track) but took up collecting vintage Triang models. Since I was (and still am) into the operating accessories from that firm, we had another shared interest.

One of my fondest memories was when we took my layout, Melbridge Dock to Colchester and I found a satellite car on a second hand stall stand. While my Dad operated the layout, Dave and I were sat on the floor playing with this thing. Visitors to the show could just see the satellite flying up above the backscene every few minutes and must have wondered what was going on. If they found out, they probably wondered why a recipient of the RM Cup was messing around like that enjoying himself and not doing some proper modelling!

Eventually, Scotland Street was sold to a club in Edinburgh and I helped him deliver the model to its new owners. We even managed a quick stop at the prototype along the way. I'm pleased to see the model still exists and still looks good.

Another fun moment involved Dave's collecting and the club Thomas the Tank layout. Having bought a couple of battered Hornby Dublo Co-Bo locos, Dave produced one mint model and then used the leftover to build a nice model of BoCo for the layout. Obviously the model needed a face and this, as with all the other models on the layout, was fashioned from Milliput filler.

At a show, most people loved this as it wasn't common to see the character modelled. Children saying "BoCo" in a Yorkshire accent is great fun. However, one gentleman wasn't so pleased, spluttering that a valuable collectible had been destroyed. Despite explaining that it was made up from the broken bits of an old model, he couldn't be pacified.

After this, Dave moved away from the Midlands. The last railway modelling I saw him show was a selection of Lego trains with his son Alex. Like everything else he did in the hobby, the display was professional and entertaining.

Thanks Dave for all your support and encouragement when I needed it. Beyond the modelling help, simply being part of the operating team was good for me and really great fun. I think I need to go and have a Little Chef Works Burger, the usual driving home treat, in your memory.