Saturday, February 29, 2020

Saturday Film Club: The Dinky Toys Story

We all played with toy cars as kids and there is no more iconic brand for your British child of a certain age than Dinky. 

This documentary is interesting as it shows part way through some typical British industry failings - Dinkly toys look very dated compared to that new upstart Corgi, because they didn't see the need to invest at the time. Something that, as I recall, afflicted the motor industry too...

Friday, February 28, 2020

Tri-ang Transcontinental shunter refurbishment

A fiver? Of course I need a yellow Tri-ang shunter to add to my collection.

OK, there is a black dock shunter already in there but I didn't have the yellow version for shunting Giraffe Cars.

It's a clever model. The freelance body fits on a motor bogie used elsewhere in the range. The only addition is a light. Even the rear coupling fits on the body so the moulds for the motor bogie didn't need to be altered.

My model worked perfectly on Code 100 track but the knurled wheels aren't Code 75 friendly. I've oiled the bearings and cleaned the commutator with an evil fibre pen, but these things are bomb-proof so it's no surprise there.

After a bit of pondering, the body responded well to a scrub in the sink with warm soapy water. It looked quite nicely weathered and once you've cleaned it you can't go back. In the end though, this a toy and I felt it would prefer to be shiny as a new button.

The roof was looking a bit tired. I masked it with tape and kitchen foil before spraying with Halfords matt black. I tried satin, but the result was too shiny to my eyes.

Job done, a nice little shunter for the collection. It's probably worth a lot more than I paid for it now, but that's not the point. I have an attractive model for a bargain price.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

On the trail of Thomas in the latest BRM

Thomas the Tank is 75 this year and we're celebrating this in the latest issue of BRM. I've reported from the London Toy Fair covering all the announcements made there, but especially Bachmann's new range of models from the TV series now they have taken over the license from Hornby.

To tie in with this, I took a trip to the Talyllyn railway where they have re-assembled the Rev. Awdry's study.

It's amazing to sit at the desk and fiddle with the typewriter used for such famous books. The series has a lot of history and in my article, I've done my best to piece it all together in a sensible length. I didn't know there were three goes at bringing Thomas to TV for a start!

I've not just visited the museum, no, I went to see the vicarage at Emneth where the last 13 of the original books were written, and digital readers get to see this.

This issue has a London theme and as part of this, I built a London Underground battery powered locomotive.

This is a Radley Models kit with a rather nice resin body and usefully heavy whitemetal chassis. The result is certainly different from anything I've built before. I think it looks great and isn't too difficult to build.

My camera has been out and pointed at Lighterman's Yard.

This N gauge model really gets the atmosphere of London docks. It's full of detail and I spent as much time shooting this as the trains themselves. I'd not seen this layout before when it appeared at Ally Pally last year. Apparently, it doesn't go "north of the river" very often, and I'm rarely south of the Thames.

We're still in London on the DVD. I'm making a classic taxi driver shelter.

Wills plastic kit isn't too tricky to build, but there aren't any windows provided so I've deployed a trick that dates from the 1950s to add glazing bars easily. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday - VIC 27

Vital spark

From 2005, this photo shows VIC 27 in the guise of the Vital Spark languishing at Ardrishag. It sat there for many years after use in the BBC Para Handy TV series. 

Puffers are the perfect prototype for railway modellers. At 60ft long, they fit into the sort of areas most of us have on our layouts - most other vessels being far too large.They also enjoyed a very long life from the end of the 19th Century with the last commercial boat calling it a day in the 1980s. 

Victualling Inshore Craft (VIC) were built during the war based on Puffer designs to service warships that couldn't berth. The design being a small ship with a large hold and a derrek for unloading proved to be perfect and over 100 were built. 

The good news is that VIC 27 is now being restored. You can read more on their website. 

Years ago, I compiled a list of Puffer models. It's a bit out of date, but have a look.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Modelling glasses

Last week, I spent quite a bit of time at the workbench for a magazine project. It made me realise just how often I change my glasses.

