Sunday, September 30, 2018

Birmingham Museum Collection Centre - behind the scenes

Sectioned Clayton model

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre for their open day. 

I'm not going to say much about this other than it was fantastic and well worth the trip. Not the easiest place to take photos in, but so much to see.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Supercar out takes

Even I'm not old enough to remember Gerry Anderson's Supercar - but I've seen little bits in recent years and know it was a precursor to Thunderbirds. 

Always fascinated by special effects, I was interested in this little bot of film showing what happens when your model car is rather more buoyant than it needs to be!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Thornton Mfrs (Harrogate) Ltd tunnel mouth

From the vintage pile today, we have this interesting vacuum-formed tunnel mouth and wing-wall set from Thornton Mfrs (Harrogate) Ltd, based in Long Street, Easingwold, York. A quick look at the street in Google Streetview doesn't show any obvious manufacturing places, but then a vac-forming machine isn't huge so you don't need more space than a garage.

The name suggests to me that this was a sideline from a larger manufacturer. It's certainly not a snappy title!

The sheets themselves aren't bad. The forming is nice and clean and I'd suggest the master was carved judging by the shape of the brisks. It's a pity the bond is stretcher rather than something accurate, but I've seen worse. 

Sadly, this is all I know. If anyone can fill in some history for the firm and any other products, please comment away below. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Percy shunting

Percy shunts Melbridge Dock

Looking back through some old photos this week, I found this one of my upgraded Hornby Percy shunting Melbridge Dock.

The loco has a Branchlines 2-stage gearbox, Mashima motor, Romford wheels, Gibson crossheads and runs as well as anything I've ever built. It really can shunt. 

To be honest, had the Bachmann version been available as a grey import at the time, I'd probably not have bothered, but then it was a fun project and that's what it's about isn't it?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday - Herbert Morris Ltd

Herbert Morris Ltd

In a Loughborough back street is the factory once owned by Herbert Morris Ltd, crane manufacturers. You can find more of their history here.

Sadly, no longer in operation, the building is a cracker for modellers. Most of the frontage is a series of repeated, brick units, not unlike those sold by Skytrex

To be accurate, there would need to be some scratchbuilding, but apart from the brickwork around those windows, nothing too difficult.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How to design a micro layout

Luke asks:
I have been modelling for 3 years  now with some quite pleasing, realistic layouts. I’m currently working on an oo gauge Scottish distillery micro layout which is occupying most of my modelling time. I really enjoy building micro layouts but often struggle to plan them very well. How do you go about planning your smaller layouts and how do you design them?
This is an interesting question and I've been mulling it for a few days.

I guess I should start by saying I aim primarily for a layout that looks nice, but will probably have the purists frothing at it's lack of prototype fidelity. Truth is that the real thing doesn't normally fit into the stupidly small space of a micro layout.

So, I start with the space and try to fit things in there. Sometimes it's easy. With Melbridge Parva, I just stuck a note on this blog and Michael Campbell came up with a plan. All I had to do was build it!

More recently, for Didsbury Green, I knew the overall dimensions of the box it had to travel in. The plan was that aside from a sticky-out fiddle yard, everything would fit on the baseboard. It needed to be a working layout too with no tricksy sector plates to handle one end of the run-round loop.

Which brings me back to deciding what features you need. I consider a run-round essential and ideally, I like sidings pointing in both directions too. Didsbury was planned around a normal 60ft coach, even though I built a 4-wheeler for it in the end.

Planning doesn't need to cost money. Download the Peco Point Plans and print them out full size. Along with some rolling stock and a full-sized bit of paper (or wood) to represent the baseboard, you can build the layout and roughly test operation. Can you get wagons in the sidings, that sort of thing.

Another option is using computer software. I find the Anyrail software good. Since you won't be using many track sections, it's free too. Very handy to play around with things and even if you are going to build your own track, it's a good start.

While planning track, consider mocking up buildings from cereal packet card too. The more you build, the better feel you get for the finished model. Once the planning starts, don't rush it. Always leave things overnight, or better still longer, so you can come back to it with a fresh eye. It's amazing what you spot after a couple of days.

