Sunday, March 31, 2019

London Festival of Railway Modelling 2019

Not my best video I'm afraid. 

There were a couple of problems, every time I pointed the camera at a layout, it stopped working. Now, this was rare, but I simply didn't have time to wait around and get all those exciting moving train shots, except at the Gauge One layout. 

However, there is a little behind the scenes stuff for entertainment, so hopefully that makes up for it. 

I'll try harder next time.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Friday, March 29, 2019

Primer catastrophe

Needing some red oxide primer for the bottom of his boat, my dad drops into the local Halfords. They are out of stock.

He asks the staff, who check with the office. Red oxide primer is only available in brushable form.

This seems odd I think, so I Tweet @Halfords_uk for confirmation.

Hi ! Thank you for taking the time to contact ourselves today! I'm afraid we do not sell the red oxide car primer in spray cans anymore. I hope this helps!


It looks like I'm going to have to find another supply of sprayable red oxide now.  (grumpy face) Pity as this is really good stuff and perfect for anti-fouling on the bottom of model boats. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Go DCC, baseboard building and doughnuts in BRM

After a couple of months tangling with 3D printing, for the April 2019 edition of BRM, the team decided that I ought to go and learn about DCC.

For this, I was dispatched to Digitrains where I spent an excellent day having all the basics explained to me. There are loads of different controllers to try and plenty of advice to absorb. I'm still not ready to eschew analogue,  but I now feel I know a lot more about the subject and a lot of it isn't nearly as difficult as people like to make out.

For my Billy Bookcase projects, I've been building baseboards. The OO layout will sit on a Tim Horn laser-cut kit board. For my 009 model, I fancied something based around foam, which turned out to be a little more involved than I expected. At least the N gauge one is simple...

My camera has been out again, this time for the delightful 009 layout "First" - so called because it's owner hadn't built a layout before!

On the DVD, I'm adding weight to wagons. Which involves a joke with doughnuts. You have to see it to understand. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Tinsley Park Clock

Tinsley Park clock (1)

Tinsley Park coke and coal. Lovely clock, photographed by me last century. I wonder if it's still there? Or even where it is?

This would make a nice model though, probably well suited to a downloadable format and printed then stuck to thick cardboard then glued to the front of a warehouse.

Tinsley Park clock (2)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Photo tent review

I've mentioned in the past that I have to take photos in odd places, and don't really want to be dragging a great big booth with me. Well, a few weeks ago, I spotted an interesting advert for something that looked like it would be perfect a few weeks ago on Facebook.

It wasn't cheap, but I could just about persuade myself the £60 was worth it.

Then I did a bit of searching and found the same photo studio tent on Amazon for under 20. Sold!

It seems there are a few versions of this device. Size matters most, the cheaper ones are 20cm wide, OK for some stuff, but as you see, not for the larger model.

Then there are different fixings to hold the thing together. Magnets sound good, but according to the reviews, are rubbish. Mine has old-fashioned massive press-studs and works a treat. OK.

The LED lights run for a long while on my pound shop mobile phone battery. I'm guessing hours, although I tend to turn them off when not in use.

The foam backgrounds supplied are good, but mark when you plonk oily wheels on them so I need to sort out replacements to save post-processing work.

Overall though, I'm very happy. It folds up small, weighs very little and is properly portable.


Photo from the above shot before clean-up

Monday, March 25, 2019

Painting with sponge

I seem to be using sponge for painting things as often as use a paintbrush recently. Some might say it always looks like I've painted with a tar brush, but we'll let that go...

First job - 16mm scale van roof. In this size I want some texture. This can be achieved with a layer of tissue paper, but since the plastic roof was pretty good, I decided to apply Humbrol 66 and 67 by dabbing them on with a bit of sponge.

This worked a bit, but the paint settled quicker than I hoped, so it was out with the talcum powder. Dabbing this in to the tacky paint worked a treat. Some texture but not too much. OK, this isn't a finescale wagon, but it still looks good.

