Friday, May 31, 2019

R2D2 frustration

R2D2 is built!

Standing at 19 inches tall and weighing quite a big (he won't fit on the scales) this is one impressive model. It's a good looking one too. Although there is a lot of self-coloured plastic going on, it's satin rather than gloss finish.

One slight snag - R2 needs batteries and I don't mean some AAs from the newsagent. He needs something special.

No problem you think, there will be details at the end of the partwork.

There is a specification, but no suggestion where you might get some.  The website just says "COMING SOON - a link to order batteries optimised for use in your R2-D2 droid. More information will be available shortly." as it has done for several months.

Looking at the topic on the company forum, there is a truculent post from the admin on the 26th January saying "Until the further update of the DeAgostini battery this topic will remain locked."

Basically, it looks like DeAgostini is saying, "We have your money, now sod off."

Fortunately, I have found a website that caters for builders. Team 18650 have a page full of advice and will shortly be recieving an order for power cells. At a fiver each, this won't be cheap, but then the whole project has cost over £900 so far.

If it all works, then that's not a problem. My Dad has enjoyed the build so far. It's easy to spend this much on beer in a year (just under 4 pints a week, 6 in a 'spoons) and you don't get a good looking droid for your money.

What's frustrating is that I've always defended part-works from those whose knee-jerk reaction is that they are rubbish/never complete/too expensive and now I feel I'm being shafted by the company who makes this one. I doubt I will be so quick to rush to their defence in future.

Now, where's the address for Trading Standards...

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Wobbly solebar

Here's a novel feature. When I looked closely at the solebars of this wooden model, the top edge of one wasn't flat and there is a bolt set into the face, sticking out the back.

A little bit of thinking and I recalled reading an old magazine where the idea of a rocking solebar was suggested as a way of compensating the chassis. It doesn't move much, only a millimetre at the extreme ends, but enough to deal with track irregularities.

The builder obviously had second thoughts as there were a set of rocking W-iron cradles in the box. That seems no fun, so I messed around with some brass bits to make a pivot point and found a suitable sized nut.

With the whitemetal axleboxes from the old banana van fitted (they are a bit long for a ballast wagon, but I'm not buying more), the wagon sits nicely flat and it runs well.

There is still a mystery - what were the bits of wood with a brass rod running between them intended to do?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: London taximan's shelter

Taximans shelter front

Can you get more London than this?

Anyone who has looked at the Wills plastic kit range since the late 1980s will be familiar with this prototype - a wooden shelter/cafe for cab drivers. These tiny little buildings used to be dotted around the capital providing respite for those locked away in their black cabs for most of the day. 

Nowadays, there are only 13 shelters left. This one is on the corner of Russel Square, close to the British Museum and a pub I was meeting some friends for a  drink later. 

Taximans shelter back

Tea only costs £1 for the public - one of the best bargains in London?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wooden wagon rescue

Show me a box on a second-hand stall containing a 7mm scale wagon priced at a pound, and it's probably coming home with me.

That's especially true when the wagon is a beautifully scratch-built model made of wood. Someone has expendended a terrific amount of time and skill on this model. Presumably, they have then died and when the stash of models was cleared, this one ended up in a little cardboard box among a load of other stuff. People were so interested, it was still there on Sunday at a busy show.

I'm a sucker for this sort of thing and feel I have to rescue the model. I can't see all that effort thrown away.

What you see though, is what I got for my quid. I needed more parts to finish the project. 

Walking around the show, I managed to buy some wheels and buffers, but axleboxes eluded me. Not to worry, the second-hand stall also featured some tatty stock and for 4 quid, I bagged a banana van with one set of wheels and a dented roof.

Total cost - £30. To save a £1 model. You probably think I'm mad. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Beetle built

Having finished sticking the Beetle together, I've a few thoughts about the build and the Revell kit.

At the start, I was really getting into it. Pre-painting was fun and seemed to go well. All the parts fit together well enough and the car is a good shape. I'm pleased with the chrome trim, although it looks better in real life then the photo.

Towards the end, things weren't so good. The headlight fit is hopeless and the glue has smeared the paint on the chrome. I can scrape this off, but on the third go, can't be bothered. You get the paint off but push the headlight out and have to take the car apart (the floorpan clips into the body fortunately) to re-glue it.

In fact, the chromed parts annoyed me most of all. There's a shiny rear numberplate light that had to be painted. Despite masking the rubber strips on the bumpers, this isn't very neat. In hindsight, I should have sanded them flat and used vinyl strips stuck on. In fact, I should have removed all the chrome with some sort of vicious kitchen cleaner.

