Friday, January 31, 2020

Win a HST!

Friday is usually retro models day on the blog. I've been asked to plug a competition for The Trainline for which one of the prizes is a pre-1984 Hornby HST, so here goes:

The competition has now closed.

All you do is enter your e-mail and name and the result will be pulled out of a virtual hat. Since they already have my e-mail address to send me railway related stuff, I'm not losing sleep about a bit more unsolicited mail if that's the point of all this. Stuff about trains would be more use then most of the SPAM I delete anyway.

So, please don't enter the competition as I'd like to win.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Layout building fun, "daring" moments and ballast in BRM

When I spotted the Hornby Family Fun Project at its launch last year, I knew that there was an interesting Phil Project in the box.

My plan was to take the basic model to the next level using more advanced scenic techniques than those in the instructions. After a bit of badgering, Hornby sent me a box of goodies and over the Christmas period, I got stuck in.

The result is everything I'd hoped for. It's still a train set, but a really pretty train set, Everything I've done could be applied to an existing FFP too, so if you've finished yours, I've provided a few ideas to keep the fun going.

Celebrating Hornby's 100th birthday, my contribution includes this:

Yes, it's the guts of a Turbo Car. Originally called "Hornby's Maddest Moments", the more sensible heads in the office decided that my review of the companies more innovative products over the years should be "Hornby's Most Daring Moments". Never mind, the point is that Hornby do surprise us with off-the-wall ideas and that's what I love about them. It's alsoi where I spend my money. Guess who's got a Rocket set on order?

My camera has been out again, this time snapping the extension to Campbell's Quarry. Adding a shed gives John space to display his growing collection of locomotives. Personally, I don't understand having more locos than your layout needs...

Finally, I'm a wizard on our DVD.

Not really, I'm just wielding a paintbrush to show you how to ballast track. Someone asked me to do this at a show, so here we are. Everyone needs to ballast track after all.

More RMweb.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Radium Yellowknife

Radium Yellow Knife

Spotted moored in Toronto, the tugboat Radium Yellowknife has an interesting history according to Wikipedia.

Built in a Southern Canada shipyard, she was dismantled and transported by rail to Vancouver for re-assembly. Basically, she was delivered as a great big boat kit! An interesting train to model too.

The Radium name is because she and her sisters worked out of Port Radium where they hauled, among other things, uranium for Manhatten Project.

At 40 metres in length, she's massive compared to most UK tugboats, but on the great lakes, you need something large for those long loads.

More photos of Radium Yellowknife at work.

Tracking details.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Bargain eye protection

When doing anything involving a cutting disk on camera, I feel I should say something about wearing eye protection. Those disks will shatter and fly off in all directions no matter how carefully you use them and while I've been lucky so far, a face full of cutting disk chunks isn't funny. 

As a glasses wearer, I'm a little more protected than someone with 20:20 vision, but even if I don't care about my health, it wouldn't be hard to scratch a lens requiring a pricey bill for a replacement. 

On camera, of course, I want to look good (!) so those rubbery goggles aren't going to cut it. No, I need something sleek and here we have the latest in fashionable eye protection - a pair of Overspecs from Screwfix


£1.39. Cheap enough I can afford to leave them lying around to get lost. Which is what happened to my last pair...

Monday, January 27, 2020

Cleaning track in a tunnel

A recent magazine project involved me building a layout with a tunnel. After construction had finished, the track needed a bit of a polish, but there was no chance of my hands fitting through the tunnel mouths.

The solution was to take a Double O Gauge Association track rubber and stick it in a long clamp used for model boat building. The resulting rubber on an arm was more than long enough to do the job.

In the past, I've glued one of these rubbers to a length of brass for working under the Hellingly Hospital Railway overhead wires. Needless to say, I can't find that device now...

Sunday, January 26, 2020

London Model Engineering Exhibition 2020

Alexandra Palace view from the organ

A lovely day to visit the big smoke for the first trip of the year to Ally Pally. The show seemed busy with visitors, but a little thinner on exhibits and trade this year. Looking around, I seemed to recognise several of the models from previous shows.