Next, I needed some ground painting on a little diorama. Splodging on a mix of emulsion paints and working while they were still wet gave me some nice graduated effects. Darker colours towards the edges and light where there might be traffic.

I don't think I could have done this with a conventional brush, and I'm not loading up and airbrush with anything from Wilco - but sponge is cheap (mine came from packing) and works really well.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Midlands Garden Rail Show 2019

Last weekend, it was large scale model at the Warwickshire Events Centre. I pointed the video camera at them and bring you the results.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Making model trains

Here's a mystery from the Pathe archive - a 90 second film showing O gauge model railway stock being built, but who for? 

I'm assuming Bassett-Lowke, but plastic coach body sides? 

Some impressive lining with a bow pen there and fretting out those windows must have been a nightmare!

(Sorry for the delay in approving comments this weekend, I'm away from the computer so will check in by phone every so often)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Off to Ally Pally

Lordy lordy Mary Poppins, It's a right two and eight and no mistake.

Yes, it's time to head to the capital for the London Festival of Railway Modelling. I'll be floating around the hall for a couple of days.

We're planning to bag quite a bit of social media stuff, so watch the BRM Facebook and Instagram feeds and RMweb. 

If you spot me wandering around, do stop me and say hello!

London Festival of Railway Modelling website

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Big transfers for a big wagon

For a few months, I've had one of the IP Engineering vans given away as gifts to new subscribers sitting around. You might have seen it in my Butterley video.

My plan had always been to brand it for Garden Rail, but making the giant transfers and applying them without making a mess was daunting - and so I made excuses not to do it.

Last week, I bit the bullet and painted the sides with a few coats of cheap, white acrylic. Then a light spray with some Humbrol acrylic varnish.

The branding was printed on to some Experts-Choice clear decal film.  I didn't have a full sheet, but my printer didn't seem worried. There was just enough. More importantly, the ink from the Epsom Envy 5032 didn't run, something it does on glossy photo paper.

More varnish on the decals and everything was left to dry overnight.

The next day, I cut them out and gave them a bath in water with a drop of washing up liquid in it.

A wash of Micro-Sol on the surface and the transfer, which seemed thicker than expected, was slid into place. More Sol and some gentle patting. Then walk away and leave it to dry.

Results are pretty good. Yes, you can see the edges but the transfers are quite thick. There's no silvering so I'm happier than normal. I hate applying transfers!

Job done, now I just need to finish the painting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Colourfull Northlights

Colourful Northlights

How about this for a modelling challenge?

Spotted on a visit to the Custard Factory in Birmingham, these Northlight ex-factory buildings have been decorated with serious arty graffiti.

Scratchbuilding the building sides wouldn't be difficult, although that chimney would be "interesting", but painting? I think I might have to pass. Maybe I could make transfers from photos? 

Whether you like this sort of art or not, you have to admit, it is colourfull...

Colourful Northlights 2

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Clamping curved things

Clamping curved bits of boats while the glue dries is always a bit of a nightmare. I have wasted many hours trying to persuade a pair of flat-faced and parallel jaws to hold things while they decide to slip off just when I think I've arranged them in a way that works.

My dad is building a ferry and hit the same problem. His solution was simple.

A big blob of Blu-tack on the jaws and then some worn out abrasive paper. This worked a treat, the paper providing enough grip and the Blu-tack helps sort out the angles. I'll remember this in future. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Building a radio control switch

Club membership is very useful sometimes. All these new-fangled 2.4mHz radio sets we now use support 5 or more channels rather than the 2 from the "good old days". Most of the time I only use 2, but it seems a waste. One use for the extras would be switching lights on and off.

This needs a bit of electronic and luckily, Brian from our club has put together a course to show members how to build one.

I arrived expecting a couple of hours soldering but instead, we had the works - slides, handouts and even boards full of components for us to look at and learn how to identify.

By the end of the morning, we'd learnt a lot and then it was time to fire up the soldering irons to build our switches. Brian's design is simple to follow and well laid-out on a custom circuit board.