Never mind, I did this for fun. The end result is OK and at least a different sort of project from the trains. The trick is to stop getting hung up on perfecting and just enjoy the ride I suppose.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finding a railway at the slot car show

I've been trying to include more non-train events in my life recently. You can get rather too deep into the hobby, especially when it's your job as well and I've been feeling like I need a break over the last few weeks.

Sometimes though, you can't avoid the things. There I am at a slot car show (I go because my Dad is interested...) and what do I find? A G gauge railway!

Impressively, this is all Playmobil stuff, the sort of thing I would have dreamed of as a kid playing with my Playpeople. Sadly, they don't make the railway range any more and being based on LGB mechanics, it's popular with large scale modellers.

The track was interlinked with a slot car system. In theory, the trains and cars can't crash...

Elsewhere there were more tracks to try than ever before and a good time was being had by all. It still impresses me just how much younger the audience is at this show compared to any of the other I attend. Maybe it's all about reaction time?

One pleasant surprise was bumping into Kit "Mr Tilt" Spakman. He turns up everywhere including railway shows! This time he had a 1/32nd drag racing Hilman Imp in his pocket, a model of a real car he'd owned years ago with a friend. It just shows, some people are interested in all sorts of things.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Voltmeter repair

I picked this neat little voltmeter up at the Vintage radio fair. I don't need another voltmeter, but I thought this looked a bit nifty so punted a fiver on it.

Obviously the wire out of the top had had it, but stripping some insulation proved the meter worked. The 12V leg was a bit wobbly too.

Inside, there was some odd, rubbery, fibrous insulation tape on the top wire. I assumed this wasn't the best in the world and cut it away. The old wire could then be unsoldered and replaced with some new silicon cable complete with croc-clip.

The wobbly leg was fixed with lots of superglue run around the inside. Not ideal, but I couldn't take it apart to do anything else. The fix worked, so that's all that matters.

With the back back on, and a quick clean of the glass on the front, the job was finished. OK, I still don't really need another voltmeter, but this one is pretty good looking so I'm glad to add it to the collection.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Buildings in BRM

The Billy Bookcase layout makes progress in the June issue of BRM - I've built the buildings.

My plan was to use as many different manufacturers products as possible, but make them all sit harmoniously together. To this end, we have stuff from Bachmann, Skytrex, Petite Properties and Metcalf models arranged along the back of the layout.

You'll not be surprised to learn that I couldn't leave a nice Scenecraft building alone, it's been modified...

 On the DVD, I'm building and painting a laser-cut weighbridge hut kit - one of the freebies given away to advanced ticket holder at Ally Pally. Well, it seems like an interesting challenge and I'm quite pleased with the results.

Digi issue readers will also find a few interviews I carried out at the RMweb members weekend.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Overgrown building

Overgrown barn front

Spotted in Margate, this was obviously a very well-built store of some sort, but it's fallen on hard times, and now nature is reclaiming it big time. 

The back would be easy enough to model, but the front would be more of a challenge. All those exposed beams and the remains of the featherboard covering make this well worth a look as a potential prototype. 

Overgrown barn back

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Painting the chrome trim

Trickiest job on the Beetle build? Painting the chrome trim on the sides and bonnet.

It's thin, and not raised enough to dry-brush.

I agonised a bit about this and then came up with the solution - use a bow-pen.

Loaded with Humbrol silver paint, I managed to place the blades either side of the trim and draw an OK line. OK, but not good enough all the way along.

Dampening a pointy brush with turps, I managed to draw this along the trim and pick up excess paint which was wiped off on a paper towel. Eventually, I did enough "paint lifting" as watercolour painters call the technique.

The results look pretty good so I'll remember this for the future. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

National Vintage Communications Fair 2019

Ten pounds to go into the antique fair? Makes toy train show look like a bargain...

Still, I like to go to non-train events and I was sure I could extract a tenners worth of entertainment from the day. It's not that much dearer then seeing a bad film at the cinema, for example, quite a lot cheaper if you buy popcorn.

Don't get me wrong, this is a proper nerdy event. The place is full of people fascinated and knowledgable about vintage radios and telephones. If you want valves or the bits to restore a bakelite handset, this is the place.

I've no desire to collect wooden cabinet radiograms and didn't find it hard to resist interesting plastic novelty radios. OK, the original, boxed Sinclair X-10 radio was a bit tempting, but not at 60 quid. I was a Sinclair child at school, knowing full well that my home computer was superior to a Commodore 64.

Serious enthusiasts or traders can get in early for £25 and when I arrived, they were carrying out bits of stack stereo system, some of which look a lot like my venerable stereo, bought from Richer Sounds many years ago. Have I bought a classic?

