Monday, September 30, 2019

J72 comparison

With the new Bachmann J72 winging its way to the shops via a boat from China, we wanted to do a little video review, and Andy thought it would be a good idea to compare the new model to the old one. Needless to say, he didn't have one of those, but I did. 

Since I was heading over to chez York for some filming anyway, I dug out my locomotive and cleaned the wheels. Initially, it was reluctant to run, but plonking the wires on the chassis block saw the wheels revolve. 

After a minute or so, I started to be able to apply power via the wheel treads. I wonder if the grease had stopped the electricity moving, until it was disturbed. 

The model runs OK. Not amazing in the way the new one, or any modern RTR, does, but good enough for most people. It's not a bad looker either, despite being decades older than the new version. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

TCT 2019

3D printed cakes

These cakes are rubbish.

Because they are 3D printed and therefore inedible!

To be fair, the printer that does it is an amazing bit of kit. Mind you, for £225,000 it ought to be. You could buy all the stock in a Greggs for that and it would taste better. 

On Wednesday, I headed to the NEC for the annual TCT 3D printing show. While a sceptic, I'm interested enough to keep abreast of the technology. Maybe it's out of my reach for the moment, but things change over time. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Saturday Film Club: The Compton Down Railway

I picked up a slim booklet on building battery powered locomotives recently, by Peter Jones. The photos were taken on his famous "Compton Down Railway", a line I remember being impressed with through photos. No bucolic country railway, Peter built a proper slate line. 

This week's film dates from 1991 and has the least appropriate music, but is well worth a look as a tribute to the line. It is no more, but a few enthusiasts are preserving part of it

Friday, September 27, 2019

They made Thunderbirds here!

It's always interesting to see what other people are building, especially professional modelmakers whose ideas I might be able to nick for a future project.

Simon Atkinson teaches modelmaking and works on some really interesting projects. The best ones, large scale model locos, end up in the countries premier magazine for large scale railway modellers.

Others turn up on his website, and this one really appealed to me - a 1:25 scale model of the Century 21 studios complete with a couple of sound stages with Thunderbirds sets.

Such clean modelmaking and yet some familiar challenges. They were counting bricks to scale parts of the model - I've done that!

You can see the full details on Simon's website.

There's a walkaround video on Facebook too.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Ark - right!

Playmobil Ark sails

With a little trepidation, I launched the Ark on the boating lake. I had picked a nice evening when no-one else was around. 

I was so worried that I tied a crabbing reel thing to the handle on top so I could pull it back out if all went badly. This wasn't so clever as two corners of the pool (you can see one in the background of the photo) are home to very tall plants and the cord kept getting caught. 

In the end, I gave up with it and took the risk. We completed a full circuit of the pool before  I pulled the model out and inspected the interior. 


After this, it went back on the water for some more sailing and photography. Another 10 minutes sailing and still dry. 

So, it looks like this "quick" project is finally complete. 

What did I learn? 
  • Projects always take longer than you expect. 
  • When converting a toy boat, take it apart fully and then glue the bits back together. Keep thinking, "How do I keep the water out?"
  • A short hull with a stupidly big propeller can work. I don't give it too much speed and the model tootles along fine. Even at full thrust, it's not going particularly fast, but then it is only a little motor. 
  • Tubby hull, big rudder, excellent turning. Not quite so good at going straight. 

After all the trials, it's great to see the Ark sailing. On a sunny evening, it looks great on the water, every bit as good as I hoped. I couldn't help smiling as I pottered around with it, and that's what the hobby is about.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Steel water tower

Bishop's Lydeard water tower

An interesting water tower found at Bishops Lydeard on the West Somerset Railway. I'm thinking that this is an industrial tank moved to the railway rather than an original GWR design. Surely they would have built in brick. Judging by this photo I found, it wasn't there in 1963.

Modelling would involve a trip to the Plastruct rack for most of the structure. The tank itself would be trickier unless someone makes the panels. I recall Mikes Models made some whitemetal bits but these are harder to come by and I can't find a photo. 