I have three pairs:
  • Normal everyday ones. 
  • "Reading" glasses for closeup work. It distresses me slightly to realise how often I need to wear these as I get older. 
  • An old pair to wear when spray painting. Any floating vapour can sit on their plastic lenses where if it etches the surface, I'm not so worried. If I bend them taking the mask on and off (yes, I know, take the glasses off first you idiot) then it's not the end of the world either. 

Is this normal? Plenty of people have reading glasses I suppose but does anyone else have a selection for other purposes? What about model engioneering types driving small steam locomotive and getting faces full of soot?

Monday, February 24, 2020

The most dangerous tool in my box - apparently

Occasionally, I get a bit of feedback on the pieces I've written or filmed. Most of the time it's positive but occasionally, you get odd stuff. 

Recently, someone took me to task in an unsigned letter for using a fibre pen on the commutator of a Tri-and motor. 


And so it goes on. I think the writer is telling me the fibre pen I use to clean the muck off a commutator is going to damage it. I've heard the same excuse for not using one on the wheels of a loco. Apparently, you can wear out the metal. 

Fibre pens were originally used by draughtsmen to erase lines from the draughting film they drew on. The mild abrasive burnished away the ink. Draughting film isn't as tough as metal. This is important. 

It is true that you can burnish right through materials with one. I use it on wagon sides to create worn paintwork. A few moments work can wear away the lettering on a PO wagon very effectively. However, paint isn't as tough as metal. 

On loco wheels, I like to spin them under power and hold the fibres on the treads. These quickly polish up to a bright shine. If you really, really want to, I suppose it would be possible to wear the metal away, but you'd need to hold the thing against the metal for a very, very, very long time. Used correctly, you'll lift the dirt into the bristles, which will wear away much faster than the metal they are held against. 

The same thing with a commutator, at least the sort you find in a Tri-ang XO4 motor. We're not talking a delicate can motor, but a properly chunky, designed to be stripped and maintained device. Cleaning them with a fibre pen will remove the carbon buildups and unless you are completely ham-fisted, you'll be fine. After all, I've read suggestions that you use emery paper in there and even I'd not recommend that!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Mission Control

Welcome to the L&WMRS clubrooms on a typical Thursday night.

Hold on. Sorry, that's a photo of Mission Control during the moon landings. This is the photo from Thursday.

Loads more computing power! The laptop, smartphone, Arduino and Rasberry Pi in the photo all have more computational grunt than NASA could muster to send a man to the moon.

Looking at this, it struck me just what a hi-tech hobby we are. In the clubrooms were two more laptops, two old desktop PCs. mountains of DCC controllers and at least 30 smartphones. OK, the latter aren't used for model trains, except as controllers in the photos, but they are used for research.

Seeing a laptop plugged into a layout isn't that uncommon now. We've several layouts that make use of the MERG CBus system and this needs tuning before you run the model.

Even a Luddite like me has a grasp of some of this technology, but it amazes me just how modellers have kept up with the times.

I watch Star Trek and wonder how the captain manages to diagnose problems with what I'd assume to be very complex parts of the space ship, but then is this so different from working out why your DCC controller is making that screeching sound? You need to understand the basic principles of the system and work on from there.

If you'd shown a 14-year-old me the sort of things we'd be doing now I'd be wide-eyed in amazement. I remember a story in Railway Modeller where they drove locos from replica cabs with cameras in the models. At the time it looked far-fetched but now is commonplace. Except for the cab bit.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Carboard train

It's a train made of cardboard, made by someone called Creative Phil who makes great use of the stuff for some amazing creations!

Friday, February 21, 2020

E-R Models Monorail

Bargain of Doncaster show for me was this E-R Models HO scale monorail.

The 39cm long train comes with an oval of track plus the supports, clips to hold the rails together really strongly and some other bits I can't identify - probably because there are no instructions in the box.

Never mind, a quick track and pickup clean and a dose of 9V from a battery sees the model trundle along the straight lengths of track.

