Let's end 2017 with a finished project. After a few bumps along the way, my vintage speedboat, "Miss-Chief" is ready.
Towards the end, I hit a few snags - the can of red spray I used disappeared with the rudder still to do. Its replacement isn't quite the same shade but close enough that I can live with it until the correct one re-appears.
As I prepared the model for its launch, the steering servo stopped working. Replacing it wasn't too hard, but a half hour job I could have done without.
You are, of course, expecting some action shots now. Well, sorry. You see I got the model to the water, and fired it up. The motor made a noise but there was no movement. I tried reverse, still nothing.
Then I remembered.
I'd taken the propeller off for painting and not put it back on. Oops.
I'm guessing that you've got a little more time to watch railway videos on your computer this weekend, so here's a longer than normal film featuring Michael Palin, who is every bit s nice a bloke as you think, introducing some BBC clips.
There's a lot of Betjeman of course and you may well have seen this bit before, but either open some more chocolates and stick with it, or fast forward as he's not the only star.
Palin has been well briefed and comes across as knowing his stuff enough to read the script like it's not a script. He also fits the "look" required for this slightly nerdy subject. For a change, there will be no fast-forwarding an idiot presenter!
There's not much to "come alive" on this boat, but what there is is all here.
I think it was the resin-head driver figure that sold the kit to me as much as anything and so I've enjoyed painting his face. Nothing exciting, just a coat of flesh dry-brushed with flesh+pale grey. Goggles picked out in matt aluminum and leather. Looking at drivers from the 50s and 60s, they weren't the walking billboards todays are but I felt some BP symbols on the chest (I didn't fancy hand painting Castrol ones) would break up the regulation white overalls.
The exhaust and air scoop are painted with a shiny gunmetal, which is really nice, especially since it's brush painted. I couldn't be bothered to mask and spray.
At the back, number 9 is my club racing number and it looks good on the back. The only other lettering being "Miss-Chief" on the side of the cockpit. I wanted a hand-painted feel in the manner of a WW2 aircraft. Not sure this is right, it will stay until I see something better.
Anyway, once I find the can of red paint, I just have to do the rudder and we are ready for final assembly.
I can be a very impatient modeller. Sometimes this gets me in to trouble when paint or glue aren't given sufficient time to dry.
Working on the boat has had to be shuffled in to odd moments of the day as I've got so much other work on that this isn't a problem. Paint is allowed time to harden fully simply because I slap it on and then have to go and do "proper" work for a few days.
Still, the results are OK. I've gone for Humbrol aluminum airbrushed over the top using Mr Hobby 1000 primer as a base. I do like spraying metallic paint as it gives such a nice finish. One that would be even better if I hadn't tried to extract a hair from the deck. Still, there is a sticker to go over this.
The Red Arrows acrylic red is Humbrol applied from a rattle-can and very nice it is too. With he aid of a hair drier, it was touch dry really quickly. I'm not entirely happy with the line between the two colours, the Tamya masking tape didn't work as well as it normally does, but I feel that a black line delineating the two will look better anyway and hide a multitude of sins.
Now to the fun bit. Getting brushes out to add detail bringing the model to life. .
Feeling like a good boy for getting my work done before last Saturday, I treated myself to a day out watching steam trains. For me, the easiest way to do this is to hop on a train and visit the Severn Valley Railway. Lots of happy train riding and book reading time with the promise of something worth seeing at the end of the journey.
I've not been to see the Santa Specials before, with no kids I'm kinda out of the target market, but I reckoned this didn't prevent me from watching from the line side.
Arriving at Kidderminster, I was surprised just how much was going on. Access to the platforms is sensibly policed strictly but wandering along the car park allowed me to watch Taw Valley being prepared. This ticked the box for enjoying the smell and sounds of a large locomotive. Steam locos are one of those machines you take in with more than just your eyes, the aroma of oily steam and soot, the heat given off, the sound that you feel as much as hear when they start a heavy train moving. You can't so this with a model.