If you are modelling virtually, then a model is available!


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A lifebelt for the Ark

One last job before a return to the lake, make a buoyancy aid for the Ark.

My theory is that if I fill the hull with polystyrene, it can't fill with water. This might not save it on its own, but if it does start to sink, the sinking will be less dramatic and I can charge the bank to get within rescue distance.

To aid this, the receiver is sealed up in a plastic bag. I can't protect the motor or servo, and the speed control can take a dunking, but it's all about increasing survivability.

The foam is hacked away using a sharp knife (messy) and hot wire (clean, but limited use due to access issues). I kept pushing down on the foam to mark where I should cut next.

Fingers crossed I don't need this...

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Ark loses weight and gets back on the water

Sunny weather, a little less work pressure - I can get back to the Ark. 

With the middle sealed with epoxy, I ripped the lead weights out of the hull, waggling them with big pliers until the glue holding them in gave way, and set off down to the newly cleaned up garden pool. 

Handy hint: The filter sand needs changing every 5 years, not every 15. Makes a difference. 

Anyway, I wanted to let the hull sit higher in the water than before, but worried that all the weight of superstructure and animals would make it unstable. At the poolside, I added in a lot less lead, but as far forward as I could, until the boat sat level. 

At this point I had to make a decision - the elephants are heavy (who'd have guessed?) and so will affect the trim. From now on, they are the front of the boat so it can be weighted on this basis. 

After adding the lead, I sailed for around 10 minutes. Then looked inside. 

No water. OK, we've been here before but this time I'm more confident. With 8oz less weight, the model seems to sit on the water and be surprisingly stable. Bashing it against the pool edge didn't threaten to tip it over. Wobbling it about was fine too. Tight turns, and this boat can really turn, don't bother it.

If I really tip the model by hand to the point where the water is at the join between bulwarks and hull then water gets in. But the boat still plops back the right way up. Basically, if the deck is wet, there is water in the hull. I need to be careful. 

 However, things are looking good. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

TINGS 2019

Last week, the portable photo booth found itself balanced on the L&WMRS stand at the International N Gauge Show (TINGS). I thought I'd have no problems squeezing stock in this time, but a 4-car EMU defeats it!

I did manage to take some other photos, see them on Flickr. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday Film Club: A German planning dispute

Just a short film this week, but one that might inspire a tiny model railway. JF take note!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Doodlebug railcar

Bought because it was both interesting and cheap a couple of years ago, the photos of this US prototype railcar have been sitting in the pending pile for an appearance on the blog for a while. Moving the box it lives in to find something in the maturing cupboard reminded me I really ought to post them.

The model is a Bachmann Spectrum product in HO and that's pretty much all I know. I'm sure I read the name "doodlebug" and a web search tells me I'm right.

Looking at photos, I think this was built by Pullman and Electro-Motive Corporation for use on lightly loaded branch lines (short lines?) and as such, can run singly, even though it has a corridor connection.

In the collection is an HO Shay and, possibly due to the influence of Scale Trains during my formative modelling years, a tiny US based layout has always been in the back of my mind. A long way back, but there is something about some of those early diesels - and there is some very impressive American modelling out there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Garden Rail October 2019

Sometimes, as a magazine editor, you have to take a little bit of a risk with the contents. This is why alongside Callum Wilcox's lovely garden railway and Dave's piece on weatherproof buildings (using methods that hadn't occurred to me) we have building a Jabberwock rail crane. 

Weird? Yes.
Art? Probably.
Interesting? I think so. 

If that doesn't float your boat, well there's tram building, modifying a Manx brake van, mending a Garratt and building a chapel. Something for everyone I hope.

Annoyingly, there is a  mistake on the Elsecar preview. Although the date is right, unaccountably, I said it's Sunday, not Saturday. If you go, please don't turn up a day late!

Full contents listing on RMweb with video.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Stone warehouse

Ramsey Warehouse 1

Last week I said that it was nice that industrial buildings hadn't all been converted to apartments on the Isle of Man, well not all of them anyway. 

