Thursday, February 28, 2019

3D printing, Billy Bookcases and 2 layout shoots in BRM

A real find in BRM this month - Steve Bell's amazing layout "Waltham Wharf". Spotted at Llanfair show last year, although it turns out I had seen it a couple of years earlier. This is the sort of large scale layout making use of its size for detail that I've dreamed of. 

Steve is a really nice guy and has done a terrific job modelling an interesting 18 inch gauge prototype in 16mm scale. We dragged him and the layout into our studio where I shot both stills and some video. 

While talking about layout shoots, I also took pictures of Mike Corp's 3mm scale layout "Heybridge Wharf" - 2 years ago! The delay was because Mike had already agreed to let MRJ showcase the layout first and so we had to wait. Not to worry, I think the results are worth it. 

Regular readers know I have a history in 3mm modelling and Mike's is very much my sort of model railway layout. It has boats on for a start (and cutting out around the rigging did frustrate me!) and is full of small locos. 

Despite being busy with the camera, I've been practical too. We have part 2 of the 3D printing escapades. 

This month I'm determined to find projects for the printer that I'm happy with - and I think I manage it. The key to doing this sort of thing is matching the tool with the job. I'm happy I managed, so happy that I've bought the printer, so look out for more stuff on here soon!

Finally, I have a new project, or rather, 3 new projects. 

I'm going to build a series of layouts that will fit on the shelves of an Ikea Billy bookcase. Each will use new materials and techniques to me and hopefully be a useful experiment for those following my efforts. Micro layouts are very popular nowadays and make idea magazine subjects as you can produce a lot of photos reasonably quickly and therefore write up more techniques than a large model would alow for. 

Anyway, I've plenty of small locos knocking around, so I'm not going to build a mainline station am I? 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Hawkes Farm

Hakes Farm long barn

This week a series of photos showing Hawkes Farm - especially the "modern" barns that look very modelable. 

Now sitting in the middle of a housing estate, the site will soon disappear under more executive homes. Pity, as it would be perfect for me with all that barn space. Still, I'm no good at the lottery...

Hakes Farm small barn

Anyway, before the bulldozers move in, I had a wander around to try and capture as much as I could in case these pictures help someone. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Layout wagons Part 2 - Lettering

(Photo: Andy York)

Sometimes my model making has had to be done on the cheap and while buying wagon kits wasn't too much of a problem, at least for the little layouts I build, sheets of transfers have been a step too far. I'm sure these have become relatively cheaper over the years!

I also hate applying the things. Fiddling around for ages trying to make rows of numbers line up is not my idea of fun.

So, I developed the idea that as long as the basic shapes were OK, you could get away with wagon numbering applied by brush. I wouldn't do this for a loc, but most people don't scrutinise wagons as closely. Since they will be on the end of a good weathering, this hides things even more.

This can be seen in the photo above. The letters and numbers are a long way from perfect but on the layout, with things moving around and so much to look at, hardly anyone spots it. A good result and since pots of Humbrol 147 are cheaper than transfers, a saving for me.

More recently, I realised that Geoff Kent was doing a similar thing. He applies his wagon numbering with a mapping pen and white ink.

Well, if it's good enough for finescale royalty, it's good enough for me.

A trip to an art shop furnished me with the requisite tool and material and for the last few years, I've been learning penmanship skills. OK, I'm a looooongway from Geoff's abilities, but it's a step up from what I did before, still cheap and once weathered, will look fine.

Even when the effects of the rhubarb cider have worn off. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Layout wagons Part 1

Needing a couple of wagons for filming a few weeks ago, I dug in the back of the cupboard and pulled out some Parkside kits - a 25.5ton coal wagon and plywood sided van.

After a pleasant evening sticking them together - I'd forgotten just how much simply assembling these kit is - they were ready for the studio and fulfilled their role admirably.

Back home I was left with two part-finished models and rather than just stick them back in the cupboard as they were, decided to finish them off so at least they can go in the stock box.

I'm going to finish these as what I call "layout wagons".

The best looking model railways, in my opinion, and since this is my blog that's the one that matters, have a consistent standard applied across the whole scene. It annoys me immensely to read a whinge about some tiny detail on a new RTR product, when I can't believe that the writer has built the rest of their layout to the same breathtakingly high standards they are thundering about.

Far better, to pick a lower standard you can work to, and stick to it. This philosophy comes with the added benefit that as long as a loco runs, it's probably going to look fine if manufactured in the last 20 year. Better still, you can build a kit and it will fit right in.