Finally, don't expect great operation. Micro layouts are about building. That said, an Inglenook System like the one I used on Ruston Quays, can provide lots of entertainment without the space required for a loop.

With thousands of potential wagon combinations, there's a lot of "play value" here.

All this is my opinion of course, but if you look at Chris Nevard's layouts, they tend to work on the same sort of basis. All modelling, little operating - he likes playing trains even less than I do - but a lot depends on what you want out of a model.

I hope this helps a little. Layout design isn't easy, the best suggestion is to look at the space available, work out what you want to fit in, and play around with templates. Ultimately, if it looks right to you then it is right.

Happy modelling!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Painting the GVT wagon

After a coat of grey primer to provide a nice base colour, I've painted the GVT wagon with the lighter base colours from a Lifecolor "Weathered Wood" set. For variety, a "replacement" plank uses the mid-colour.

Ironwork is Revell Anthracite Grey, quickly becoming my favourite colour enamel.

I'm not great at simulating unpainted wood, so this is all a bit experimental. Once the base colours are on, I've dry-brushed everything with the palest colour, an nice pale grey/cream to blend it all together. The replacement plank gets a bit more cream too as I felt it stood out too much.

A little rust on the ironwork and I'm calling this finished for now. It's been a fund and quick project that will, I suspect, be followed by a few more of these kits. They will make a good-looking and modestly priced train.

Of course I don't actually have anywhere to run this stuff year. A New Year Resolution is to build a 32mm gauge line...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

TINGS 2018

Langston Bridge

The International N Gauge Show (TINGS) can be a bit of a mixed bag. Some years, I don't find anything particularly inspiring, but I'm pleased to say that this year was very different. It seems that all the high-quality RTR in the scale is starting to feed through to exhibition layouts. Where, in the past, I've left feeling there wasn't anything to impress, by the time I was scoffing ice cream outside the hall, I had seen 4-5 models that I really liked.

Top of the list has to be Langston Bridge. Not an exciting layout operationally, it's an oval with two trains following each other, the scenery is simply a long bridge over some water. The bridge is beautifully modelled. The water is simple and the backscene plain blue. Despite this, the model really got me. It's one of those where the work may look simple enough, but I suspect it isn't All the bridge supports have to be the same and neatly done. Not that easy considering how many there are.

Burshaw North Western

Burshaw North Western exhibited a wide variety of interesting diesel. They had gone way beyond simply buying RTR and built kits for variety. I like early diesel locomotives so it appealed to me on that basis alone. 

Obviously, most of my time was spent chatting to the trade and taking photos and again, there are some really nice potential projects out there. But those will have to wait for a magazine...

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Finsbury Park diesel depot

An interesting film this week. It appears to be unedited footage from Pathe News taken at the then very new Finsbury Park diesel dept. 

There's nice footage of D5598, so new that it wasn't even fitted with the characteristic "ears" for the windscreen washers. 

Baby Deltics and an 08 (possibly 09?) shunter also pop up but most of the film seems to concern the work, and workers, preparing the loco including giving is a good polish. 

Presumably, there is a proper version of this film, complete with posh-voiceover, but the raw footage is well worth a look.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Harris "No Loss" brush review

Faced with a "garden room" (posh shed) requiring a coat of yacht varnish before winter, I headed to the local DIY store for some new brushes.

I've always been pleased with the Harris "No Loss" range. Unlike slightly cheaper brushes, they don't seem to moult hairs as you paint. To be fair, they are better described as "a LOT less loss" and on the shed, I reckon I lost about 4 or 5, but then it's big enough to need a full large sized tin of varnish, so that's not bad going.

It was certainly a lot easier than picking bristles out of the varnish. That game gets old pretty quickly and you end up trying to shove them somewhere they won't be spotted rather than experiencing another dose of sticky finger bristle picking.