According to the web, this is a model of the Sydney monorail and it certainly looks like it. I missed riding on this by a couple of years, much to my annoyance but at least I can enjoy it in miniature.

Looking underneath, the wheels look just like normal HO ones, but with the flanges on the outside. The powered wheels both have traction tyres, pickup being from long metal strips rubbing on the rails.

My first impressions were that this is a bit of a toy, but it's pretty accurate, at least in looks. As the basis for a more detailed model, I can see it has loads of potential. Maybe I'll build that futuristic model railway I've often wondered about after all. Making my own track shouldn't be too hard, and watching the second-hand market might produce more sensibly priced trains.

And now the obligatory clip from the Simpsons:

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Splat

When I'm taking photos and people are watching, the question I'm asked the most is "What's that blue tripod thing?"

An invaluable part of my kit, the Miggo Splat is a flexible set of legs that can be bent to shape to suit the job in hand. I bought it to replace a Gorillapod as I was wearing these out in 6 months. I hadn't intended to go Splat, but the camera shop I visited had one, I like it and have never changed my opinion.

The device has enjoyed at least 3 years use now and is still as good as new. Its flexibility is incredibly handy as you can see from this shot by John Gray of me photographing his layout Byway MPD last weekend.

Each rubber-coated metal leg is 16cm long, measured from the centre and the thing can be flattened for transporting a bag or tucked into your back pocket when working. I suspect that while you could hang a DSLR on the top (I have) the centre of gravity would demand a little more thinking than with a compact. Not much though.


You can buy a Splat from Amazon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Woolwich Ferry

Woolwich Ferry - Ernest Bevin

In London, we used to find the Ernest Bevin, one of the Woolwich ferries. Pensioned off last year, I managed to take a trip towards the end of their working lives.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The least posh of modelling materials

Yesterday I showed you my mock-up building for BRM's Runcorn Salt Works project, which prompted the comment "Better start hoarding cereal packets - something tells me that their days are numbered..."

I thought everyone already hoarded cereal packets? 

I've a stash of this useful cardboard stuck behind some drawers and every so often it has to be replenished because I've hacked through a few boxes for some project or other.

One thing I have found is that all cereal boxes are not the same. The big Kellogg's cornflake ones are especially handy. One was just big enough for my mockup building.

Big-name cereals seem to come in better boxes too. The Weetabix Crunchy Bran is delicious and housed in really top-quality cardboard. I'd happily use this for real modelling as it's especially stout.

Does anyone else have a favourite to be saved from the breakfast table?

Monday, February 17, 2020

Late night measuring

Given the job of building one of the main buildings on the BRM Runcorn Salt layout, I decided I better make a mock-up. The trouble was, all I had to work on were some photos and no measurements whatsoever. The one I'm working on is the brick building on the left of this photo.

The prototype uses pre-fab modules for the main walls, so all I had to do was find a similar building and take some measurements. Now, these places have often been replaced, but one local to me is Shire Hall, home of Warwickshire County Council.

Measuring a building looks a bit suspicious, so I decided that nipping over in the evening, once most of the occupants had gone home, would be less likely to see me on the end of odd stares. So, at 7pm, I parked up and after 15 minutes with a tape measure, I had all the numbers I needed.

From these, I was able to draw out a single unit and then multiply this to give me an idea of the size my model needed to be. Then it was out with the cereal packets and the rest can be seen in this video, along with some ideas for the next steps.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Doncaster 2020

Argo Tranacord

Doncaster, or as I'm supposed to call it, The Festival of British Railway Modelling (I did suggest DonkRail would be snapper but was met with a cold, hard stare) was busy. Saturday was extremely busy, and Sunday pretty good. We'd been worried that people scared of the weather had transferred their affections to the first day, but it didn't seem so. 

Not being tied to an exhibit, I was down for a couple of layout shoots, some on-line content and helping out the video team. And chatting. Lots and lots of chatting.