Being a proficient solderer, I had mine together in just over an hour, but even the beginners managed it in 2. There was a testing procedure and by the end of the day, 5 of the 6 attendees held working devices. The final one was taken away and a faulty resistor diagnosed.

I can't speak highly enough of the efforts put into this course. You'd happily pay good money to attend and not feel ripped off. As it was, we just paid for the components and enjoyed ourselves. I've not bought a couple more packs as I really fancy more light-up boats.

Did I learn anything?

Yes - how to identify resistors (I sort of knew this but now am more confident) and how to use desoldering braid, something that has always defeated me in the past.

So, if you are a "lone wolf" who doesn't like joining clubs, can I suggest it's time to reconsider. There is a benefit from being in the pack.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Judging photos for Bachmann

A couple of months ago, I spent a few hours at Bachmann's Leicestershire HQ.

My first job was to return the G scale Thomas train set I'd borrowed for the Peterborough show, but it wasn't the main reason for my visit.

I'd been invited to judge the annual Collectors Club photography competition.

Sat in a darkened room with club supremo Richard Proudman, we looked at the entries for each category projected on a big screen.

The process was a little like going for an eye test. The bit where they try two lenses and you have to decide between the results. The differences are subtle, and I always wonder if I've given the right answer.

Here, we had some really excellent photographs and needed to chose between them.

Each class was reduced to 3 images and then we looked more critically to decide a winner. Every time, any of these, and often some of the others already passed over, would have been a worthy winner.

Looking at the results in the Spring 2019 issue of the excellent club magazine, I'm happy with the choices - but kudos to every entrant. You certainly made me work for my lunch!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A trip around Barmouth Junction

Sit back and take a trip around Geoff Taylors model, Barmouth Junction. The model includes a mix of scenic station scenes and hidden track - most of which is a complete mystery to the operators. I've never worked it out while I'm there!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Railmail wagon

One for the extinct model shops collection - a Graham Farish OO gauge wagon in Railmail livery.

Younger modellers will be surprised that Grafar produced in OO, the name now being attached to N gauge exclusively. They did, producing locos (including a Black 5 with an amazing mechanism in the tender), coaches and wagons.

According to the Interweb, Railmail was the biggest model railway mail-order box-shifters in the late 1970s and early 80s but went bust in 1986.

Can anyone confirm this?  Other than seeing adverts in old magazines, I don't remember the firm at all but would like to know more. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Garden Rail - April 2019 - No. 296

Garden Rail hits the shelves today and as usual, we've an interesting mix of articles.

The main feature is the Kittatinny Mountain Railroad, built by Shawn Viggiano, a really good looking logging railroad. I worry that these can look a bit "samey" but this is great on the page thanks to Shawn supplying us with loads of photos so the designer could do a cracking job.

We've got a bit more variety in scale too with both G1 and G3 being represented. I've had to work a bit to do this and am pleased that all my legwork is starting to pay off. As the only newsstand large scale railway modelling magazine, we need to cover as many bases as possible and provide a wide variety of content.

One of my favourites is "Smurf" - the story of an ugly duckling where Mark Hill details a Tri-ang "Big-Big" steam loco. The result looks nice and there are some useful techniques demonstrated along the way.

Another set of interesting techniques come from Eric Londesburgh making buildings out of pottery clay. Weatherproof and surprisingly detailed, it's not something I'd read before but if you fancy having a go, this is more achievable than you might expect.

Full content listing on RMweb

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Door protection

Some interesting details spotted in Birmingham last weekend - protective lumps for the corner of warehouse doors. Presumably to stop drivers whacking them as they come in and out. Cast iron lumps being cheaper than shoring up a wall. Again. 

There doesn't appear to be a standard design so they could be made out of anything round that is sanded to shape and then the rear quarter removed with a small file. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Minitrains Marvel

Take a bow, Minitrains Plymouth Diesel. 

Two days solid running - well over 14 hours - without a murmur. 

OK, I did give it a dose of light oil, but then it hadn't turned a wheel for several years. After some running, the lubrication reduced any noise to next to nothing. 