The only disappointment is that some muppet has re-designed the handles to be a bit more streamlined. Very pretty, but the end is now quite a bit sharper than it was before and once you hold it half way down the handle for fast application of lots of varnish, it digs in your palm. The old, blunter ones didn't do this.

Overall though, they are well worth the money. I've given a old set lots of stick and they still work OK. It's worth taking time to clean them properly, but even there you don't pull out handfuls of hair, which makes a messy job a little more pleasant.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Garden Rail - October 2018

We've a bit more American outline on the cover this month, all the way from sunny Quinton in the West Midlands. It's interesting that in garden railway terms, readers aren't put off by non-UK prototypes in the same way they are in the smaller scales. I don't receive the tantrums other editors find themselves on the end of at least.

Inside we have another look at video on the railway. Last month there was a camera wagon, this time First Person Video where you can drive the train looking through goggles just like a real driver. Garden lines suit this as there isn't such a sharp edge of the world as you tend to find in OO.

We've quite a bit of construction as usual with a track cleaning wagon and low budget mineral railway. Mamods come in for some modification and an inventive solution to overhanging plants is described.

And if you want to know why there is a cocktail glass on the back of a wagon, you'll just have to buy the issue to find out...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Steel water tower

Water tower

Spotted at the Churnet Valley Railway, this steel water tower.I'm pretty sure it's not an original railway structure, but then the railway hasn't built it from scratch either. My guess it the tank was bought in and mounted on new steel legs.

A useful industrial structure, the modelling challenge would be the raised stars on the panels. Ideally, make one and cast the rest in resin. At least the "livery" is simple enough - grey with a touch of brown and green weathering powders.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Wobbly axle good news

For a cheap kit, this GVT wagon is very well specified. When it came time to fit the underframe bits, which are mostly from glass-reinforced plastic, I find that this is no simple 4-wheel wagon.

A rocking, or compensated, axle is provided. This should aid road-holding over uneven trackwork. Something narrow gauge lines are notorious for. On a wagon with this short a wheelbase, I wonder if it's strictly speaking necessary, but a nice touch from the manufacturer.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Painting brickwork

Duncan asks:

As I am making an satisfying and active return to model railways, I am attempting new modelling media as well as the older established materials like card, plastic, white metal and brass. I recently puchased the low relief laser cut shop in the photos from a well known on line trading site(!) . It has a lovely smokey smell  and there is some texture on the sides. What paint process would you recommend and how would you go about it, please?

Secondly, I have been given a Coopercraft rail weighbridge and office. I recall you used a coloured pencil/pastel pencil to colour the brickwork. Having gone into a local and less than friendly art shop who were less than helpful, what precise kind of pencil(s) would you recommend, please?

Glad to hear you are getting back into modelling Duncan. As you have found out, over the years, a whole host of new materials have arrived for us to work with. This is great news, although it doesn't mean that the old methods aren't still useful.

Starting with the second question, the pencils I use aren't anything special. I collect brown pencil crayons so I have plenty of colour variety. Harder rather than "watercolour" or other special crayons are my preference and you can see some of the ones I use in the photo above (click for a bigger image). The Staedtler Stabilo came from Staples stationery store, the others from various art shops.

To use them, I paint the bricks beige (Humbrol 121) and once this is fully dry, rub them on the surfaces. 2-3 coats with different colours seem to give the desired effect, but practice makes perfect as you'll need to see what you are happy with. 

Laser-cut brickwork can be a bit of a problem. The edges of the bricks are very sharp and so the pencil crayon method doesn't work. All that happens is the bricks tear the pencil apart. For this, I need to dry-brush paint on. For this, I like a Coloro brush from Humbrol - as I explain in this blog post.

I hope this helps - happy painting! 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Llanfair 2018


Sometimes, I get the chance to spend a lot of time on motorways. A couple of weeks ago, my weekend involved a trip to Telford followed by a run to Llanfair the next day. I wonder if I can get a frequent diners card at the Telford services...