One or two looked distinctly dusty. I know it's a struggle to persuade model engineers to put their work on display, and so those putting the stands together tend to rely on the same old faces each time. If you are a model engineer and care about your hobby, maybe you need to consider putting something on show, just so the paying public doesn't think the hobby is grinding to a halt.

Big Jets

One change was the replacement of 3D flying in one corner of the hall with a static display of large scale model aircraft. There was some grumbling about it being a "health and safety" issue, but my guess is the worry was more about damaging the organ they flew beside. That said, the replacement was something new in the hall and could develop into a real crowd-pleaser. 

Still, and enjoyable event as it always is. There are more photos on Flickr. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Saturday Film Club: The Rocket

Stephenson's Rocket is an iconic locomotive, but possibly more revered than it deserves to be. The famous yellow livery didn't last long for a start. The yellow fades and as the NRM have found, the white chimney pretty quickly turns mucky.

It was an important part of a development process for steam. OK, the livery may have turned green and its cylinders were lowered to improve stability, but it was a basic blueprint. Very quickly though, the design was superseded and the loco relagated to minor duties.

Despite this, several replicas have been built and the film linked to above shows a 1929 version running. It's an early James Cameron production, although it would be a good few years before he made Titanic.

My finding this film came about by following discussions on the newly announced, and ordered by me, Hornby model on RMweb.

There have been loads of replicas, but another famous version is from the silent film Our Hospitality.

This is an amazing sequence and I'm wondering how it was done. According to Wikipedia, the loco is fully working, but I'd suggest the lack of steam from the cylinders makes that untrue. I doubt a loco powered through those big wheels would be able to bump over some of the obstacles encountered either!

So, how was this done? I'm sure I've read details, but for the life of me, I can't remember them. Looking online and in a couple of books doesn't help either.

One thing I'm sure of is that I can lay track better than that!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Faller Hit Train

The Faller Hit Train from the 1970s has been on my wishlist for around ten years judging from this post. A combination of utterly mad design and O gauge track appeals to me - more so since I got back into garden railways properly.

Prices have always been a touch higher than I've wanted to pay. If I were serious, I'd pony up, but I'm not that serious at the moment. However, a chance find on eBay of a set on the cheap means I now have a set to play with.

Sadly, it's the steam loco rather than the completely mad electric loco, and even this is missing its chimney, but at least I can have a proper look.

After a bit of contact cleaning, the loco works. It's fast needs the traction tyres on the powered wheels to pull anything, but that's to be expected. This is a toy after all.

The rolling stock is nice. I like the printed cardboard passengers in the coach.

I'm still confused as to how all this came about, but then I never understood those slightly mad cartoons made in Europe that infested children's telly when I was a kid either.

The track is nice and sturdy. Ideal for a temporary garden railway. The points look better than the Tri-ang "Big-Big" versions. It also seems to command proper money. A shame because it would be ideal for my one-day layout at the 16mm AGM.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A challenge in the Hornby Collectors Club magazine

If you visited the Hornby Collectors Club show at Gaydon last year, you could pick up a goodie back containing a Hornby mug and a wagon. I grabbed mine and used it as the material for a challenge in the latest HCC magazine.

The wagon is a long-wheelbase open and if I'm honest, not one of the firms best. Stretched to fit a guards van chassis, it's a bit weird, but that didn't put me off. I've turned it into an internal user wagon with a few bits from ScaleModelScenery.

Talking of the HCC magazine, because I write for this, I get an appearance in the latest Hornby catalogue.

Since this is the 100th birthday catalogue, this is a big deal. On the page advertising the collectors club, you can see my "When Hornby did sci-fi" article poking out. You can even see my name - fame indeed!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Welsh fishing boat

Fishing boat

A nice simple fishing boat photographed in Aberystwith harbour. 