 (Photo: Mike Wild)

I'm not going to claim that Melbridge Dock is the greatest layout ever built, but one thing I was always praised for was consistency. Everything is equally dirty and built a similar standard and I think this works.

So, these wagons aren't going to be the most detailed in the world. I'm not replacing all the underframes and fiddling with the bodies too much, but I bet that on the majority of layouts, no-one would even notice.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Doncaster 2019 - The photos


Last week, I brought you my Vlog from Doncaster but didn't have time to edit the still photos to go with it. 

These are now available on Flickr for you. Sadly, not my best selection as I was a bit tight for time, but there were some cracking models on show. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday Wireless Club: Experimental Podcast

Something different this week - audio.

A few weeks ago, I went to an interesting session on podcasting (downloadable audio presentations, sort of like radio) and came away enthused about the possibilities for model railway news and stuff.

To cut a long story short, Andy York and I had a go. We've included an interview with Barry from Missenden Railway Modellers and Richard Davies from Hattons, that later looking at Brexit and how (if) it will affect his business.

The link below takes you to RMweb to download and listen. If I link that way we get some useful statistics and can decide if the idea has legs. Comments welcome.

The inaugural BRM Podcast. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Hornby R9060 radio control unit

With my love of Hornby operating accessories, the R9060 radio control unit has long been on my list for the collection.

Introduced in 2001 (I think), the set comprises an American style cabin into which is plugged the transformer and also provides screw outputs for track power. Inside this is the speaker for train sounds.

The handset has 4 buttons, faster, slower, stop and sound. It's a plastic box containing a 9V PP3 battery.

I picked my set up for £12 second hand - they still command reasonable money but I'm far too stingy for this, even if I do have a real use in mind.

For this sort of cash, there were a few issues. The battery connector in the handset failed almost immediately, but a replacement was easy to fit even with soldering required.

Inside the hut, the aerial screws needed to be tightened up.

Wired up to a H&M rolling road, I tried it out with a Bachmann Junior loco that we must never say looks a lot like Thomas.

The results were disappointing. The range for the 26mHz system seems to be measured in inches - about 3, possibly 6 with a fresh PP3.

The loco runs in one direction only and takes an age to wind up speed.

The sound is quite fun though. I don't think the DCC guys are going to be worried about this! Looking on-line, there are 2 versions of this set. The one I have was sold as a separate unit for finescale modellers, there is also a Thomas version that plays the TV theme tune.

I'll admit that some of the issues might be related to this being a second-hand unit and not working properly - surely the range should be better and we ought to get reverse?

Never mind, it's a bit of fun - and that's what this sort of thing is all about.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

L-Cut Creative 2-tier paint tray

I like toolboxes and spotted this nice little paint organiser on the L-Cut Creative stand at Doncaster. £7.99 buys an easy to assemble kit for a 2-level tray.

All the parts are laser cut from plywood. This has a slightly rough surface and benefitted from sanding on the faces to smooth things off. The parts lock together well with only a little PVA in the joins being enough to hold them. The centra handle keeps everything inline and stops the trays falling off while you carry them.

24 Humbrol pots are a tight fit into each level. I'm wondering about using them for small tools on the workbench as at 195 by 142mm, there should be space for all those regularly used items that don't make it back into the drawer.

Should you want a taller tray, a 5 tier version is available.

2 layer tray from L-Cut.

 Note: I paid for this tray myself. To be honest, I'd spent a day at the show and not aquired any toys so decided to purchase something fun to assemble. It was a good move.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Architectural Salvage

In the south end of Leamington, on a road called Batch Place, there used to be a church. It became a community centre and then someone set fire to it.

Rather than restore the building to its original state, it's been turned into flats. The roofline has largely been preserved but it's obviously a new building. One nice touch I spotted is the inclusion of some original windows in the ends. They are unglazed, but a welcome link to the old church.

I wonder if modellers could pinch this feature? There are lots of nice mouldings for church windows out there. Perhaps an interesting addition to a modern model?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Painting big people

A little bit of catch-up on my workbench. Needing some figures for my railcar build in Garden Rail, I dug out some old Modeltown mouldings. They are a bit crude, but were fine for sitting inside a sealed coach. Not all of them were needed though so this mum and daughter were left over.

I'd painted the heads but left the rest. So I spent a happy evening just colouring up the clothes and hair. Why there is a pot of pink enamel in my collection I can't remember, but it was just right for this job.