Pretty impressive I think. If you are in the market for a 009 diesel, I recommend it.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The return of the Handyman Hall Railway

The Handyman Hall railway

For the Leamington Show, I dug The Handyman Hall railway out of storage. Despite not having seen the light of day for at least 5 years, it is looking pretty good. One loose figure and some discoloured varnish were all the problems found. 

The figure was quickly glued in place, the varnish issue ignored (I pretend it's a running water effect if asked) and after a quick track clean, it was good to go. Testing showed that an L&B loco didn't have a chance on the tight curves, but any of my 4-wheel models were fine. 

Power came from a  Beatties controller which apart from a slightly sloppy direction switch, works perfectly still. Plenty of God's own DC available all weekend.  

An amusing moment came when a youngster picked me up on the rescue boat. He identified an RNLI D Class lifeboat and pointed out it would only be used offshore. I excused myself by saying it was a lifeboat day and they were demonstrating it. 

Actually, the model is a pencil topper which isn't a bad match for 4mm scale figures, if a little short. It's bright orange though, so I like it. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

L&WMRS show 2019

Phils stand

A busy weekend for me at Leamington. With my club member rather than writer hat on, I'd been asked for a display of small layouts and dioramas.

Setting up in the special area that's an odd shape for anyone else with 3 small layouts (Melbridge Parva, Melbridge Box Company and The Handyman Hall Railway) plus a few static displays. The plan was to talk micro layouts and explain that a huge space isn't required to get into the hobby.

And that's pretty much what I did all weekend. It was 3:30 on Saturday before I stopped gabbing and much of Sunday wasn't much quieter. With all that talking, I didn't get to see the show other than outside opening times.

James Street station

Normally, my favourite layout will be something in a weird scale and tiny. Not this time, it is the N gauge layout James Street. Regrettably, I didn't get to watch this amazing model work. Nor can I work out how I've not spotted it before at a show. I definitely want to get a proper look in the future.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A trip to the Hornby visitor centre

Well, you'll have seen a little of the Hornby visitor centre and be gagging for a proper look around in the company of two well-respected model railway aficionados. 

If you find such a film, let me know. In the meantime, Andy York and I take a look. And since he edited the video, my efforts with the Scalextric are less accurately recorded than they should have been...

Friday, March 08, 2019

German kit

Perhaps this isn't a surprise to many modellers, but I'd never seen a German version of the classic Airfix platform fittings kit before the weekend, and couldn't resist snapping a photo. 

I could resist snapping it up (the stallholder for the Kitmaster Collectors Club was happy for me to take a picture) for my collection. £20 might be a good price, but not for a kit that will forever remain in its bag.   

Neustadt translates into "Newtown" apparently. On the British version, the town was "Oakham". 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Weathering fit for a layout wagon

To finish off the coal wagon, a bit of weathering. 

I could have got out the airbrush and spent hours with Maskol making rust patches, but I think that is overkill most of the time. Don't get me wrong, done well these effects are brilliant, but for this model, I'm aiming for a generally dirty look rather than a specimen model. I want it to blend into the crowd. 

So, the first stage was a wash of thinned black paint. Once dry, a dry-brush with dark grey over the underframe. Then more dry-brushing with track colour and a bit of rust. Work quickly and the colours blend so nothing stands out. 

Finally, a dust with weathering powder. Quite a bit of Humbrol Smoke, but also dark brown. I work over a plastic tray which gradually fills with mixed powder and am happy to use this as well. Somehow there is a hint of green in there at the moment and it actually works on the model. Not much you understand, just a hint. 

And there we have it. A wagon fit for my layout. Easily achievable, nothing special in the way of materials or tools required either. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Henley in-Arden delivery office

Henley-in-Arden Post Office

It's a long way from Henley-in-Arden's most beautiful building, but tucked in a back street, this entrance to the sorting office is very modellable and reeks of the early post-war period. Take away the Post Office signs and it could fit into any industrial setting. 