This is in the back streets of Ramsey, near the Coop supermarket. There obviously has been some conversion work done, but not on the back or side. Looking at the Google Streetview shot, it appears to be a work in progress - I hope so,  I can't see the residents being too keen on a lack of windows.

Ramsey Warehouse 2

Although made of the local stone, there has been some repair in brick. Presumably, this was easier or cheaper for the builder. Modelling that would be difficult unless you scribed the whole building in plaster or foam. It's an interesting splash of colour in the middle of the grey Manx stone.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Large scale re-railer

I love a simple, but useful kit. Spotted at Llanfair is this re-railer kit from Timpdon Models. For a fiver (yes, I paid for mine), you get a selection of laser-cut plywood and MDF parts.

Being a bit busy, the kit was passed to my Dad for assembly and he reports that 5 minutes with some PVA glue were enough to complete the work. Although there is an exploded diagram, you don't really need it as everything slots together perfectly.

A couple sanding sealer coats protect the bare woodwork from damp and dirt - this is going to be used outside after all. I chose the 45mm gauge version, but a 32mm kit is also available.

This isn't the first re-railing ramp in the world, but it is cheap, and short. Only 23.5cm long, it's ideal for more confined spaces and should prove useful for an aged parent who finds putting stuff on the track tricky when leaning over plants. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Pick up a Peckett

Dropping into my local model shop, Mark, the owner, said, "I've got a loco for you." And handed me a red box. Inside was their latest 0-6-0 Peckett in Sherwood Colliery livery. I'd pre-ordered it as soon as I could admit I knew it was coming, and it's now here.

Since I was in a model shop, I insisted we test ran the locomotive. Although it's covered by a warranty, I like to check it's not going to burst into a ball of flames the moment power is applied. First impressions were good - the model is slightly tight but even a few feet of moving loosened it up to a lovely trundle. I'm sure it will benefit from a gentle run-in and embarrass every kit-built locomotive in my collection.

Back home, I could take a proper look and what a cracking model this is from Hornby. Everything is crisp, there is plenty of detail and it's all well done. None of the wobbly pipework I tend to fit, which I then say is "in service" damage...

Obviously, the decoration is fantastic. There's no way I'd have lined a model out this well, or made such a good job of wasp stripes on the buffer beam.

Even the cab detail is a delight to examine. I remember the days of a single lump backhead or eve the detail being moulded into a wraparound cab on the Jinty. This stuff is as good as could hope to produce from a High-Level models kit.

There is one niggle though. The cab handrails are designed to come out of a mould and therefore the same thickness as the cab sides. Some lengths of wire will look a bit better. I'll spend some time with prototype photos and see if there is anything else to pick up too. Then, perhaps a little dirt...

For £99 though? I'm not complaining. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Llanfair 2019

The day after Telford, I headed up the M54 again to the Llanfair garden railway show for more chat and photography. My photo booth is a little small for some of the models, but it's very handy for wagons at least.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Saturday Film Club: BR Blue at Birmingham New Street in 1986

On Thursday, I came over all nostalgic about BR Blue DMUs, so let's head back to 1986 and stand on the end of the platform at Birmingham New Street station. 

The camcorder footage isn't terrible and even if you aren't looking at the trains, there is much to see. Lines of BRUTEs along the platform to handle post and newspaper traffic. Trainspotters everywhere and surprisingly young. I could have been there as although I was never much of a spotter, I've always enjoyed watching trains, especially those with proper locos on the front!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Farewell to Ian Allan, Birmingham

It was a sad day on Tuesday. I paid my last visit to the Ian Allan bookshop in the centre of Birmingham.

It's a trip I've made many times - any trip to Brum included a few minutes in there for as long as I can remember. Once it was the basement on Stephenson Street but a few years ago they were displaced to a nicer shop around the corner.

Is it silly to mourn a shop?

If it is, I am silly. So many model shops have vanished now. The Train Shop in Warwick, Toytown in Leamington (models upstairs), Trinders in Birmingham, Bob's Models in Solihull. Now Ian Allan joins the list.

