Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday Film Club: The Day Stan Left

If you like well-made films and industrial railways, then you'll enjoy this one.

The 1970s archive footage is shot on 16mm film by someone who can work a camera. Better still, the sound was recorded at the same time so we can enjoy the full atmosphere. 

Beyond this, the film-maker tells us about the line - saving me a job as I wanted to know more!

Friday, November 29, 2019


An oddity from the cupboard - a model of Metropolitan-Vickers gas turbine locomotive.

The body appears to be a single-piece fibreglass moulding. The detail isn't great, but it could be a lot worse. The photo is a bit cruel and a repaint would certainly improve matters as the varnish has yellowed badly.

Underneath we have a Lima chassis which works OK, at least as well as a Lima chassis of the period ever does. A quick wheel clean and some oil has it turning over freely.

I'm sure I bought this on a second-hand stall over 15 years ago with the intention of refurbishing it. I don't know the maker, although I'm guessing at Q-Kits. With a bit of reglazing and a tidy, although we aren't at modern RTR standards, this imposing loco would look great at the head of a train.

Anyway, the refurbishment is never going to happen and it seems a shame to leave the model in a drawer, so it's time to pass it on. There is an eBay auction here.

You can read about the prototype on Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Boiler fill

This might not look like an exciting picture, but I'm happy with it.

Originally, the J72 chassis block stuck out into the visible part of the boiler. The new chassis cures this but at the cost of exposing the open underside of the barrel. I'd spent quite a time pondering how I'd fix this, then looked in the box to find a cast piece of whitemetal.

Better still, it turned out to be an absolutely perfect fit. Slid in with a little superglue, the gap is filled and some useful weight is added.

All I have to do is paint. I'm hoping to avoid a complete repaint and wonder how close a match one of the Revell off-blacks is. I'll need it for the chimney too judging from Tuesdays photo...

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Waterborne Wednesday: Pride of Falmouth

Pride of Falmouth

Firmly in the list of boats I'd like to build a model of are the Falmouth ferries. 

According to this web page:

Pride of Falmouth was originally the Adrian Gilbert. Adrian Gilbert and Humphrey Gilbert were built for British Railways (BR) in 1957 for the Dartmouth-Kingswear ferry service. 

The service and the two sisters passed into local authority ownership in 1972, when BR closed the Kingswear branch beyond Goodrington. 

Both boats were sold in 1976 for use on the St Mawes ferry in Cornwall, but proved unsuitable and were bought back by BR for use on the Tilbury-Gravesend ferry. They again proved unsuitable for this route, but were re-engined and offered for sale. 

Adrian Gilbert was sold to Dart Pleasure Craft, who had taken over the Dart ferry from the local authority on 1st January 1977. In 1985, she was re-joined by her sister Humphrey Gilbert, now the Edgcumbe Belle.

 Adrian Gilbert was sold in 1996, joining G.H. & W.G.Pill of Falmouth, apparently proving more successful on the St Mawes ferry second time around. She passed to K &S Cruises as the Pride of Falmouth in 2006. 

Sounds perfect for me, a railway boat that I like the look of. The 58-foot long design seems nicely balanced and could be modelled in a sensible size so it's not too big to handle, but large enough for detail and to cope with sailing on our lake. Anyone got a plan? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Buffer beams

Moving on with the J72 build to the body beautiful, the main job seems to be to scrape the buffers off and replace them with metal versions.

Snipping off the old buffer housings with some worn-out electrical snips wasn't hard. Flattening the rest of the beam was. That plastic is tough. It didn't take to being filed, but succumbed to abrasive sticks.

I've no idea why this should be, but it is. With care, I smoothed off the beam without removing the lip along the top. After that, some superglue fixed the replacements in position.

I'm just not sure they are an upgrade. For a start, the metal seems too small, and the extra thickness reduces the effect of the top lip. With hindsight, I think just replacing the shanks and heads would have been enough.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Code 75 frustration

A recent frustration has involved Code 75 Peco track and the ramps required to uncouple tension-lock couplings. The ones you find on the ends of all OO RTR locos.

Quite simply, how has something so fundamental not been made to work?

Peco sell two ramps, Hornby one. All will fit the track. All manage to uncouple wagons from each other. All will lift a locomotive off the rails, beaching it like a lowered sports car on a particularly nasty speed hump.