As you may recall, I love chatting to people and it's very interesting to get a bit of feedback on my work in the magazine. It seems tiny layouts are very much on vogue with my recent box-sized project going down well. This was confirmed by the owner of the excellent 009 layout "First" who it seems has inspired many people over to two day to give modelling a go simply because of someone showing them a working layout. 

Layout quality was as high as you'll find anywhere and while the shows tend to be heavier with trade than many, there was much to grab people, or at least for them to grab followed by some credit card wielding. I managed to buy a train set which I'll bring you later...

Cake supplies were rubbish, but there was some chocolate covered Turkish delight instead of my usual 4-finger KitKat sustenance, it seems you can't buy these 'op North. Not in the garages I visited anyway. 

Unusually for me, I left a bit early on Sunday. With 500+ photos to pull off the cameras and a trip to Cardiff on Monday, I didn't want to be too late back. As it was, I really enjoyed the show. If you stopped by for a chat, thanks very much, it was great to see you. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Bristol Harbour Railway 1991

A nice trip on an enthusiasts train around the Bristol Harbour Railway nearly 30 years ago. Film quality isn't bad, but it's worth a look nonetheless. 

I wonder about modelling a train like this. We are talking about some benches in a nice, clean PO wagon and a few people. I've not seen it done before...

Friday, February 14, 2020

R528 Operating Tipper Set

The Hornby operating tipper set is an interesting accessory. My best guess for its launch would be the late 1980s as I seem to remember it appearing in Scale Trains magazine. The set is often paired, including by Hornby, with the R515 operating conveyer belt. 

In operation, a locomotive pushes the wagon up the incline and on to the tipper. Once uncoupled, a catch unlocks the wagon end door and it is tipped to drop the load. When used with the conveyer, the load normally falls in this to be lifted into the back of another wagon, which is in turn unloaded on the tipper in a never-ending sequence.

I'm not convinced by the operation. You have to uncouple the wagon so it can be lifted, but this has to take place just before it's on the tipper. BUT the wagon then has to be pushed hard against the stop to release the catch. I suspect for most people this requires a bit of "hand of God" action. 

My set cost less than many RTR wagons and seems pretty complete, although the box is a bit faded.  I didn't worry about wiring up the switch for testing, just using a 9V battery. As far as I can tell, the motor is on or off raising and then lowering the tipper bridge. I reversed the polarity but don't think I needed to. 

One fun feature is the load. According to the box phot, this looks like coal or slate. In mine, where it was sealed in a bag, it's transparent balls. No idea what they are supposed to represent, a bulk order for fortune-tellers perhaps?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Garden Rail March 2020, the one from down under.

This month's Garden Rail takes a tour of New Zealand garden railways, climbs every mountain with LGB, takes control on the cheap, build a BEV, scratchbuilds a GVT coach and gets very dirty with a Bagnall.

Full contents listing on RMweb.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Pipe bridge

Pipe bridge

Spotted while walking along the canal in one of the less attractive parts of Stratford-on-Avon, there is a narrowboat in the background of this photo, but I thought the combination of the railway bridge and pipe bridge were interesting and very modelable. 

The headroom under the pair isn't particularly good, I'd say just under 6 feet, judging by how much I had to duck.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Gluing Plastikard to MDF

Just as I found with etched brass to plywood, UHU Power works very well. I've always been wary of using solvent-based glue under plastic but this stuff can be spread thinly, left for a couple of minutes to go tacky and then the sheet applied. So far, there have been no ill effects.

You'll have noticed that the bricks are dry-brush painted rather than pencil crayoned. I find this works better here as you can get in the sides around the windows and doors. As I found out when building Harper's Yard, you can't put Plastikard here, it's too thick. So paint it is.

On the roof, I've used some ScaleModelScenery slates. Draw lines 5mm apart on the roof to allow for the overlap and they are easy to line up. You are on your own staggering the joins, but it's not that hard.

The only addition I made to the kit is some cills below the windows which I feel makes the model look more finished. It's a nice easy to assemble kit and as with the rest of the range, looks the part. The hard bit, designing a convincing building, is done for you. The modeller just has to stick the bits together and personalise it to suit themselves. 7 quid well spent.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Building Parker's Lock Up

Apparently, this kit from Petite Properties is named after me, or at least I asked: "Is this named after me?"
"Are you going to buy one?"
"Well, then it is."