It's all in a good cause though as the Llanfair show is always enjoyable. For a start, once the motorway peters out, the scenery is stunning. Then the show itself is large enough for there to be loads to look at, but just small enough for me to be able to chat with all the people I need to in a day. Just.

Layout wise, Waltham Wharf, seen at the top of this post, was new to me and right up my street. Strictly speaking it's not garden railways, but large-scale, finescale modelling representing an 18-inch gauge line. The details were spot on and superbly reproduced. I'm taken a set of pictures I hope to find page space for in the future...

Indian Hill Railway

My time was spent chatting, which is why I go along. So busy in fact, that I didn't get lunch until the ladies running the cafe came around with a trolley selling off the leftover sandwiches!

The day wasn't done though. On the way back, there is the steam festival at the Welshpool and Llanfair railway. Dropping in at Llanfair, the place was full of smoke and steam with trains and lorries filling the modest site. Being contrary, I like the Ferret most of course.


Moving along to the Welshpool end - somewhat slowly as I ended up following a steam lorry on windy and hill roads, there is a "normal" railway exhibition and a couple of second hand traders, one of whom has a vast selection of books and leaflets that I aspire to having the time to go through properly one year.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

I'm not gone!

Apologies for those who looked at the blog this morning and saw a message that I'd gone away. It's not true, I'm not going anywhere yet - well apart from to a beer festival later one today.

That post is one I wrote in case there was a problem. I usually leave it set for a couple of weeks ahead, and this time forgot to move the publish date.

Sorry about that. Thanks for all the nice comments though, they were much appreciated.

Normal service will now resume. 

Saturday Film Club: British Locomotives in 1959

Friday, September 14, 2018

Micromodels trains

While at the Brighton museum, I picked up a plastic pot, from a Chinese takeaway I think, full of slightly battered Micromodel trains.

I think editor Andy thought I was mad to hand over 3 quid for this, but they were interesting enough for me to want a proper look and we were tight for time.

Back home I unpacked them and took some photos. For those not familiar with these kits, they are made of card and tiny - hence the "Micro". That's a UK 50p piece behind them to give you an idea of scale.
The models are a bit battered, presumably considered not good enough for display where there are some beautifully made examples. I can't restore them, it's not worth it as you can often still get hold of the cards and building a new example would be easier. Not that working on such tiny rolling stock can be considered easy!
A nice find though. No idea what to do with them next, but I'm glad I bought myself the chance for a proper look.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Conflat, Autocoach, simple hut, Brighton museum, track cleaning and imitation in BRM

I've been busy and the fruits of my labour can be found in the October issue of BRM.

We start with a proper multimedia kit - Slater's O gauge Conflat. Plastic, etched brass, cast brass and bits of steel all go into making this wagon, and for extra variety, I've plonked a Skytrex resin container on top and then tied it down with 4mm scale couplings. Digital readers see me demonstrait making the loops to hold this down.

A project that has been on the books for some time but finally made it to the page, is detailing an Airfix GMR autocoach using the Dart Castings kit. I'll admit that this wasn't quite as easy as I'd hoped - the instructions suggest cutting away the battery boxes and leaving the trussing. This was a bit of a disaster and I magled 2 underframes before being pragmatic and leaving well along.I have added quite a bit of missing stuff though, and made suggestions as to how you could do even more.

I like the Dart kit because they supply all the handrails ready to use. Bending these out of wire would be a nightmare and it's not a bad second project for anyone who fancies fettling some RTR. The result certainly lifts the model. The coaches are stail available new, or by the ton on second hand stalls, the model having been available since 1978.

A nice little beginners project is the classic Airfix platelayers hut. Older hands might wonder why we've done this, but if you've never built a plastic kit before, I can't think of a better introduction. There's little to go wrong and you end up (for OO modellers) with a very useful little building.

I've been out and about with editor Andy visiting the Brighton Toy museum. It's a fascinating place, I had to be dragged away from some of the cabinets to take the photos and video for the DVD. The picture above didn't make it in because of the reflections in the glass, but it's fascinating all the same (click on the image for a bigger picture).