Come on chaps. Code 75 track is not new. Tension-lock couplings are universal. Where's the ramp for the finer track?

Yes, I know I could change the couplings or use some sort of funky electric ramp system but I don't understand why this is necessary.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

International Model Boat Show 2019


I didn't get to this show as I was otherwise engaged at the Great British Model Railway Show, so I told my dad to take a load of photos for me as he wandered around. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Car racing in trunking

When I was in Hong Kong a few years ago,I found loads of model shops and the big thing they sold were battery-powered cars with wheels on each corner so they could be raced in walled tracks.

As well as the cars, all sort of tune-up parts were on sale and judging by the crowds of youths digging through them, popular.

Anyway, while digging through YouTube recently, I found a video showing one of these races. Normally they are too fast to see much, but this one is in slo-mo. It's quite a battle.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Warley weekend

It's that time of year again - a weekend spent in a little local show a few miles down the road from me.

I'm not on the stand this year, but will be attending in my news-gathering capacity on Friday afternoon and Saturday but not Sunday. What this means in practice is that I'll be wandering around talking to people wearing a BRM shirt.

So, if you spot me, please do come over for a chat. You might stop me spending money on more kits I don't need!

Warley NEC website. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hornby sci-fi and dirty cars in the Autumn issue of The Collector

Sometimes I struggle to think of things to write, and sometimes an idea appears that is irresistible. In this case, a series of letters in the Hornby Collectors Club magazine requesting that the company consider a science fiction range inspired me to pen (OK, type) a piece covering some of their space-age models. 

Obviously, the Battlespace Turbo car makes it on to the page, as well as the satellite wagon, but I couldn't resist the weirdest product from their history - 3DS. 

A brave attempt to take on the computer game market, Hornby made a space-based monorail system game. Of course I have one, I remember drolling over it in the toy section of my mum's mail-order catalogues. eBay did the business and for this article, I assembled it. 

It's a bit rubbish. But brilliant at the same time and I'd travel to a show with a decent size 3DS layout. 

More practically, I've taken a trio of the new Skale Autos and shown how to quickly make them layout-ready and not box fresh. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Waterborne Wednesday: Oslo Island Ferry

Thanks to Nigel Hill who, inspired by last week's photo of a Sydney Ferry, sent me these from Oslo.

He correctly says, this is probably an easier boat to build in model form. They are quite slab-sided and only single-hulled. Not unlike the ferries found around Cornwall, albeit a lot more modern.

Those clean lines would suggest an attractive model is waiting to be built. The ship doesn't look huge - capacity is 236 foot passengers. I don't need any more projects, but suspect that if I took a trip to Oslo, one of these would be on the list!

More on the Visit Oslo website. 

More photos on the shipspotting website. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Chassis with pickups

Finding time to work on the J72 is proving difficult at the moment. Too much to do for work sees spare time vanishing. However, the other evening I managed to get the pickups fitted to the chassis.

I'd painted it with a nice off-black spray paint bought years ago from 4D models. There's a bit of texture to the paint, but with a little extra dirt, this works really well.

One pickup plate could be bolted in place (I planned ahead) while the other had to be glued in (I didn't). After that, it was a "simple" case of bending up some phosphor-bronze wire to bear in the back of the wheels and join all this lot up with fine wire. Being quick in and out with the hot iron and using some DCC Concepts no-corrosive flux helped me not desolder previous work. I might be getting the hang of this - although proper modellers will say I should plan and engineer things better.

To avoid short circuits, I ran superglue on to any exposed pickup, and managed to gum up the front axle. Taking the wheels out (good job they are Romfords) wasn't easy and it took 2 goes to put them back as I managed to make the classic mistake of swapping insulated and uninsulated wheels over...

Still, it runs. And quite nicely too. Time to move on the bodywork I think.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Book Review: Colour Light Signalling for model railways by Simon Paley

I'm not very interesting in signalling. I know the waggly arm things are important, and the colour light versions quite pretty. There's all sort of other light-up things on gantries dotted around the railway but since I prefer branch line or industrial scenes, I've never had to care too much about them.

One day, I'm sure I'll need to know something for a project and that will leave me with two options:
  1. Ask someone who is really, really interested. I've had that sort of person talk at me at great length at shows in the past. It will be a race to see if I find my answers before I lose the will to live. 
  2. Read a book by someone who knows what they are talking about.  