One thing this show is really good for is collecting parts for steampunk projects. I've got one in mind and some knobs and screw terminals were acquired for no money. There's also a voltmeter, but I'll come back to that in a later post.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Stamford show vandalism

I couldn't believe it when I fired up my computer yesterday to discover that 4 youths had broken into the Stamford Academy the Friday night before the model railway show, and smashed up everything in one of the halls. 

Police have caught them, but it won't repair the damage. Models that have taken decades to build are wrecked. Trade stands trashed.

Modellers and enthusiasts are rightly very upset. We know what this means to those who have been attacked in this way. Models aren't about money, they are about love and care and time. None of this can be replaced by an insurance company.

My plans to get some work done were thwarted by a need to keep RMweb calm. In situations like this, people get angry and on any forum, a mob mentality can develop with those who read the more excitable newspapers vying with each other to demand ever more extreme punishments. There's also the temptation to post information before it's verified. That sort of stuff can be left to Facebook.

To their credit, many members offered sympathy and support. We're going to try and sort out something more organised and official during the week and I expect this will be well supported.

All this is at odds with my real feelings which were fully on the side of the mob. Back in the 90s, I was on the receiving end of something similar when my stock box, camera bag and toolbox were stolen from the back of a van on the way back from a show.

Maybe I was lucky, my stuff was gone. OK, it included many locos I'd built, including my first whitemetal and etched brass locomotives, but at least it was gone. Here we have modellers forced to pick through the remains of models they have spent many, many hours over.

It might be over 2 decades since the theft of my models. I might have turned it to my advantage by using the experience to start a writing career. I'd still like to catch up with them and do some very, very horrible and painful things to the perpetrators. You don't forget the pain, or forgive. I know anger won't fix anything, but it's a natural reaction.

I'd like to end this post on a positive note, but for once I can't think of one. There isn't likely to be any good come out of this. I just hope those affected can eventually get over the trauma. My thoughts are with them.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday Fim Club: BTF trailer

Looking through YouTube, I found this trailer which is rather fun. Nice jaunty tune and plenty of shots that make me want to see more. Lots of images that are very much of their time too!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Scenerama Modelling detached town houses

It's unusual for me to trip over a kit I've not seen before, but this one, found on the second hand table at the RMweb members day, is a mystery.

This kit is sizable injection-loulded affair for a pair of 4mm scale semi-detatched town houses. The moulings are really high-quality and include all the detail you'd hope for - and more. The saircases are part of the kit, modellers are expected to build the interiror!

To provide the wall finishes, a couple of sheets of pre-printed paper are included. These models are to be yellow London brick with red brick detailing.

Even the floors are printed, complete with carpets.

This is a really hi-fi kit but who were Scenerama? I've never heard of them.

And, this is the big question, are these kits and the very similar looking Hornby R273 OO Gauge Victorian Semi-Detached Houses Kit's the same thing? If so, this could be another very underatted Hornby product.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Our own garden railway in Garden Rail, plus deadly beasts down under.

This is a first, the feature layout in the latest Garden Rail is our own garden railway built in a day. The shortest-lived line in the magazine and one that I discovered when I set out the article, that I hadn't taken nearly enough pictures of!

Not to worry, there's also plenty of making with a nice battery electric steam loco and L&B coaches. You also get ex-South African wagons from a kit, but with plenty of added detail.

If you fancy a trip down under, we've a report from an Aussie garden railway meeting and learn why you make sure you don't have to stick your arm along a tunnel to retrieve a faulty train...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Birmingham clock tower


Heading to a 'spoons on Broad Street in Birmingham (classy, I know), I spotted this rather impressive building. Dating from the time when the city was a powerhouse of industry, it appealed to me as a potential major building on a dockside model railway layout. 

The upper floors looks like something Superquick would design, but are a simple scratchbuild. The lower windows would be trickier without a laser cutter, but an alternative design could be worked out. 

The best bit is the clock tower set at an angle to the corner. I like this bit best as it says something about civic pride. This was never meant to be a dodgy nightclub. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


The key to this kit is pre-painting as many parts as possible. To keep things simple, there are some bit made in the wrong colour. Engine crankcases are not chrome, but silver magnesium. A coat of Humbrol silver followed by a wash of Citadel black ink looks great - speaking as one who has stuck his head under a few VW's...

Inside, someone decided to mould the seats and door cards in dark brown plastic. This is wrong, they should be black, as this VW colour chart shows.

 Halfords satin black is ideal for the slightly shiny leatherette. I've done the floor this colour too as the mats are rubber.

Much of the inside is left in its black plastic state as the dash and steering wheel should be slightly shiny too.