Under the canopy, the station was full of tinsel and people. Crowds of families all looking forward to their day out. A far cry from the gricers you'd normally find. The SVR is proficient at milking them for money with sweet stalls all around - very sensible bearing in mind this is, for many railways, the most profitable time of year.
I slipped through the side door and out tot he tranquility of the railway museum where I enjoyed the exhibits and a nice slide of tea and cake.
It's always worth a nose in here if you like railway memorabilia, I now own an early BR loo roll holder - well I wasn't going to contribute much money any other way. Last time it was a GWR detonator case which now acts as a file holder beside my modelling board.
Back outside, after a stroll around the (better than expected) town centre, I tried the car park on the other side of the station. This put me next to the miniature railway and I enjoyed watching both a tiny train and procession of big'uns.
The big surprise for me was the number of trains in operation. Three 10 coach (I think, didn't count) trains with half a dozen large locos in steam to allow for quick and efficient turnarounds. Modellers could do worse than pick Christmas on a preserved line as a prototype if they like express engines. That's what you need to handle the traffic all the coaches were running full.
Merry Christmas to everyone who takes the time to read my blog.
As ever, I hope that many presents that will need plenty of enjoyable assembly will come your way and unlike "normal" people, you'll be sat with screwdriver and glue happily whiling away the hours putting things together and enjoying the task immensely.
Christmas is all about hanging around shopping centres it appears, and the biggest one locally(ish) is Merry Hill. To be honest, it's not my idea of a good time, but that might be different if it still had its monorail.
The system was intended to evolve into something more than just a ride for people escaping the shopping.
Sadly, the monorail was scrapped in 1996 after only 5 years of use. Apparently there were lots of technical problems with engineers being constantly called to fix the thing. Added to this the issues of evacuating a train, the system wasn't designated as a ride, but as real transport meaning a different set of rules, a problem that apparently bedevils Blackpool trams.
Anyway, the whole lot was sold to the Gold Coast in Australia, where it was built into a shopping centre.
An interesting addition to the Beatties collection courtesy of the excellent Nick Brad. He arrived at the recent Digitrains open day and thrust this wagon in my hands. I looked puzzled and he explained that Beatties bought out the chain in 1987, so it had a rightful place in my collection.
Taylor & McKenna Toy & Hobby Centres were a chain of toy shops
in the south east of England, pretty much a fore-runner of Beatties
They had stores in Aylesbury, Banbury, Bletchley, Hemel Hempstead,
Kettering, Luton, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Peterborough, Staines and
Central London. They went bust in the early 80's.
The original store (selling just model railway stuff) was at 98, Craven Park Road, Harlesden NW10
A shop in Banbury? That's just down the road from me. How did I miss it?
I see they also had their own glue, which I presumably need to find a tube of.
No, you didn't miss Christmas, it's just that January happens early in the magazine world.
Garden Rail features a distinctly non-garden layout this month. Chris MacKenzie's Ffuglen Station is an exhibition layout in 16mm scale that proves you can build an interesting model and still have it fit in a reasonable sized room. Winter provides an opportunity to look at indoor layouts, at least once anyway. We do head outside for a running session at the Midland Railway Centre of course, and the writer owning an IOM style model in now way influenced my enthusiasm for this...
I'm keen to include some non-scale specific techniques and so this time we have Si Harris showing how to model worn wood but using nice maintenance free plastic.
Product News is headed up by the newly arrived 16mm scale K1 Garratt. Sadly, no-one will send me one of those, but Tag has borrowed one for a short while and will be bringing us a review in the future.
Our main feature in Engineering in Miniature is a prize winning model spotted at the Midlands Exhibition. "Lady Stephanie" is built by John Mellor from scratch - and I mean from scratch, he's machined everything including the flywheel.
There's a bit of a workshop feel with guides to cutting square threads and making a tensiometer and also a dividing head.
A free guide to the London Model Engineering show is included as is a report on the Competition and Display classes from the Midlands show.
Not an exciting photo this one I'm afraid, but it is an important step towards completion of the speedboat.