I'm going for option 2. My friend Simon is a professional signaler on the real railways. Basically, he knows what he's talking about and when he writes it down, he gets other people who know what they are talking about to check. Far better to find out from him than some numpty on the Interweb whose knowledge is based on owning a Hornby colour light signal and a caps lock key.

So, this is THE resource if you want lighty up things on your train set. It's well written, has lots of pictures and loads of diagrams to explain what is going on. I'm not going to pretend I've read this from cover to cover, but it will find space on my bookshelf, because one day I will have a question, and I'm sure the answer is in here.

Buy a copy from Amazon.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Great British Model Railway Show 2019

With a new show, it's difficult to know what to expect. Obviously, there has been a model railway exhibition at the motor museum, Gaydon before. The Great Electric Train show started here, but they moved away to a bigger venue a couple of years ago. Now, toy trains are back, thanks to the Hornby Collectors Club.

As a writer for the magazine, I was invited along to bring some of the projects I've built along with a few BRM ones. My stand was at the top of the escalators as people came in, so I saw everything. Or, more accurately, everyone.

It was busy. By 2:30 on Saturday, I managed 5 minutes away from the stand to collect my lunch bag (sandwiches, crisps, water and an apple) but hadn't stopped talking.

And that's how it carried on. Busy. Lots of families. Lots and lots of chat with many people saying nice things about the stuff I do. My ego was well stroked!

What I didn't do was get out and about to see the show. Apart from a few photos taken before opening on Sunday, I have no idea what was going on. What I saw looked good - there was certainly no shortage of displays and a wide variety of layout types from P4 to live steam.

Anyway, you can see my photos on Flickr.

Cake - well after 2 days of sniffing freshly baked cookies being wheeled by me en route to the HCC members lounge, Montana took pity on me and delivered a cookie on Sunday. Well, I couldn't miss out, could I? Besides, I might have been grumpy in the video...

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Ingenious bank vault on the Isle of Man

If like me, you love weird mechanical contraptions, you'll enjoy this film of a bank vault with an amazing mechnism on the Isle of Man. What a construction!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Book Review: "OO" Minature Railways Handbook and Guide 1953/54

If you believed in Father Christmas back in 1953, you'd have been hoping for a train set. Back in those days, RTR was new, exciting and incompatible. No problem as GH Lake has produced this handy 24-page booklet trying to help. 

Inside there is a brief history of OO followed by a listing of the Principle British Periodicals dealing exclusively with railway modelling. 

Next, there is a run-down of the various producers of fixed track systems - Hornby-Dublo, Trix, Tri-ang, Rivarossi and then the same for flexible track formations; Graham Farish. We then look at pickup systems: Tree-rail, Two rail and stud contact. None of this is exhaustive with only a couple of paragraphs for each. Two pages cover the interchangeability of various OO-gauge tracks. 

By page 10 we start to get useful numbers showing the BRMSB standards followed by details of where to fit studs for that contact system. 

Page 18 lists the Principle Suppliers of OO-gauge equipment. It's not a long list with 16 entries but includes such names as Peco, Romford, CCW and one I'd not heard of: Bradshaw Model Railway Products. 

Finally a quick Q&A and then a few pages of adverts. 

The book came from Kanga Models in Colonade Passage in Birmingham. The passage itself was demolished in 1961, but a little digging on the web tells me that the shop was run by a Mrs McQueen. and eventually moved into Burlington Passage, just around the corner from the Ian Allan shop (RIP). They appear to have been a general model shop as I've found adverts for Kanga Aerodrome as well. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Glendale Rocket and light up station furniture on Garden Rail

The festive issue of Garden Rail hits the shops today. This means a light-up tree on the front cover and the designer insisting on my manic looking Elf-hat wearing headshot on the Editorial page. 

I suppose you might find the largest Product News section for a while useful if hinting about presents, there are a lot of options. Even with 6 pages, we held some over to the next issue and shoehorned the rest in. 

I'm particularly pleased to have a piece on motorising the Glendale Rocket in. Many modellers have a plastic Postman Pat loco on the shelf, but not know what to do to make the thing work. It turns out the job is easier than you might expect. 

Illuminating your station platform also turns out to be simple, if you follow the ingenious techniques described on the page. Another project beckons. Mind you, there are a couple more in here that also tempt me. That's the trouble with this job, so much you'd like to do and so little time!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Waterborne Wednesday: Sydney Ferry


My subject this week is Michael Portillo's fault. Watching his latest series of railway journeys through Australia, I caught the Sydney one and he ends up at Circular Quay. That's where I stayed a few years ago on my trip and while there, made much use of the local ferries. 