Not a big boat and the net handling gear at the stern is pretty simple, and therefore easy to model. The deck is full of nets and rope. It's not even that dirty, so a prototype to look to if you don't like grubby models. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Finishing touches

After the brickwork is dry, it's time for some finishing touches for the hut. Windows and doors are painted. Glazing is carried out using Deluxe Materials Glue'n'Glaze. Guttering goes on (and looking at the photo I've just spotted the downpipe needs bending back. No idea how that happened) after painting. 

I've used dull colours - Humbrol 147 pale grey for the white and Revel 8 for the black bits. Neither is a pure colour and looking all the better for it. 

The roof is Humbrol 67 (Tank grey, not 69, yellow, as an earlier version of this post said) dry-brushed while tacky with 66 and then a good dusting of talcum powder. Hardly any work but the effect is very good. I'm not a fan of picking out dozens of slates - you need to seriously blend things afterwards if the colour isn't to look forced. 

Anyway, the hut is (for the moment) done. I hope Pete would approve of it. One day I'll build a layout for it to call home. When I do, there will be weathering and perhaps some interior work but that's for another day. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Paint or pencil?

Normally I like to colour bricks with pencil crayons, but for this model, I've gone for dry-brushed paint.

I'm not really sure why. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

The work is pretty simple - dry-brush Humbrol 70 everywhere followed by some other random browns that aren't very different shades. Work quickly so the paints blend on the model and hope that not too much finds its way into the mortar lines.

One advantage of paint is it's easier to do the whitemetal chimney pot in a matching colour. I've never had real success with pencils here, but chimneys should be nice and sooty, so no-one ever notices.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Chiltern Model Rail Show 2020

Meeting on the creek

Sunny Stevenage for Sunday and a feast of quality layouts to enjoy. There were too many to list but a couple really stuck in my mind.

Above you see the Orange River and Portland railway in Fn3 (Finescale G gauge). It's a massive layout hat really makes use of the larger scale to provide some amazing scenic detail. The team behind the model (the Hallellujah Players) have basically done everything you would in a small scale, but big. Everything is weathered, buildings and much of the rolling stock is scratchbuilt.

Nonsuch brick train

The other model that really stood out is Nonsuch. Regular readers will know I like the unusual and in a world where steampunk is now considered run-of-the-mill, it's time to push the boundaries a bit further with a layout populated by mice.

On the face of it, this sounds like a terrible idea, but in Derek Reevse's hands, the quality of the modelling makes it all work. I've seen this sort of thing where the builder has come up with an interesting idea and then executed it badly. Not here. All the modelling is top-notch and there are well-designed animations. It's a crowd-pleaser all right, but most of those who will pooh-pooh it wouldn't be able to put buildings together as well as this.

Trade was good with anything I couldn't find probably not available. The second-hand stall relieved me of a few quid too.

Cakes were excellent although you needed to get in quick for chocolate orange flapjack at the centre's cafe as there were only a couple of slices left after I bagged mine before entry.

Inside the hall, the tea bar was well stocked with very appealing doughnuts but I skipped those as one cake is plenty, or at least that's what I tell myself!

Anyway, the photo collection is one of the largest for a long while thanks to the quality of displays. You can see it on Flickr.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Saturday Film Club: A ride on a Lego railway

Back in July 2018, we featured an amazing Swiss garden railway built by Varda Elentári Furre in Garden Rail

The line lives outside all year round and makes the best of some stunning scenery, and the legendary plastic bricks. 

So, sit back to enjoy a ride along the line and back.

Friday, January 17, 2020

MARS Propellorfahrzeug

LGB Flyer

Since Hornby has yet again failed to re-introduce the Battle Space Turbo car, I'll have to go for the next best thing - the LGB MARS Propellorfahrzeug.

I really don't know what posses the giant German train maker to produce something like this, but I'm glad they did. I'm even happier I could pick up this tidy second-hand version in a model shop near the Severn Valley Railway.
LGB Flyer

How does it work? 