Having said these are crude, the little girl is a really nicely posed figure. The stance is just right and perhaps with a bit of detailing and refining, she could be made into a really nice little model on her own. That innocent and inquisitive look really works. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

R2D2 has legs!

All the issue of the R2D2 partwork having been delivered, my Dad has been cracking on with the build. As you can see, the little droid now enjoys a full set of legs and quite a bit of wiring. He's no lightweight either, already weighing a couple of pounds.

So far, the build has gone well. There have been a couple of tricky screws, but the builder has worked out that if there is a problem, it's usually his fault. There is a definite order to this build and woe-betide you if you don't stick to it.

Along the way, he has learnt about cable wrap, something that I've been responsible for to date on layout electrics.

Inside the dome, things get even more complicated, but again, the build has gone OK. There have been a few "that's very clever" moments too and quite a few pieces of plastic moulding that have impressed someone who managed the production of several million bread trays years ago.

Apart from the dome supports, with another big motor/gearbox, it's wiring up time now. R2D2 has a computer in his belly that will be many times more powerful than my old ZX81, but it all seems to fit. We're waiting on a delivery of rechargeable batteries now and work will resume. Hopefully, the force will still be with us!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Doncaster 2019

Another Vlog - but this one's a bit longer and a little more polished because I made it for work. If you are signed up for the BRM Express newsletter, you'd have seen it a couple of days ago. Don't miss out, sign up now!

Anyway, lots of exciting footage behind the scenes at last weekends show.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Boats, trains and firefighting in the Morris Gazette

Hat tip to Tim Dunn for highlighting this amazing film from the internalMorris engines film unit. 

We kick off with a couple of beautiful speedboats destined for export. Then an engineer who has converted an old Morris bullnose car into a locomotive. Then on to fire fighting with loads of industrial building shot. Next, a tiny shunting tractor operating in a wood yard. We finish with a welding barge in a dockyard. 

19 minutes well spent, I'll even put up with the adverts in the middle (you can click through these after 5 seconds) for saving and bringing this fascinating film to us.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Hanging on to old rolling stock

Last week, Chris Ford suggested that I'd never find a use for my O gauge rolling stock that had once worked Clayhanger Yard - and that I ought to follow him and de-clutter by disposing of some of it.

He's wrong. You see the stock wasn't built for Clayhanger, it was built because I like building little engines, and I really like building little engines in O gauge. In fact, I really like building O gauge models.

On this basis, I'm convinced that there is another O gauge layout in my future. Since I only like building the sort of layouts that are home to diminutive locos, then there is a very strong possibility that this is the type of model I'll be building. I really can't see myself going for anything involving big locos.

However, in my cupboard, I do have quite a bit of stock for our layout Melbridge Town. The one we never finished because both my Dad and I got bored building it.

All of this was designed for a secondary mainline. There are big(ish) locomotives and even some bogie coaches including a twin-art set. What should I do with these?

I certainly can't see me building anything that could make use of them. I learnt a lesson with this layout, no big roundy-roundys for me. To be honest, I'm not even that fussed watching the things at a show, regular readers will have spotted that I'm normally to be found at the smaller and more interesting area of any event, pouring over a model small enough for the back seat of a car.

Heck, as Mr Ford was writing, I was standing behind his old layout The Art of Compromise and singing the praises of modest layout modelling.

The trouble is, what do I do with the stock? Much of it is detailed RTR from the 1990s. No-one wants this stuff now, they have newer and shinier boxes of more detailed models.

Take my Class 24 above. Converted from a Hornby Class 25 and fitted with Ultrascale wheels, it was OK for its day, but you can now buy better RTR. The reasons I care about this model are nothing to do with prototype fidelity, and everything to do with having several hours of my life invested in it.

So, I do have many models with no real purpose. I suppose I should just chuck them in the bin and declutter, but I'm stupidly attached to them.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Springfield Line in the March Garden Rail

It's a real joy for any editor to receive an article with so many superb photos that it's a case of grudgingly having to leave some out rather than losing the out of focus or badly exposed ones.

David Mercer's Springfield Line ticked all the right boxes. Superb locos and rolling stock inspired by the owner's travels around the world. Photos were taken on a summers day. Some intriguing views such as under a station canopy. It's a really good looking piece.

There's plenty of building too - including a canal system. Well, railways and canals often appear together in real life, so why not in the garden? 

Full content listing and extra photos of the Springfierld Line on RMweb. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Bandstand restoration

Leamington bandstand under restoration

Work progresses on the bandstand in the middle of the Pump Room Gardens in Leamington Spa. 