Talking of the DVD, I'm looking at track cleaning this month using a loco that's probably older then most of our readers!

Finally, I've been writing about the pleasure I get from people following my projects and replicating them themselves.

October 2018 issue of BRM on RMweb.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Burton-on-Trent tennis club

Killing time waiting to visit the DEMU show in Burton a few months ago, I happened upon this interesting building tucked away down a side street.

Now home to a tennis club, it's presumably been some sort of workshop, stables or even farm building in a previous life. The proximity to the town hall makes me think a pub stables is most likely, although there is no sign of a pub.

The building is now surrounded by houses and overlaps their gardens as you can see above.

Quite an interesting modelling prospect, although you'd have to work at the brick painting if replicating the prototype faithfully as there have obviously been an awful lot of repairs and renovations over the years!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why would I want a large scale wagon?

I know what you are thinking as you read myGVT wagon build. "That's all very nice Phil, but I don't model in the larger scales, so it's not relevant to me."

Well, you are wrong.

Above is a laser-cut wooden wagon we are giving away as a subscription gift for new Garden Rail subs. 

It's knocking around my desk so I've pressed it into service as a box to hold bits of another kit I'm working on. Big enough to hold everything and open-topped so I can just chick the sprues back in once I've removed the relevant part. So far I've not managed to lose anything. It's very handy.

So, you do need a large scale wagon!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Building a 16mm classic

As editor of the UK's premier newsstand garden railway magazine, I feel I need to do my best to immerse myself in the hobby. While I can't instantly develop 40 years experience in wrangling steam engines, I can at least build lots of the kits that have been around for years.

One of these is the Binne Engineering (hit that link, the site is well worth a look) GVT wagon. OK, so Colin's V-hoppers are even better known, but I rather fancy this kit. Since getting back into large-scale modelling, the 4-wheel wagon building bug has really bitten.

For my £12 (I bought at a show, add £2-3 mail order from most garden railway trade) I was in possession of a lot of big bits moulded in plastic plus some smaller ones, including wheels, moulded in glass reinforced plastic. This is, to my mind, a bit of a bargain.
A few minutes with some ABS solvent (normal plastic glue will work, but the more volatile stuff was faster and gave good, secure joints) and I had built the basic tub.

17cm long, 4.5cm tall and 7.5cm wide, the size puts your average OO kit to shame!

The detail is pretty good, as you might expect in this scale. Just as importantly, it feels properly "chunky" and should survive happily out in the garden. 

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Sutton Coldfield Narrow Gauge show


It's a bit odd for someone who spends his life doing toy train stuff to decide that a pleasant way to spend a weekend would be - to visit a model railway exhibition. But I am a bit weird. And the show is a little different from most. Best of all though, it takes place right next to Four Oaks station, so I could have a nice train ride. I had an excellent book on the go so enjoyed a read while the train took the strain. Well, it's better than driving up the M6.

The hall is a recently extended modern(ish) church hall and apart from limited parking seemed pretty good. Walking in, the first layout was Campbells Quarry.


Handy this as I had wanted to have a word with its owner and forgot this was a reasonably local event. He let me have a go at working the dragline later in the day, an interesting experience for the beginner as you have to juggle three switches at once for all the functions. Emptying the bucket before it reaches the hopper is very easy!


As is my wont, the day was spent chatting as much as it was looking at models. There were some very interesting large scale locos as show at the top of this post, and above. You might think the brass model is of a BEV, but apparently it's a Logan, a loco that resulted in some legal wrangles over copyright.

Skip train

While I always enjoy a model railway show, these oddball events are proving ever more appealing. My dad often says that if we were starting up in the hobby, we'd probably go NG just to allow us to build something different. I think he's right, but that doesn't mean I don't dream of having a go anyway.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Derek Meddings talks Thunderbirds

Recently, I found myself in a model shop coveting an Ashom plastic kit for Thunderbird 3 sat in its launch bay. It's my favourite Thunderbird but I don't really have storage space, never mind the time to build the thing.