Easy, you give it electric juice, the fan rotates and thanks to Newton's Third Law, the model moves forward. Even on a two-foot length of track, it picks up a respectable bit of speed. I can't wait to try it in the garden! 

Braking simply involves throwing the motor into reverse and since the model isn't that heavy, speed falls off nicely. Hopefully, before the model falls off at the corners. 

Obviously, boring modern health and safety rules mean the propeller is shrouded in plastic, but it doesn't seem to affect the propulsion in any way so I don't care. I love the look, I love the madness.

Don't worry, once I get this thing running outside, I will bring you a video.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Garden Rail February 2020

We've a bit of a wagon theme going on this month with some Wood Valley Works models, an amazing build of a Bole Lasercraft model in 7/8" and even I get in on the act with a 16mm scale kit from Slater's. 

Building a brewery from foamboard gets space on the cover as it both looks amazing and seems to be pretty easy to do. At least Rik makes it appear so, and that will hopefully persuade a few people to give it a go. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: 1965 Amphicar


Is it a car?

Is it a boat?

Nope. This is an Amphicar.


An amazing vehicle was produced in America between 1960 and 1963, but assembled from stockpiled parts until 1968. In total 3,878 car/boats were built, 99 of them converted to right-hand drive. 

Notoriously, the vehicle wasn't really very good on the road or water, but the film I've seen of them looks OK, if a little slow. No matter, a serious classic, if you find one in any condition it's going to be worth a pile of cash. And yes, I'd love one. 

The only model I know of was scratch built by a guy at our boat club and really looks the part. I've often wondered why we've never seen a kit of an Amphicar, surely it would sell? Even a 1/32 plastic model would be a bit of fun. 

This example is in the Manx motor museum and looks both roadworthy and seaworthy, although I thing "river" or "still pond" worthy would be more appropriate as I wouldn't want to get out on a choppy ocean in one. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Sticking the walls together

A real expert would spend hours carefully honing the chamfers in the corners of this kit. I am not an expert, I just trim them so the outside corner is OK and then glue things together using Pound shop epoxy resin that fills up the gaps. Buying the cheap stuff means you can slosh it on and it's plenty good enough for this job. 

The outside corners aren't perfect of course, but a bit of Deluxe Materials Perfect Plastic Putty soon sorts that out. Once dry, because I want to do this properly as a tribute to Peter, I cut each brick course with a thin saw. Yet again, I'm glad this isn't a warehouse...

The roof is joined with superglue and then braced with more epoxy. I'm keeping it lose as I have an idea that some furniture would be nice inside and since I don't have any suitable kits, or a desire to scratchbuild, I'll fix it on properly later. 

One area to be careful with is fitting the chimney. This needs to be slightly inboard as the roof extends beyond the walls slightly, and the stack should be on top of the bricks, not fresh air.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Pete's hut

My friend, Pete Blakeman, passed away recently. He had been ill for some time and so disposed of his unbuilt kit collection. Mostly 7mm scale, it's not my main interest, but I bought a cheap Skytrex weighbridge hut with an idea it might be fun to build as a future project. At Pete's funeral, I decided the time had come to get on with it. Funerals focus the mind a bit...

Anyway, the kit is mainly cast resin sides with some whitemetal detailing.

A little cleaning up is required. Chamfers on the ends need treating with either coarse file or some abrasive sticks. The windows have their flash removed with a sharp knife. It's a lot cleaner than abrasive which produces dust that I'm told is bad for you. After a couple of windows, it's very quick and easy too. A little carving, a little scrapeing and the job is soon done. Mind you, it's hut not a warehouse!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Scoutrail 2020


Time to get back on the exhibition trail and one of the first of the year is worth the trip, because of the cake. 

Scoutrail is a local show for Kidlington and as you might expect, raises money for the local scouts. It's been running for many, many years, 36 according to the programme. I remember exhibiting there at least 20 years ago. 