Getting the details right would be the key - look at the doorways for a start, they aren't complicated but neither are they plain. The lower level of the wall appears different to the rest and modellers wouldn't make the ground fall away like this, we'd drop it on a flat baseboard. 


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Real or chopped?

Last week, I found myself wandering around the canals in central Birmingham. There, I spotted this boat. And I found myself wondering if it is a real, very short vessel, or a cut'n'shut to decorate a short spur.

If it is a modified boat, this seems a lot of work to do for such an unconvincing result - which makes me think it must be real. But if it is, why? There doesn't seem to be any way of towing a lighter, which I'd expect for a tug, the only sort of boat I can think of that would be this short.

Any ideas out there? If it helps, there is an aerial view on Google Maps.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Fitting Sprat & Winkle couplings

I thought I'd fit some S&W couplings to the layout wagons - they are what I use on layout after all!

First, you need a setting up track.

 This is mine, and it must be well over 25 years old. At one end there is a support for the coupling bar so these are at a consistent height. In the middle a magnet for testing and some wires in case I want to run a loco along its short length.

I start by glueing a de-headed dressmakers pin to the buffers. Yes, I know it should be a length of wire and that should emerge from the buffer beam in a U-shape, but this is "quick'n'dirty" coupling fitting. Not finescale, but it works, especially on tight curves where the wire on buffers method allows the coupling hook maximum side slideage.

Superglue is the adhesive for this job. A blob on each bufferhead and then roll the wagon up to the jig on which the pin is balanced.

Next, the hook. This is released from the fret, bent to shape and chemically blackened. You can use paint, but it will chip off. Guess how I know this...

The instructions suggest some bent wire but that never worked for me. Instead, a re-bent staple is pushed through the plastic floor with a soldering iron. Quick, simple and reliable. Practise on a bit of plastic sheet until you get the hang of this.

Once in, the tails inside the wagon with some cutters and you can be confident the thing won't fall out. With practice, you can even re-heat the staple to adjust it. 

Finally, some testing. The chain is attracted by the magnet, pulling the coupling hook down. The chai is from the EM Gauge Society. Not sure if it's still available as I bought several feet years ago and haven't used it all up yet.

Fitting these takes minutes but I find them 90% reliable in use and very robust.

Sprat & Winkle couplings come from Wizard Models.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

A sunny day at Butterley


Garden Rail hat on, I spent last Sunday at the Butterley Garden Railway as I'd been asked to give a talk at their AGM.

Arriving early, I enjoyed watching a fine variety of locos running on the two circuits. With the public standing on the other side of the fence, the pressure is on to keep something running to provide entertainment - and they did this with aplomb!

After I had done my bit and while the official AGM was taking place, I snuck outside to give the pair of battery electrics I'd brought along a good run. I need to make sure I have some reliable locos in a couple of months so with the lower level track to myself I let them loose. All went well, but some of the rails were a bit greasy and one loco could really do with a bit more weight if it's going to haul trains reliably. Nothing difficult to fix and I'm glad I found out now.

Double headed diesels

My solution for the long(ish) train was simply to double-head. While the motors speeds are far from matched, this seemed to work, even on the sticky section at the back of one of the loops. Progress was swifter than I'd expected too, but still not up to mixing it with the steam engines. 

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Saturday Film Club: The Never Stop Railway

An interesting little film that appeared on social media earlier this week - The never stop "railway" demonstration at Southend-on-Sea in 1923.

According to the NRM, who own the footage, this is from the William Yorath-Lewis Collection.

There is a contemporary description here. 

Two years later, there was another demonstration at Wembley.

In 1925, the line carried 2 million passengers without cost (to the passengers) or interuption.

And finaly, how about a Meccano version? 

Friday, March 01, 2019

Off to Leamington this weekend

A nice short trip this weekend - into town to display at my club's show. 

I'm taking some micro layouts and small dioramas which will be on show inside the foyer. I'll be there both days all being well and happy to chat about all aspects of layout building, so do come along!