The mohair roof is sprayed matt black to contrast with the rubber or leatherette bits.

Finally, the wheels are painted silver but hubcaps left chrome. Mind you, in my experience, they pretty quickly go rusty!

Monday, May 13, 2019


Inspired by my trip to Stanford Hall, I have dug a plastic kit for a cabriolet Beetle out from the stash. One that will hopefully be a nice simple job to stick together. 

Imai's kit is from the Junior range. Apparently, it can be built with a motor, although sadly, there isn't one included in this kit. Nor the working headlights - and I'm going to resist the temptation to do something about this. 

The main body is a single moulding with plenty of chromed parts to add. We love chromed parts, don't we? 

Step 1 - respray the main body. I think the idea is that you are supposed to use the self-coloured plastic, but that's rubbish as at the very least you'll need to polish it once the mould lines are removed from the top of the wings. And they really must be, it's one of those lovely curvy areas you look at on a bug. 

Paint of choice is Arrow Red from the Humbrol Acrylic range. Mostly because we seem to have lots of cans of the stuff left over from other projects. Working outside (the spray booth is packed away) it goes on well in light coats and dries nicely. I primed the inner wings with white before giving them a dose of body colour too as this is a new car and that's what VW did.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Stanford Hall VW show 2019

Stanford Hall VW banner

I really want to get my Beetle back on the road. Trouble is, I'm light on skills and space to work. I know there are people who restore cars in a wet field, but that's not me. I need the welding done - spannering I'm happy to tackle.

So, I trot off to my favourite VW show for the first time in years. I used to be a regular, but the bus going into storage and the car being broken put a stop to that. It seems odd to the turn up in a Peugeot.

First impressions were that it was as good as ever. Between the entrance and main show were some clubs with lines of beautifully restored Porches to gawp at, even if you need seriously deep pockets to own one.

Porche lineup

The main trade area had changed though. Less autojumble. More stands selling "vintage" items to dress up your bus or bug. More tat with a Volkswagen logo on it.

I went looking for two things - a plug spanner and long cable ties. There were no tool stalls and I only found the spanner on the last bu one autojumble after 2 trips around the show. I nearly had to go back home and look through the garage properly for mine!

I did notice some stands that sell the more mundane parts not present - I know German and Swedish are now part of the Eurocar parts group, but remember Megabug taking lots of money off me for tiny detail parts to finish the bug first time around and didn't spot them there.

Convertable Beetles

The club displays were impressive, as was the Concours competition. This never seems to attract massive numbers, but then we are at the top of the quality pyramid here so maybe this puts people off a bit.

My favourite chat was with the owner of a lovely 1973 bug, the same year as mine. He has owned it for 40 years, it was his first car. I've not owned mine quite as long, but it was my first car and we both love our vehicles a lot. Wish mine looked as good though.

Red, one-owner 1973 Beetle

Overall though, I thought it all seemed a bit flat. Compared to the NEC event in November, there just didn't seem (to me) to be so much atmosphere. I'm sure if you are "on the scene" it's a lot better, but the scene seems to be all about spending a lot of money on a car that will be a toy, and doing very little work yourself. I know there are people who do get their hands dirty, but less and less of them for VWs.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday Film Club: USA superpower steam train

I'm not much into foreign trains, but even the most Brit-centric enthusiast can't deny the USA "Big Boy" steam engine returning to steam is an incredible thing. 

While not brilliantly filmed (get a tripod!) this video shows an early run where it is paired with a 4-8-4 and just be on the safe side, some sort of diesel. I'd very much have enjoyed seeing this one!

Also, aren't US Railfans well behaved compared to the muppets watching Flying Scotsman in the UK? Do this in the UK and you've got people standing on the ballast having decided that fences don't apply to them when there is the chance of another photo of the most photographed locomotive in the world at stake.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Old Taunton show posters

Some proper history here, but from what year? I think it's 1974 as the other option that would seem to fit with the design would be '68, pre-decimal for those bargain admission prices!

A week long show taking place in the Co-operative House, which I assume houses the Co-op, sounds interesting. Quite a comitment for a club to man three layouts and a tram display. Even now, with plenty of retired members, that would be difficult. 

Why no Thursday opening though? Early closing day? 

Prices have rocketed on this last event. Stern letters will have been dispatched to the editors of Railway Modeller and Model Railway Constructor (that's what people did before RMweb kidz) presaging the death of the hobby. 