This fine, cast-iron structure has looked very much the worse for wear over the last few years but is now recieving the care and attention is needs. 

Of course, I don't really think many people want to build a bandstand, nor that this picture will be of much help to them. I just thought it was a good chance to show this interesting video of some of the work being carried out. Got to love all that hot metal being splashed around!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Chunky key switches

I've got a shoebox full of chunky electronics. Mainly, proper industrial multi-pin plugs and sockets as big as your hand, but I'm not averse to switchgear too.

My thinking is this lot is easier to wire up than the modern, and not so modern, computer versions with terminals within millimetres of each other. Pokeing a wide soldering iron bit in between them isn't fun to my mind.

No idea quite what these key switches will do, but I fancy building them into a control panel. I suspect they are of telecoms original, but I'm sure a reader will be able to fill me in.

Each is sprung loaded and depending on the colour of the middle plastic bit, will either latch or spring back. Some latch in one direction and spring in the other. Modifying the middle coloured nylon spike should change this characteristic as latching in both directions will be more use for point control - my first thought for future use.

While buying switches, I also picked this up for pennies.

 It's a neat push-button unit for point control, but I just like the name. How many firms used "Acme" and which episode of the Roadrunner cartoon was this in?

Monday, February 11, 2019

BK Enterprises point parts

One of the "bargainz" picked up from Stafford was a pair of points from BK Enterprises in the USA.

Now to me, these are pre-built points designed for spiking to wooden sleepers. The rails are held in place with metal strips tack soldered on the top surface - one of mine has come adrift but it's not a problem. The frog and check rails seem to be secured with generous washes of solder underneath. A tiebar is fitted, but otherwise, it's up to the modeller to add "ties".

Amazingly, these appear to still be available - now from Trout Creek Engineering. I got a bargain too, only paying £4 for the pair!

My thinking is that these go in the On30 box. I know they are supposed to be HO, but that's just the gauge - I can put wider sleepers in myself and I have the Peco track spikes.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Stafford 2019


No Vlogging this week, we are back to nice, static photos to show a few gems from the reliably excellent Stafford show.

Top of the blog is Todmorden Midland, one of the best N gauge layout's I've ever seen. Not a big model by any means, I like the colour and life in the scene. There's loads of detail to appeal to me. Trains move too which is a bonus, but I was happy just to explore the scene with my eyes.

Albion Estates Railway

At the other end of the scale (pun intended) is the Albion Estates railway. 1/12th scale running on 32mm gauge track. A nice combination allowing for a modest size model, 12ft long including fiddle yard, but plenty of detail. Much of this comes from the dolls house world, so isn't even that hard to do. Locos and rolling stock are scratchbuilt on cheapo track-powered O gauge chassis.

Kyle of Lochalsh

The programme's front cover featured possibly the tiniest model in the show - Kyle of Lochalsh in N gauge. If you have no space, this 2ft(ish) by 6inch(ish) model doesn't have masses of operation potential, but it's a pretty good representation of the current real station and certainly looks the part.


Baragin hunting is a big part, for me, of Stafford. The guys on the second hand stall recognise me and this year I hovered up four Zero One chips at 50p each and some chunky key switches from the 1970s (I think) that I have no use for, but will add to my chunky electrical bits box.

Country Park models also take a bit of money (cash, no mobile signal at Stafford means unreliable PDQ machines unless they get the WiFi passord) from me, but I want to look at these in a future post. 

There was of course lots and lots of chat, a delicious sausage bap when I got there and was waiting for the queue to filter in a bit, more excellent chilli and rice plus a small slice of cake.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Saturday Film Club: LNER Garratt

Nothing needs to be said, other than if I've shared this one already then I'm sorry. But only a little bit - what a locomotive!

Friday, February 08, 2019

Off to Doncaster

The graphic says it all. I'm off to soggy Doncaster this weekend. "The Art of Compromise" layout will be in the car, as will a load of Cake Box models.

The BRM stand will be just inside the door and we are promised Campbell's Quarry along with some new, and mahoosive models from Mr Campbell.

Do come and say hello. 

More on The Festival of British Railway Modelling website.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Clayhanger Yard

Clayhanger Yard

What's your modelling dream? 

Mine is to have a room big enough that all the layouts I've ever built can be set up at once. We aren't talking a barn here, the ones I have are all 10ft or under in length. At the moment they live packed up in a storage unit, but it would be nice to see them working again. 