I've been pondering for some time a method of holding the top down on the model. It fits into a recess in the deck, which is fine but there isn't an obvious method of making a waterproof fit short of using tape as I've done while testing.
High-strength magnets bought from eBay seemed a good idea but I wasn't sure how I'd use them. Magnets don't work on plastic so there would need to be some metal around and there isn't space between deck and top for this.
Trying things out over a few evenings, I came up with the following solution:
At the front of the boat, a "clip" slides under the deck. Simple and effective as long as the back end is secure.
At the back, a screw fitted into the cover and hidden by the back of the cockpit, is grabbed by a magnet fitted under the deck. Drilling a hole in the deck allows the screw head to locate.
At the sides, pushing magnets down the exhaust pipes and then glueing matching ones under the deck adds extra strength. It's important that these are aligned correctly (drop them in place and they do it automatically) for the strongest attraction.
Now the cover is just about held in place well enough to pick the model up by, but can easily be slid back and removed. I'll add a safety wire between the two just in case - bad enough if the cover comes off while sailing without it heading to the bottom of the lake!
The R2D2 kit has several funky displays included, all of which have been assembled by my technophobic Dad. So far, they all work perfectly doing their flashing thing quite happily. I'm not sure if they actually mean anything, but they are certainly pretty.
I visited the North Norfolk Railway this week, and while waiting around, couldn't resist talking a few photos of some of the platform furniture.
First, we have the lamps on Holt station. These are a common design, but not often seen on model railways. Does anyone know of a manufacturer doing this design? It would be perfect for those branch-line stations we all like.
Weybourne is a grander station and hence has grander lamps. You can buy this sort of thing from people like Kytes Lights and they will even work - rather better than the one in my photo!
While I was there, I spotted a useful piece of advice to leave you with this Sunday.
Just a short film today as I'm sure you are probably doing Christmas preparation stuff.
It's Crimbo you have to thank for this film. No, I'm not giving anyone a bag of cement as a present, imagine the mess when it is unwrapped!
No, while in my local branch of WH Smith looking for books, I spotted a history of Rugby Cement lorries. A quick flick through put it firmly in the "if money and shelf space were unlimited I'd buy this" category, but not (for me) at £30.
The video is interesting because of the range of transport on show. There are even some unbraked railway wagons. Plenty of lorries, squeaky clean drivers (did they really wear those caps?) and of course railway wagons as produced by Airfix.
If you profess and interest in railways, then there is a good chance that you'll find a copy of Felix the Railway Cat under the Christmas tree this year.
A well-meaning relative will have spotted this on their tour of Tesco and thought, "That's got trains in it. I'm sure he'll like it."
The book tells the story of Felix, a cat adopted by staff as Huddersfield railway station. There are heartwarming stories as the cat learns to love its new environment and the people who occupy it.
Let's be honest - this isn't a nerdy book full of rivet detail. It's a human interest story with added cat. We actually learn quite a lot about the way a modern station operates and it certainly stimulated a desire to visit the place, not just to see the cat. A quick look on the web shows Huddersfield to be quite a size and full of interesting detail.
Enjoyed with a few drinks, it's a pleasant read and you can generously pass it on to the rest of the family afterward. Can't say that about Great Western telegraph pole ceramic insulators or whatever else you really wanted. I enjoyed it anyway.
(Thanks to Chris Mead for supplying this after a supermarket shopping trip)
He's not quite up to date but getting there. As you can see, the main dome framework is built and sits on it's provided stand. There's a nice roller bearing in the top, and more for the wheels it appears. One leg is half built and we have the bits for the second.
Generally, things are going well. The biggest problem is that the correct number of nuts, bolts and screws are provided with no spares. Since they are tiny, we now need replacements and I'm not sure where to get them from. Eileens etc. don't sell them, I think I need to check Maplins. In the meantime, the publishers helpful customer service people have promised to send an extra issue out with more attached.
The most exciting bit involve flashing lights and a small projector. I'll show you these another day once I've worked out how to display them to thier best advantage.