What I love about these is the design. No computers were used, this was a job for a local print shop. I remember our club having to trot down to Hammonds, the local poster maker every year back in the 1980s. I think he sign-wrote the 6-8 we paid for. We had to use him as he owned the rights to the only sites in town. He always did a good job too, although his locomotives were a bit more cartoony than the ones in Taunton.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Stationary engine in 7mm

I can't seem to focus on anything big at the moment, but still need the distraction of model making projects as stress relief, so the other day I picked up this little whitemetal kit from Duncan Models to while away a few minutes. 

For a change, I've only owned the kit for a few days, it came from the RMweb members day second-hand stall for a pittance. Rather than put it in the stash, it hit the workbench. 

Assembly is simple enough, the castings are nice and clean so the two main parts are superglued together. 

Fitting the wheels was tricker. There's no positive location and while you probably can prop things in position while the glue dries, I preferred to drill through the centres and through the main casting to fit a length of brass rod. It's worth remembering while doing this that saliva is an excellent lubricant!

The wheels are very tight on the bottom plate and I had to file away one of the bolt heads that should hold it down to one of those wooden trollies stationary engines are displayed on at shows. I'm not sure what I'll do with this so haven't scratchbuilt one yet - but it will be a fun and easy job if required. 

A couple of oddities - the kit includes an exhaust pipe but no prototype I could find had one and I don't recall ever seeing one of these so fitted. Someone will probably find a photo to prove me wrong, so the pipe is in the spares box. 

The other is that Duncan Models paint their model red. Again, I don't recall this, green seems to be the favourite with some radicals going for pale blue. I painted mine Humbrol grass green, dry-brushed with a lighter shade.

For the moment, this lives in the cabinet, but one day, I'm sure it will find space on a layout or diorama.  

English note: I remember always getting stationery (pens and pencils) and stationary (not moving) confused at school when we ran a stationery shop during lunchtimes. To be honest, sales were such that the non-moving version seemed more appropriate. It seems that someone at Poundland also suffers from this according to the tag on their web page</a>. <a href="">Amazon is even worse as it gets on the page too</a>. </i><br></p>

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Scruffy portacabin


If you like little buildings full of character, fill your boots. 

Found near sunny Tainton, this little building is on a farm/light industrial/post-apocalyptic film set. It's the office for the converted farm building next door and probably something to do with the horsebox/shed. 

Peeling paint, a fire extinguisher and hose bolted to the wall, handily next to a gas canister. Some wiring for (I guess ) electricity from an adjacent building. There's loads for the modeller to get stuck into here, and none of it particularly difficult. Just keep adding and it will look "great". 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Socket pusher

Deep inside R2D2, there is a box. In the box is a computer. Into the computer plug many leads. Each lead is inserted into a socket.

And one socket was rattling around the the box, and not attached to the board.

Sliding the socket over the very fine pins seemed like a good idea. Guiding the plug on without the socket might be a recipe for bent pins and disaster.

Persuading the socket to slide over the pins while holding it with some long nosed pliers was an exercise in frustration. Things got so desperate that I considered cutting away some of the box so we could see the pins instead of furkling around. For the moment, it was left and I went to a beer festival instead.

In the shower the next morning, I had an idea. Make a balsa stick the right size to hold the socket. The pins will push into the softwood (yes I know it's technically a hardwood) and all will be well.

A few minutes whittling by my Dad (it's his robot after all) produced the tool. He carved a little bit away for the pins to slide into unimpeded.

Two minutes was all it took me to fit the socket. A LOT less than the day before!

Monday, May 06, 2019

Which varnish for transfers?

Tim asks:
Having problems with adhesion of some transfers in a kit.
The surface has a rough misting of Humbrol Acrylic on it.

I’m assuming a varnish would help give the surface more grip. I’m convinced gloss varnish is recommended even though matt strikes me as being more sensible.

Which would you go for?

Different varnishes will give transfers more "grip", but not in the way you are thinking I suspect. 

The standard advice is to apply waterslide transfers (other types vary) on to a gloss surface. This allows the transfer to stick without micro-bubbles of air trapped underneath. You can see the result of this on the model above, the air shows up as "silvering" around the letters.

Gloss varnish gives a perfectly (in theory) smooth surface so no air is trapped. 

I've had mixed results with this. For a start, you really need a very thin coat, applied with a spray from an airbrush or rattlecan. Even then, where you put the transfer needs to be smooth. You could paint with gloss, but I never get on with doing that.

Using Micro-sol or Micro-set over the transfer helps a lot and I've had success with this. It's not a bad idea to paint some on before putting the transfer in place, but work quickly and don't let it dry!

These products aren't a silver bullet - and they do need a bit of practice to get the best from them. 

Of course, once the transfer is dry, you'll then need to matt or satin varnish it to match the rest of the model.