These catamaran boats zip in and out of the various quaysides all day and fascinated me. The locals treat them as buses and this translates into some very slick sailing. Boats nose into a berth and then back out again just as fast to head to the next stop. 

In my pile of souvenirs is a card kit to build this boat - something firmly on the "one-day" pile. I'd love to build a larger RC version too, although there is a lot of detail to add to bring it alive and the tricky hull to build...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

J72 Brake gear

Time for some sacrilege.

I don't think the brakes on this J72 chassis are very good.

For a start, when hung, I don't think the centres of the brake blocks are a good match for the centres of the wheels. The pull rods aren't long enough by quite a long way either. I bodged them with some scrap fret and they look OK to those who know no better, and fine to those of us not that bothered because you can't see properly when the loco is on it's wheels.

Finally, the brackets at the top of the hangers are designed for the wider EM and P4 chassis, and therefore too short for OO. Maybe someone decided that OO modellers wouldn't care? Another bodge, this time with bits of Microstrip.

It will all look fine with paint, but unless I've screwed up (perfectly possible) this isn't as good as the finescale maffia would claim it to be. Still, paint and dirt will hide a multitude of sins and I quite enjoyed the remedial work.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Pendon and the Madder Valley

Gammon Worthy Halt

A few weeks ago, RMweb Gold members were invited to a special private event at Pendon.

We were given tours of the main scenes which included a trip inside the Vale scene and plenty of time for photography with the protective glass folded down out of the way.

I was a bit cheeky and also managed to get myself inside the Madder Valley display where I bagged a few photos from angles you can't normally get to - a terrific way to appreciate the modelling and inspire me to get the cardboard out and have a go myself!

WTC Loco

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Wycrail 2019

Svanda diesel

In an effort to limit my cake intake, I decided that the number of slices consumed would be the same as the number of Norwiegen layouts found at Wycrail.

So that's two then. Who would have expected Norway to be so popular?

The show was great fun. OK, it was chucking it down and England were losing at Rugby, but I enjoyed myself because I travelled by train and then a vintage bus. Far nicer than fighting my way down the motorway in all that spray.

Brian Macdermott met me and we took a quick first look around the event. It's on two floors with plenty of space to move around. Then I took a cake (chocolate) break followed by a slower mooch.

Ealing prop

This wasn't a work trip, and yes it is sad that on a day off I end up at a model railway show, but then I still enjoy chatting to people such as Chris Ford (who hasn't posted the selfie yet), Jerry Freestone and the chaps from Missenden.  

One highlight was the tramway Upper Oreful Street, a rare beast as most tram layouts look, erm, old fashioned. Cracking shop window displays. It's the sort of tram layout I would build if I built a tramway layout. 

Another highlight was chatting to a model engineer about baking cakes and the merits of sponge while I consumed the second slice...

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Kitlands Light Railway

The video quality is terrible, but it's still worth a look as this must surely be the miniature railway with the tightest curves - 6ft radius. It's all completely mad, and would make a fun project in 1:12 scale...

(Thanks to Nigel Hill for spotting this one)

Friday, November 08, 2019

The Great British Model Railway Show this weekend

Today I'm busy packing up some models for display at the Great British Model Railway Show taking place at Gaydon this weekend.

I'll be bringing along most of the projects I've built for the Hornby Collectors Club magazine plus a few extras and will be hanging around with my modelling board to chat toy trains to anyone who'll listen.

Drop in and say hello - the GBMRS website is here.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Billy roundup in BRM

It's a quiet month for me in the December issue of BRM. My only contribution is a roundup of the Billy Bookcase project where I explain what went right, and what went wrong...

That's not to say that I've been entirely idle, a couple of other features owe a lot to me but it seems most of the fun has been had in the office this time with a Christmas layout being built. And me with an elf hat too!

There's a bit of discussion on this issue over on RMweb.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Waterborne Wednesday: Discovery Rose

Survey boat

The Discovery Rose, pictured in Cornwall, is a dredger according to the Marine Traffic website. I'm not convinced!

She is apparently 19 metres long, which looks about right, and IMHO would make a very nice model. There is deck detail but not too much so she'd be something you worried about carrying to the lakeside.