Anyway, the show seems to centre on a large live steam 16mm scale layout opposite a table full of G scale circuits. The rest of the space is filled with a variety of smaller scale models.

Type 25 at the level crossing

I think it's fair to say that this wasn't a vintage Scoutrail but I liked some of the scenic work on the OO gauge Morwellham and micro Kinross. Local shows sometimes have to take what they can get as far as layouts go. Sometimes you have an exhibitor trying a new model that will blaze a trail, sometimes just some people who are simply enjoying their hobby without any pretentions to Pendon.

Never mind, there was chat with several people and some cracking cake. I picked up a couple of interesting bits from the trade and generally had a pleasant time. Maybe it wasn't full of the greatest modelling in the world, but sometimes I just want to go to a show and have a nice time. Everyone else seemed to be doing the same, so that sounds like a good show to me.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Saturday Film Club: MER 1993

It's a new year, so let's go back in time to 1993. September of that year saw the Max Electric Railway's centenary, and a few months earlier, the first visit of Parker's senior and junior. 

The place hasn't changed that much, but some of the cars parked beside the road will now be considered classics - which makes me feel sooooo old.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Scale Model Equipment Co. signal

Another mystery for you today. I found this for 3 quid in the bargain bins at a show. It was bagged and boxed, but I was willing to pay the money simply to have a proper look at the thing.

Ostensibly scale, from base to the top of the post it's 5cm tall, which seems a bit short to me.

The arm is operated by a solenoid in the silver base which shoves a pin up to move the counterweight. This is working, returning the arm to danger when the pin drops. It still works when fed 16V AC from an H&M Duette.

The company, Scale Model Equipment, still exist. Set up in 1946 to manufacture models (the logo includes a train, but the one on the website is a car), in the 1950s they moved on to make arms for record players. A few years ago, they developed again to concentrate on " premium high quality precision engineered components"

An interesting model, does anyone remember other items in the range?  

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Post 5000!

Today marks the 5000th post on this blog. It's taken just over 14 years to get here - although moving a post-a-day speeded things up a little.

Since 2005 I've been busy documenting the projects that have passed over my workbench. In the process, I've improved my writing and developed the ability to pull ideas out of the thin air, for projects and more importantly, for things to write. As a method of exercising your creative mental muscles, blogging can't be beaten.

OK, I know this stuff isn't perfect. There are typos but hopefully no-one minds too much. If they do, they've stormed off to one of those blogs where endless discussions of the role semi-colons play can be found.

Anyway, this calls for cake.

Post 5000 also sees the completion of the J72 project.

Finished J72

It's a pretty typical blog project - pointless (the new Bachmann model is better) but I enjoyed it, and since this is my blog, that's all that matters.

Finished J72

While I've been writing this blog, the world has gradually changed. Flickr hosting now chucks stuff up on images when you roll over them, so many of the pictures her now live in Blogger. Flickr shots are clickable for a larger version.

Blogger is changing too, but not very much and I don't think there will be anything visible to the reader. Behind the scenes, Google is putting a bit of effort in. I'm not worried - leave it alone and I'm more than happy. OK, it's not as slick as Wordpress, but it is free and being able to fiddle under the bonnet appeals to me.

Anyway, all being well, tomorrow will see post 5001 appear and I'll start working towards the next milestone. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Canal boats and crane

Canal boats at Hillmorton

At the end of the year, I needed and urgent top-up of my modelling supplies. A trip to Tony's Trains was called for so I made an early start.

With a few minutes to kill before opening time, I wandered around the lock complex the shop is based in at Hillmorton and couldn't resist this scene. The boats are nice, but the crane is a bit special. I'm sure it would be a useful prototype for anyone needing some scale lifting gear.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

There's no floor in this plan...

Not a great photo but it was hard enough persuading these ModelU figures to hang on the inside of the J72 cab without worrying about producing something photogenic.

As it was I wasn't going to flatten the side of the figures to provide plenty of area for the glue as that might have them sticking out of the side too far. If they can't get their feet close to the side then that's how it is.