For bargain hunters, this was good news. I arrived to see signs announcing 75% off everything. I'm sure the vultures were circling but I just wanted to make a final purchase for old times sake.

Inside, there was hardly any stock and what there was, was mostly books, Much of it has gone to the Waterloo branch, but customers have been clearing the shelves too. Some will miss the place and left "Sorry you're leaving" cards for both shop and staff.

My bag was heavier by the end of the visit. I don't need 8 1/2 inch tall plastic kit palm trees but I didn't fancy any of the other kits. Anyway, this was the silliest and that wins for me.

My favourite purchases were as Ian Allan as you could get:

A loco spotting book and a card showing a Class 40 in the snow.

For now, the centre of Birmingham is devoid of model shops. This might change though as one of the IA managers is setting up a news hop near the law courts, and near the bottom of the Grande Central ramp, is an art shop called "Let's Fill This Town With Artists" that supply architectural modelmakers. If you need 3mm scale people or lichen, they can help.

I am sad about the loss of another safe place for nerdy train-loving people. We don't have many places to call our own. If you have a local model shop, then use it!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

N gauge layout, Hornby weekend, techniques and old loco repair in BRM

October's issue of BRM has another big project in it from me - a complete N gauge layout.

OK, it's a Billy Bookcase project, but there was still a lot of work and it had to be carried out in just over a week along with several other jobs. The theme is 1970s BR blue, something I find myself getting nostalgic about. There is something about a rattly blue DMU that just seems so nice in restrospect.

Keeping things simple, I used Kato Unitrack in reponse to a request at a show. The main station building is simple a shelter, although it took me to goes to build so not a quick job...

We also have a photo feature from the Hornby open weekend with shots from around the show. I've also writen the editorial about the event and how we can attract new people to at least look at the hobby.

A section on techniques includes input from me on making holoes, static grass, stiring paint and improving card kits.

Finally, on the subscribers DVD, I'm servicing old model railway locomotives. This is another request from a show, or at least it seemed sensible as I had to disuade a youngster from buying a "bargain" Tri-ang 08 shunter that was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

More about the October 2019 issue on RMweb.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: Manx stone lockups

Manx lockups

Spotted in the back streets of Laxey, these rather nice lockups. I'm not sure I can call them garages as I suspect they were originally built for the local fisherman or farmers. They are definitely industrial buildings of some sort and now exist as workshops. 

I like the collection of doors and feel that they could fit in on many layouts providing a nice bit of colour. The roof isn't original, but modellers could use slates.

Looking along the row, the furthest from the camera appears to have been converted with either a nice big window or very post door. One of the things I like about the IOM is that buildings like this still have a proper "working" use rather than being turned into posh apartments.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ratio grounded van body kit

Looking for projects to work on during the Hornby weekend, I dug through the kit boxes and realised I have at least 4 Ratio grounded van body kits. It's a useful model, but I'm not sure how I ended up with so many. Still, they don't eat anything...

The kit is based on an existing van with extra sprues full of stuff. In terms of value-for-money, it's a winner.

There's a bit of work to do cleaning up flash around some of the extremeties, but the plastic is hard and there's nothing difficult about the job. A little whittling with a sharp knife and all is fine. The edge of the roof is more of a challenge as it's not opbvious where it is, so I cut generously and sand back. This is a disused van, so it doesn't have to be perfect.

There are a lot of bits in here. The chairs are a favourite of mine, but a fiddle to assemble. You need to prop them in position as the glue dries and actually getting anything perfectly square is deafeats me, but it doesn't matter in use.

The sleepers for the stacks also look a bit thin. I've made them up but suspect some thicker Plastikard or even wood might be a better bet.

I have painted this, honest!

OK, I've used various shades of grey with just a hint of brown for the moment. When it finds a home, more dirt will be applied.