The thing that really interests me in this photo is the loading chute to the right hand side. I wonder how old that is and what it was used for?

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Motor in

Even I can't go wrong assembling a High-Level models gearbox. I soldered the main parts up OK. Put the bearing in. Cleaned it all up in the sink and then filed the top hast back flush with the gearbox sides - they won't fit in a OO chassis if you don't do this. You also need to shorten the shafts for the intermediate gears which is a bit more of a faff.

Incidentally, the rods can be cut with the piercing saw, you don't need a carbodium disk as the instructions say. I prefer then hand tool for this job. It seems more natural and controllable. That might just be me being weird though.

With all the gears in, a smear of superglue over the outside ends of the shafts holds them in place while the gearbox is inserted into the chassis. Just the final gear on the axle to line up.

At which point I realised I've put the intermediate gear on the wrong side of the upper one. After much muttering, I manage to extract the shaft and correct this. Pay attention Parker!

Anyway, back together and with a dot of superglue holding the brass final gear on the axle and all runs sweetly, even on H&M Clipper power. Driving the centre axle isn't what the chassis instructions suggest, they point you at the rear but then assume a compensated chassis, but I prefer it for a more balanced drive. You still can't see the drive system with the body on so that's OK then.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Wheels in the chassis

I love the Hobby Holidays chassis jig. The wheels were fitted to the chassis, rods fitted to the wheels, and it runs smoothly when pushed around first time. I can't remember the last time I was able to say that.

The only hiccup along the way was losing the little bits of insulation I use to hold the rods in place until I'm happy. I'll trade 5 minutes making some more of those for a working chassis any day.

I was so happy, I test fitted the chassis to the body. It's supposed to clip in at the back and be retained at the front by a single screw. Rice (who designed this chassis) recommends this in one of his books as it avoids twisting things, something you might get by overtightening a bolt at each end. It also makes removal quicker.

I needed to remove a plastic pin beside the front screw hole on the body, but once done, the chassis sits where it's supposed to.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Exeter Garden Rail show 2019


A slow start to this years Exeter show. For a start, England were beating the All Blacks at Rugby, and the wet and windy weather wasn't conducive to queuing in the car park. I left it ten minutes before joining. Thankfully, the door team were on fire and we allowed in quickly.

Inside there were plenty of layouts to watch, including a couple of small models that have inspired me a bit, and loads to buy. The second-hand stall was as full as ever but I decided that if I wandered around for a bit instead of joining the scrum, I'd see more. I was right. Mind you, cash was still spent later in the day!

I shot a bit of video showing a few trains running too.

Slow start or not, this was as ever, an excellent show. I chatted a lot, enjoyed a good lunch and left pretty much as chucking out time!

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Saturday Film Club: Kings Cross and Cameden town in the 1950s

Excellent filming and a fascinating subject, this look at the Kings Cross area appears to have been largely shot from the top of St Pancras station.

There's plenty of architecture action at the start. Loads for roof nerds to get excited about. Later on, we are on the platforms watching trains. It's all a world I never know and would love to have the chance to experience for a day, especially if I could taka modern camera!

Friday, November 01, 2019

Book Review: Plastikard Handbook

Dating from 1971, this 9th Edition of Slater's booklet on Plastikard is both instruction manual and catalogue. While the prices may be useless now, there's still a lot of helpful information in the 24-page pamphlet.

Despite being a veteran Plastikard wrangler, I learn:
  • Mek-Pak brushes are made from sable with a small amount of Ox Ear hair for strength. 
  • Plastikard can be rendered mouldable by heating it to at least 100 degrees C. There are instructions on forming tubes for boilers and press-moudling parts. 
  • Holding a lit cigarete next to a piece of Plastikard allows you to bend it around the corner of a piece of wood, forming a neat L-section. Burning a bit of string apparently works well too. 
  • Slater's "Huminitures" are recognised the world over as the standard of perfection (maybe it was 1971, or maybe just the same hyperbole found throughout the book).
  • Slater's make (or made) Green Flox (For Grass). This sounds like a flock powder but there was also a grass paper. 

There are mentions of other long lost products too. Plastic pipe fittings would be useful, as would the grid system of notched plastic square rods for making windows. I have some of this and it's fabulous.

Daft as it sounds, if you find one of these booklets on sale, it's well worth picking up for more than just curiosity value.