I pondered this as I made a rare purchase of a lottery ticket - I only buy when the prize is over £100m as I can't be bothered with fiddling small change. 

Anyway, that got me thinking about the layouts I don't own any more, and especially Clayhanger Yard, my only completed 7mm scale model. It found a new home years ago, but I dug out a photo, added some sky and bring it to you today. 

I still have all the stock...

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Modern rail bridge

Rail bridge

Strolling as a break from my screen, I spotted this bridge not a million miles away from where I live. 

On the top is a double-track mainline railway, the Birmingham to London line. The other side of the bridge is a farm that I recall from my Ministry of Agriculture days as belonging to a pig-keeper called Mr Hoare. This side there is a very newly built housing estate. 

As a prototype, it's got a lot going for it. No complicated brickwork for the arch for a start. Some scribed plastic painted concrete colour and weathered would do the job. Looking at the modular construction, I'd say this could be extended to a 4-track line too or possibly reduced for single-track. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2019


If you've read the March 2019 issue of BRM, you'll have spotted that I have borrowed a 3D printer to play around with.

While I am doing some proper model railway type jobs, I couldn't resist using some spare filament to satisfy my desire for the little cartoon boat model spotted everywhere at a 3D print show.

I had wondered why it was so common on every stand but quickly discovered the boat is #3DBenchy - a freely available model for testing and comparing printers. You can download the data from the official #3DBenchy website

Of course, I did this, then re-sized it to 4cm long as I didn't want to use too much lovely orange PLA. I fired up the printer and off it went.

A couple of hours later, the result wasn't quite what I expected. There's an awful lot of support material required for the model. Breaking this away is a bit fiddly and time-consuming, but with a bit of brute force and ignorance with small pairs of pliers, a little model appeared.

 I love the design of this little model. The thing is, I'd always wondered if it were possible to build it big enough to sail. It seems I'm not the first person to think this and there is a design for radio-control on the Thingiverse. There's also a load of 3DBenchy variations. I think I'm going to need some more filament...

Monday, February 04, 2019

Quick odd books by post

The Interweb is awash with people moaning about service, so here's a bit of positive news.

Photographing Steve Bell's layout "Waltham Wharf", we chatted about the prototype that inspired it - the Royal Gunpowder Factory.

Steve lent me a copy of Industrial Railway Record 117 which covers the line in great detail. There were a couple of plans inside I fancied scanning and I wanted to read the article properly.

Working through the booklet, I realised that I fancied hanging on to a copy, so searched the web looking for a back-number, but not expecting to find much.

My search took me to Linder Tinker Books. A quick 'phone call (the site doesn't allow you to specify which issue you require) and the booklet was on its way, arriving packed in a really good card envelope the next day. Superb service!

Look out for Waltham Wharf in the Spring issue of BRM

Sunday, February 03, 2019

London Toy Fair 2019

Another Vlog? I am truly turning in to the new Zoella

Actually, it's another rough and ready video using footage I shot when not doing proper work at the London Toy Fair a couple of weeks ago. There wasn't much spare time (I spent over two hours on the Oxford stand!) so extra shots were limited. Still, I hope it gives you a little flavour of the event. 

A few photos:

 There will be a Playpeople film this year. 

 Revell's ever-expanding junior plastic kit range looks really great - and is a pretty good match for garden railway scales too. 

The Buder range of vehicles is brilliant, reasonably priced, and at 1:16, just a little too big for garden scales (16mm is 1:19) otherwise I'd be all over it. 

Corgi has a new range - I think they are called "Chunkies" of diecast toys designed for play and not old men to collect. 

Your careers teacher doesn't mention every job you could end up doing. 

Someone, somewhere, in a meeting, said, "You know what would make owls better - sequins!"

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Making slot cars

Interesting film on making slot cars. A lot of the processes are the same as used to make model railways - including the one that looks a lot like silk screen printing, because it IS silk screen printing!

Oh, and although the commentary says "Scalextric" but the boxes sat Carrera. 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Retro fashion wear for nerdy types

For once in my life, I might be being cool. You see, I've just bought a retro rucksack.

Unsurprisingly, it's a Beatties bag, but doesn't it have a hint of the oh so fashionable retro look?

It's actually quite a good bag. The capacity is generous, I'd estimate 35 litres based on my workaday bag. The material is a bit nylony but the shape would accommodate a decent sized box, or boxes of kits.

The straps are the only bit that lets it down - cheap webbing - but that's what we wore in the good old days...