One niggle is that the buffer beams are still attached. Surely they would be part of the chassis and therefore not part of the body? I assume this is for the convienence of the kitmaker which is fine, but one to be careful of.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Trainline 45 point repair

The garden railway includes a couple of Trainline45 points in the station area and over the last couple of years, they have started to play up - electricity isn't flowing to all the places it is supposed to and limited use of the loop to one side.

Finally, I bit the bullet and lifted them (not difficult) and had a look underneath. On one, the exit track wasn't getting power. Looking underneath, one wire had come adrift from the connection to the frog. A cleanup and then re-solder and all is well. A chunky iron is a good idea, but my Antex 45W does the job.

On the other point, the rail between the switchblade and frog was power-free. Given a bit of a run, the LGB 0-4-0 managed to clear the gap, but it was hardly ideal.

Again, the fault was a duff soldered joint, this time in the connection that runs between this rail, the switchblade and stock rail.

All working, but I wonder why large scale points aren't self-isolating? I'm going to have to figure something out with insulated fishplates and a switch so we can have a train in each side of the loop. Not difficult, but I wonder why? Reliability? Tradition?

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Guildex 2019

Photo Booth

Model railway shows can keep you fit. At least working Guildex, the major show for O gauge modellers each year, keeps me tired, if not exactly fit. 

The step tracker on my phone said I did really well - because the day is spent running from one side of the Telford International Centre to the other with products for photographing. 

Each trip takes around 5 minutes, dodging swinging backpacks and people who aren't looking where they are going because they are so blinded by the excitement of a room full of trainz. This is carried out while carting a valuable (top price £2750) model. And in a hurry. 

This year I clocked 21 different products - if you count the packs of figures as 1, or well over 30 if they don't. 

My problem this year was that the event clashed with the Harbury beer festival, so I was determined to be out of the door around 3pm. I managed it!

This limited my time for layout photography, but I did manage some snaps, which can be found on Flickr.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Lego automata

I love automata and I love Lego. Combine the two and I'm a happy man.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Sunshine stops play

Sunshine is overrated. With small children heading for a visit, I decided to dig out the LGB Harlequin locomotive as I thought they would enjoy giving it a run.

Outside though, it wouldn't respond to the control handset.

Duff batteries I decided. The model had been sat on the shelf for many months, so I changed them. It worked fine.

But back outside, no control.

Back to the workbench. Batteries checked and wiggled. All seemed fine. 

Outside hopeless.

Then it hit me - I was testing the model on a very bright, sunny day. And the infra-red receiver is on the top of the cab. The sunshine must be confusing it.

So the kids got to watch trains but not play with the pretty one which makes noises. A shame, but they didn't mind. We just didn't tell them what could have been. 

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Return of the prodigal wagon

Wooden wagon

Here's a handy hint. If you want to make sure you don't lose rolling stock, paint your name on the side. 

I'm kidding, but in this case, it worked. The wagon shown is a 7mm scale wood and etched brass kit I built as a review many years ago for MORILL. 

As I recall, I like it but felt than instead of providing a great slab of plain brass, perhaps some internal strapping might have been more useful. I think the manufacturer wasn't impressed by this, but the editor of the magazine was less worried as he agreed with me. 

Anyway, the wagon didn't come with transfers and my funds didn't run to buying a set, so I decided to have a go at hand-painting the sides. I think this might have made it into the article too. 

The result wasn't brilliant, but it's a far harder job than you might thing. Signwriters have to spend a long time perfecting their skills. One day I'd love to go on a course to learn how to do the job properly, but that will have to wait for both time and money to become available. 

Anyway, coal wagons get dirty and I heavily weathered this one to hide my artwork. Which is why no-one spotted that it hadn't gone back into my stock box when our O gauge club members borrowed it a few weeks ago. No problem, I've now reclaimed the model and it's back in the box. 

I'm a bit sentimental about this model. It was one of the first review items that came my way. In an era when something free was really exciting and not just a cause to look at the looming deadline and feel the pressure to do the new item justice. (OK, it's still exciting, but I really care that anyone sending me a model gets the maximum coverage, they deserve nothing less.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Warehouse Wednesday: A little slipway hut


A nice little brick-built hut. Interesting and quite modelable, but this Warehouse Wednesday is really about the surroundings. The hut is found on Ramsgate harbour, and unusual in-town location for something industrial.