From a my trip to Bressingham in the summer - the narrow gauge railway engine shed.
A couple of interesting points - first, I need to note the direction of slope on the back of door diagonals. It's something I always seem to get wrong on a model.
Second, look how much stuff you can see through the doors. Model signal boxes usually win in the "building crying out for an interior" competition, but engine sheds, at least single road ones on small lines, must come a close second.
Basically, a pair of pencils but with wax rather than graphite cores. Sharpen in the normal pencil way and then when handling stupidly small items, prod with the tip of the "pencil". The wax grabs the small object and holds it.
I know it's poking into the nut above, but that's just the way I set it up for the photo. The wax seems to grab metal perfectly well and handles the sides of nuts and washer plus those tiny bits of etched brass that need to be manipulated when building a kit.
The grab seems strong enough to move things around and place them, but easy to break and leaves no visible residue. (OK, you'll want to degrease the model before painting, but you do that anyway).
For £2.99 a pair, a handy addition to the toolbox.
Strictly speaking, this is the Members Day, when friends of the tramway museum come along for a final ride and look around. I was told (not sure if this is true but it makes sense) that an important part of the day is scoffing all the food that might go off in the closed season. It's nice to be able to help reduce the pie stocks by one...
Surplus books and periodicals are sold off - I picked up several Manx booklets that I think aren't in the Parker collection, and if they are, the prices were so low it's not a problem. Spares can find their way into the model railway club library eventually.
To be honest, it was a freezing cold day, so the obvious trams to be out were Blackpool Toastracks and Boat. The view from the hill in Derbyshire looks lovely, but sometimes you want windows and a roof. With trees denuded of leaves however, the scene did look a little different.
Highlight of the day for me, was the emergence of Douglas Head No.1, the only survivor from the Douglas Southern Electric tramway, from the great hall. OK, so she was hauled out by an electric tug vehicle, but to see the tram in the sunshine made the cold trip worth it.
I can't resist a bit of Manx steam and this piece from JC Boyd might only be a couple of minutes long but there is so much to see.
For a start, modelling the Manx Northern proves to be a lot easier than the Port Erin line as the trains are often no more than two coaches long. Talking of coaches, look at the different roof heights!
Operating is easier too as there's no need to uncouple wagons from coaches for shunting. Manxmen can handle being shoved back and forth while the wagons are organised it seems.
Yes indeed. Thanks to the guys at Rapido, I have a new layout project.
A few months ago, we received a challenge:
How could we resist?
Since I've known the guys for a while, long enough that they don't scare me, and I'm the practical man on the team, it falls to me to build a new model.
Didsbury Green is the result and part 1 of the build can be found in the January 2018 issue of the magazine.
For practical reasons, it has to travel by 'plane, the model will fit into a plastic box. This limits the size of the project, but it's still going to be tough fitting the build into my schedule!
I've also taken a look at one of the most interesting models for year, the Hornby Junior Trainset.
While not a super-detailed product, it's a bold marketing move as the plan is for it to be sold through supermarkets, DIY stores and other non-traditional outlets. Heavily branded Hornby, it will hopefully introduce people to the name and build and association with train sets.
In theory, the model can run on "proper" model railways as well as it's own plastic track. I tested this claim at our local club and there are a few issues with finer track. These aren't insurmountable though and I show you how. I've also taken a look at the German competition.
DVD content is a look at the Polak signal box kit I built a few months ago to tie in with a prototype feature on the same disk. The box is fitted with a Severn Models interior kit and really looks the part. Someone pointed out all the levers are set to "on" - true and not very prototypical, but I needed them to show up in the photos and if they are "off", you can't see them in normal 3/4 views.
Tucked in the Extras section is a piece I'm particularly proud of - a tour of layout control panels shot at the Peterbrough show. Comparing panels is difficult, unless you happen to have a hall full of layouts to hand. I did, and went around interviewing the owners to get an idea why they picked the design they did.