After a bit of messing around with superglue, I used UHU to tack them in place. It's bulky enough to fill any gaps. Then a load of epoxy to ensure they stay put once the floor is inb and re-fixing an errant figure becomes next to impossible.

The figures fill the holes nicely and look natural, which of course they are. I particularly like the fireman looking backwards with a rag in his hand. It's the sort of view you see in old photos.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Four non-blondes

What's up? Well, I've painted a set of figures for the J72. Yes I know there are four of them, but I want to pick the ones that fit best, and then there is another project waiting in the wings which needs crew.

I'm aiming to have the footplate manned by people hanging out of the side so you can't see the lack of detail within the cab itself. In this respect, ModelU figures are perfect as Alan seems to have produced an awful lot of lounging types. Since many of these are real railwaymen, I wonder what that says?

Sunday, January 05, 2020

The only good use for a co-ax plug

As is traditional, I bought the special double-issue of the Radio Times. The one that covers Christmas and New Year. While not a massive TV watcher, it's useful to see if there is anything worth a look. This year we were treated to Love Actually pretty much every day (saw it for the first time, not impressed) and Rogue One about as often (finally saw the ending I missed when I had to leave the cinema early, and now I wish I hadn't.

To be honest, it was a waste of money. Not because the contents weren't any good, but because most of the TVs in our house lost signal.

Our aerial drops down from the roof and follows a convoluted path to three different sets. Along the way there is a splitter/booster box, a couple of other splitters and a through connector.

The main booster box which had worked fine for year was disturbed. Suddenly, no signal.

I reseated the connectors (that's IT Helpdesk speak for unplugging and plugging in again) which helped a bit, but then it didn't. Christmas has been a round of fiddling with the aerial cables, mostly to no effect. The splitter/booster has been replaced and that sorted a couple of sets for about a day.

The problem is that digital TV signals are weak, and the standard connectors are co-ax which are, to put it bluntly, rubbish. They don't hold securely, are a pain to assemble and generally are useless. Quite why we can't have something involving screws I don't know. It's not like anyone needs to plug and unplug the things regularly.

Anyway, the only good use for a co-ax plug is the microphone in FAB1. Even Thunderbirds kept changing it as I'm sure it was a co-ax in the series and certainly when I saw the large scale model. Other shots show slightly different plugs in use, maybe someone nicked it to try to make their telly work.

Update: The excellent Andy Fearnley came and replaced the TV aerial which had been rotted by exposure to the soot from our coal fire. He also brought his mega tester to the job and checked the signal at each TV, resulting in the removal of a couple of connections and the booster which seemed to amplify the noise as well as signal. All is now working. 

He also mentioned F-type connections which do screw in, and feels the same as I do about standard co-ax. 

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Hodbarrow Hematite Mine

A couple of minutes from the 1960s showing operations at Hodbarrow mine. Some interesting pointwork and the chance to see a real industrial locomotive at work.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Parabellum model shop

A shop to be placed firmly in the "how the heck did I not know about this place" tray.

Based in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, Parabellum has been open for 21 years. OK, it's only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but only a minutes walk from the station, I must have passed it on a previous visit.

Anyway, you enter and this is what you find:

A lot of plastic kits. Stacked on shelves floor to ceiling. All subjects, scales and manufacturers. Nothing railway, unless you could 1:32 static models of German military trains, but pretty much everything else.

There's also paint - Humbrol, Game, Xtracrylix, Tamiya and Vallejo, tools, plastics, glues, detailing stuff. You have to dig a bit, but then that's very much my sort of shop.

The owner is knowledgeable and happy to chat about modelling. I guess you don't keep a shop open for over 2 decades if all you do is grunt at customers and can't put your hand on a specific kit when they ask for it.

Well worth a look for any modeller, even if you don't think you like plastic kits, the chances are there will be something to tempt you!

Visit the Parabellum website