Looking around, there is a wealth of fascinating detail. The hut obviously pre-dates the rest of the setup by many years. Nowadays it would be a portacabin or shipping container, but one, someone had the pride to erect an attractive and well-built structure.

Looking back along the slipway, it's still very much in use.

Slipway boat

The catamaran was one of the fleet of vessels and having some welding carried out around the propshaft area, although I couldn't see exactly what was being repaired.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Deep breath, epoxy time!

With a fresh battery delivering plenty of volts, the ark charged around the pool creating a bow wave. A couple of minutes later, there was a little pool around the motor support.

As I had thought, water is getting in in the join between hull and top of the hull. Sealing around the inside might have slowed the flow, but it still came in under the foam motor support. The only solution is to fill the gap around the hull.

I'd not wanted to do this as it's highly visible but better that than a sinking boat.

In my toolkit are some syringes and needles. I wondered if I could put epoxy in one of these and squirt a very thin bead into the join.

I couldn't. The glue wouldn't go down the needle. It did come out reasonably neatly from the needle-free syringe but quickly blocked the nozzle.

It was no good, I had to mix a fresh batch of glue and apply it as neatly as possible with a small screwdriver. As it happens, the result wasn't too bad, but not as good as I would like.

I'm going to try cleaning this up a bit once it is fully hard, but if this fails, it occurs to me that a length of yellow Trimline tape would look OK and cover any mess. If I'd thought of that earlier, I'd have tackled this job earlier.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Lights on, no action

Having ascertained that the electrics in the ark were working, my plan for a good long sail was thwarted.

Switching on the model after charging the battery overnight, the Viper speed control showed both red and green lights and the servo had the jitters. All the channels on the receiver seemed to have swopped around too.

How could this happen? The only thing I'd done since it had worked before was charge the battery.

After a fair bit of pugging and wiggling, I gave up and pinched a battery from another boat - one on charge for a visit from my cousins (who needed to be entertained) a couple of days later.

This seemed to cure things, but then I put a meter on the batteries.  The good one gave over 6V, the duff one 4.something. At a guess, not enough for the receiver or speed control.

Diagnosis, my charger is faulty.

Digging around, I found a Thunder Tiger version and a suitable lead to connect it to the battery. A few hours later, the meter said 7V. Not sure how that works, but I'm thinking this proves it can hold a charge.

More importantly, I managed to get the boat on the water and find out how it leaks. 

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Ships on the rock

Wandering around Ramsgate at what appeared to be considered late on a Friday evening, I searched for a postcard to send to a friend. Despite being a seaside town in the high season, and it not quite being 7pm, everywhere was shut apart from a dodgy newsagent/general store where I purchased my breakfast from for the next day. (Swiss roll since you ask. It was the best option sadly).

Anyway, walking past an art gallery, I spotted cards and they were open.

My luck was in, they were open for the launch of a new exhibition, so as well selling me a couple of cards, a glass of prosecco was thrust into my hand.

Mooching around and drinking my wine, I was really taken by may of the objects on sale. I like a bit of art and the stone above just leapt out at me. There were three to chose from but I like the colours in this, almost like a sunset.

 It might look like a pebble that someone has drawn on, but I love it. I like the simplicity and effectiveness of the drawing. I like that it is signed by the artist - Juanita Newton.

I also like that I knew I had space for it in a display cabinet and that I could own such a thing for a fiver. Something unique and made by a real person.

Chatting to owner Suzy Humphries about art and more importantly, the joy of making things, my eye was drawn to several other goodies and I eventually left with a couple of Christmas presents. The pottery fish didn't come with me as I simply can't think where they could go, and the stunning glasswork was just too much for my pocket even though the price was very reasonable.

If you find yourself in Ramsgate, head to the Nice Things gallery on Harbour street. It's a real jewel in the centre.