This issue looks a bit different too - the cover, and a supplement inside, are printed in 3D. A cool pair of glasses suitable for viewing the pictures is included so you can look as trendy as me!
A visit two weeks ago to the excellent London Cinema Museum took me to the site of Lambeth Workhouse. Most of the buildings have been flattened to be replaced by apartments, but a few remain.Notably, the water tower now converted to living quarters - some people may remember it from the Channel 4 series Grand Designs a few years ago.
I'll admit to being impressed with the telly version, but seeing it in real life, it looks like a nice brick building with an Airfix water tower top dumped on it. I know the tank is original, apart from the window, but there is something odd about it.
If you made a model like this, I suspect people would suggest you got it wrong, but in this case, the prototype is stranger than fiction!
Bouncing my first cake box diorama, the one showing a scene from The Titfield Thunderbolt being filmed, around the country in the back of the car has not been kind to it. The road surface made from chinchilla sand has broken up badly and taken much of the weathering powder cinder packing (used in real life to stop the roller falling off the back of the level crossing) away with it.
The materials were stuck in place with watered down PVA and it either hadn't bonded to the foamboard base, or changes of temperature and vibration had broken the bonds.
Replacing the sand was easy enough and as an experiment, I've fixed it with Deluxe Materials Ballast Bond instead of PVA. Grey powder was then sprinkled on by picking some up on a brush then tapping the side so it showered down evenly.
Left overnight, a couple of new cracks appeared in the road, easily dealt with, but the powder had dried dark grey.This looks odd so I brushed more powder on dry. It sticks well enough to such a rough surface without fixative. The loco was glued back in place, crew figures restored and it's looking good again.
Why all this trouble? After all, the project has been seen by plenty of people in print and at a couple of shows. Well, it's back on the road again. Tomorrow, I'll be appearing at the Digitrains Open Day - they have been building cake box dioramas too and so we'll have a mini exhibition. I'm there all day, so if you are in the Lincoln area, please drop in and say hello.
When I'm not making stuff, I can sometimes be found writing fiction with a friend. Our latest novel, "Kate vs the Navy" is now out and available from Amazon.
It's a good read, at least according to the people who received pre-production samples, and in case you are wondering (yes, those are red shoes on the cover, but you get a ship too) not chick-lit at all.
Gareth Fothrington-Thomas has made a huge mistake. He’s given
Dave Thomas a job without consulting Kate. And Dave and Kate have
history – embarrassing, complicated history.
But the Ministry of Defence have just
asked KoD Associates to oversee the closing of an almost-forgotten naval
base. It’s the company’s biggest contract yet, and a good performance
could mean Kate can finally buy Gareth out.
However, nothing is ever straightforward. Tracey
views work as a chance to have fun. Kelvin’s virtual life is far more
exciting than his real one. And Captain Norris and his crew not only
want to stay employed, they’re also keeping a secret. A rather large
When Kate misses a key meeting she feels the
whole process slipping out of her hands. Even an unexpected upturn in
her personal life can’t compensate for the worry that things are about
to go horribly wrong …
Join the team who first appeared in Kate vs the
Dirtboffins as they become reluctant and unwelcome guests on a tiny
island, battle local wildlife and tackle the Royal Navy in another
It's funny, heart-rending in places and generally a good fun read. And we'd both be really pleased if you'd buy a copy. Even more pleased if you'd then review it on Amazon.
It seems to be the fashion this year on forums and Facebook, to describe the 50th Warley exhibition purely in terms of the stuff wot you bought.In this case, Warley equals a Wrenn "Wonder Boat".
If your aspirations are wider then the contents of your rucksack at the end of the day, it was another great show. At least it was as far as I could tell. My weekend was largely spent on the BRM stand talking to people about Cake Boxes, 3D photos of Pendon and the new project layout I'm working on - more of this later in the week.
Saturday passed in a blur with occasional queues of people wanting to talk to me. It's nice to be popular, although hard work! Editor Andy, who shared the load a bit, found that the NEC floor is very hard on the feet indeed, and he only did the first day.