It did inspire me to have a dig on YouTube and find this film where design legend (in the nerdy world of spaceship) Derek Meddings talks about developing the craft for Gerry Anderson projects. I'm not sure I believe the story about the crashing 'plane catcher though. Surely that would have been in the script?

Friday, September 07, 2018

009 railcar

Another slightly random purchase - an Egger Bahn 009 railcar. In my defence, I'd just won 25 quid on a Premium Bond and the sudden rush of cash made me go mad. 

I've always had a liking for railcars and this was cheap. Hardly surprising as they aren't rare. I picked the cheapest of 3 on the second-hand stall, although I did have it checked to make sure it is a runner first. 

Looking for a prototype, I posted to Facebook and received the response that it was a caricature - from, possibly, the Rhein-Sieg-Eisenbahn Gesellschaft line. Digging on RMweb brought me this thread, complete with some photos that don't look too far off

The big question was just how well does it run? Some describe their models as working like coffee grinders!

Firing up my trusty ancient H&M Clipper, I gave it a go. Maybe the thing will run a bit better on a more modern controller, and it certainly responded to some light oiling, but I have a feeling that we'll be grinding coffee!

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Getting the Club 500 back on the water, sort of.

For no apparent reason, there have been a few Club 500 boats appearing at our weekly sailing sessions - prompting me to extract mine from storage for a bit of a run. I always liked the 500, it's a good looking boat and fun to sail. Speedy and offering a bit of a challenge, but able to work on our limited water.

First problem, the radio is 26mHz and I can't find a transmitter. Pity, I fancied having a go at the frequency peg thing again. Still, swapping the receiver for a 4.2 version solved that.

Inside, the motor was a bit rusty, but with a charged battery it turned over. On the water, the charge lasted for about 30 seconds but proved everything worked.

The NiMH batteries enjoyed a few hours on a charge>dischage cycle and this brought a bit of life into them, but still not very much. Anyone any suggestions before I buy more?

The last run produced more of a problem. The motor should be held down with elastic bands, but these have long since perished. I didn't worry as the rusty casing seemed to be working. Until it wasn't. Then the motor spun itself up the power wires and dismantled the coupling. Not a fun noise, but it looks easily fixable. Then I can go back to sailing. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Welshpool goods shed

W&LR goods shed

As regular readers will know, I can't resist a wiggly tin building and so the station buildings at the Llanfair end of the Welshpool and Llanfair railway are very much my thing. Visiting during a steam gala, there was no chance of getting useful shots of most of the structures, but I did bag the most useful, a goods shed on the platform. 

Simple enough, basically a box on brick pillars, the most exciting feature is the wooden doors, or perhaps the drainpipe. When guttering counts as excitement, you have reached a very special point in your architectural appreciation!

However, this makes an ideal building for any quite, countryside line and thus a good modelling subject. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Hobbyrail, Sutton Coldfield

I love an indoor market and so while wandering the streets of Sutton Coldfield, I was pleased to spot a sign for their local emporium.

Among the stalls selling pet products, mobile phones and wigs, I found Hobbyrail. To be honest, as the side of the unit is done up like a Pullman coach, it's difficult to miss!

The spacious shop isn't stuffed with stock, but there is certainly variety. For a start, there are the basic materials we all need including a nice full Humbrol paint rack. The Peco catalogue is well represented with both parent company and Ratio kits plus some Wills products to be found.

Despite not being on site very long, there are some oddball products dotted around and the reason for that must be that this iteration of Hobbyrail replaces a shop I visited in 2011. I'd guess much of the stock has made it to these more central and larger premises. 

I stocked up on paint and managed to resist a few other goodies, but have to commend the owners for the move. As I recall, the old place was a bit out in the sticks, but this is a town-centre location. Looking on-line, there are many positive reviews too, a good sign. The staff were busy helping someone with some wiring problems while I was there. Let's hope this translates into plenty of regular custom. 

A final touch, the cafe in the next unit does a very nice baked potato followed by apple pie and cream. Just the place for lunch!