I did escape a few times to go off filming with Andy York. Despite the lack of danger money, I shot a scene in front of the advance ticket crowd. My theory had been that they would all swerve to the right and miss me. Looking at the footage, it was closer run than I thought.
Sunday wasn't quite as busy as Saturday but there was still much to keep me occupied. Cake boxes are proving incredibly popular and I met several people who were really pleased to have had a go at one. The best part of my job is when a modeller, especially a new one, comes up to me at a show and tells me I inspired them in some way to have a go. This happened many times over the weekend.
Burger with lots of bacon inside on Saturday. Nice.
Slice of Millionaires shortbread supplied by an RMwebber, and easily the best example of this cake I have ever eaten.
Sunday. Fish and chips from one of the catering caravans in the hall. I'd heard these were good from other places and you know what - they were!
OK, at 8 quid, a couple of pounds more than my local chippie but tasted excellent and were a large enough portion to keep me going for the day. There was also a lemon muffin from another concession which also kept me going.
Basically, you can eat at Warley, whatever anyone tells you, at only slightly higher than normal McBurger prices. And no-one stops you bringing your own food and drinks in, there as (as the video shows) two trains worth of seats!
Getting in smoothly on Friday. Since I was bringing quite a lot of models, I had to drive in and arriving at 2pm, I was in the hall at the stand half an hour later. Last years was difficult, this year, unbelievably slick.
The Hornby stand. Featuring a freshly painted prototype H Class loco, it looked every inch the sort of stand you'd expect to see at a proper trade show and just what you need at the national exhibition. I, of course, didn't get much of a photo but there are others out there.
Bachmann's first EP of the steam crane. Looks brilliant and works well - the designer kept twiddling the gears to show the steam engine working - this is going to be pricey but a real centrepiece for any collection.
The Dutch perspective model. Amazing work. If you've seen any photos from the show already, you've seen this one. Very clever twisted perspex water effect from the pump too.
All the friendly people I met on the stand and elsewhere.
At the press event on Sunday afternoon, I learnt that next year has been booked and by the time you read this, 2019 too. It's shocking that this is the 25th NEC event, I remember the Harry Mitchell Centre shows! Excellent work by Warley club and their helpers though - they put on the sort of show this hobby needs and do a superb job.
Quite a long film this week -a promotional film by Scammell for thier "mechanical horse".
Watching this, I get the feeling I really need more of these useful beasts on any layout I built. I also think that I need a wider variety of trailer, especially the (apparently) common municipal rubbish collecting variant.
Speaking of which, why has the word "municipal" fallen out of favour?
Anyway, as well as the vehicles themselves, there's loads of fantastic footage of industrial sites in the background. I wonder if some of these buildings ever looked new?
Recently, I've added a couple of new items to my collection of Beatties memorabilia. Both are rare simply because sensible people would have thrown them away years ago.
First, we have a plastic carrier bag, the "Hornby Railways the present with a future" edition.
Won on eBay for a stonking 99p including postage, it's a quality item. Certainly rather thicker than bags we tend to get nowadays. The condition is perfect and yet again, I'm tempted to head to Google Streetview to see what the various stores are now.
While watching this, I noticed that there are quite a lot of auctions for carrier bags, maybe there is a whole collecting scene for them? It's not so daft, let's face it, old shop names are properly nostalgic for most of us. There is more pleasure seeing a Wavy Line or Bejam bag than many "proper" museum artefacts.
Rarer still, how about a shop receipt?
Dropped off by a kind visitor to Warley show last weekend (thank you!), this slip of slightly faded paper comes from the Manchester branch on 7th March 1998. A Bedford Dropside TK (£5.00) and Maidstone bus (£11.99) were bought, paid for with a £20 note.
I'll need to keep this in the dark as the printing process isn't particularly stable. Lasting nearly 20 years is pretty impressive as it is.
All this stuff is pretty well worthless, except to me. One day, when my museum of model shops opens, you will all pay good money to come and marvel at my precious things though.