OK, not that convincing, but no matter, I was always going to buy and build one.

Like all Petite kits, it's a cheap bag of nicely cut MDF and card parts. Surface decoration is left to the builder which is either a nuisance or opportunity, depending on your approach to modelling. For me, it's the latter.

Looking at the design, it's a good idea to fit all the doors and windows before fixing the front to the back. I decided to use brick Plastikard as I want to use it for contrast in a future video.

The sheet is stuck to the front and once dry, all the windows and doors are carefully cut out. The cardboard doors are painted and fixed behind, as are the printed clear plastic windows. 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Stafford 2020

Canalside Ironworks loco

Stafford show dawned bright and clear. No snow on the ground this year. Arriving on the first vintage bus from the station, I munched a sausage sandwich before opening in preference to standing around in the queue.

I had a shopping list to fulfil so after a very successful trip tot he second-hand stall (more of that in the future) I did my best to stock up for future work projects. There was no problem there, the trade is excellent.

Shopping finished, I'd taken in a few layouts but after lunch decided to wander over to the engineering society railway in the corner of the site for a bit of fresh air.

Scratchbuilt French military train

The smell of a working 7 1/4 steam loco is wonderful, but the sight of a 16mm scale, scratchbuilt French military loco and train even better. I had a chat to the builder and am hoping to get something on his work for future issues of Garden Rail.

Back in with the small stuff, I pointed the camera through the crowds to snap a few layouts. I'm pleased to say that the place was busy even at 3:30 when I left.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Off to the Talyllyn

Someone has been digging through the Pathe archives and posting links to the Facebook NG enthusiasts group recently. Since I've just been for a trip to the TR, I was quite taken with this short film. 

Why don't enthusiasts dress like this nowadays?

Friday, February 07, 2020

Doncaster weekend

It's The Festival of British Railway Modelling this weekend so I'm heading north to sunny Doncaster for a couple of days.

As I'm not tied up behind a layout, my plans involved taking a lot of photos and working with our video team on Sunday to record for future BRM DVD's.

If you spot me wandering around, please grab me for a chat. I'm always interested to talk toy trains with both magazine and blog readers.

Layout and trade details on the website.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

The case for partworks

My dad is working on a model of HMS Hood using the Hachette partwork. So far the hull is built and he's on to the superstructure. On the bench at the moment are some guns. Each is a masterpiece of plastic and etched brass with over 20 components, all of which fit on a £1 coin.

The photo is a bit cruel to his assembly, but he isn't confident with etched brass and is 77 years old. Working with very fiddly parts, most of which haven't disappeared into the carpet, his results aren't bad. Remember they will part of a 4ft long boat that will be sailing on a pond. You are hardly going to see these things at all, but they are still well detailed.

I suspect a similar kit with everything in a box would use lumps of whitemetal - adequate but not nearly as good close up. While this might be a pricey way of building a boat, it's possible to build a very detailed model.

The most important thing though is that he's plugging away and enjoying it. Every issue completed gives a sense of achievement. Despite being a model-maker all his life, there's no way he'd have tackled a complex project like this any other way.

Modellers on forums are very dismissive of part-works, but get a good one and they can be fun.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: HMS Dragon

HMS Dragon

Spotted a few years ago on a tour of Portsmouth harbour, I couldn't resist taking this photo of HMS Dragon even though I'm not really into grey boats. 

I won't pretend to have loads of prototype detail - but you can go and look at the website

The modern navy does make life easier for modellers. Hardly any fiddly details to be found on this ship. Much easier to make. I wonder if they were bribed by Airfix?

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Gluing brass to wood

My dad is hard at work building the Hachette Hood partwork. There's an awful lot of really nice etched brass to cover the superstructure but the instructions are a bit light on suggestions for the best adhesive to use.

We've been trying a few tests with various glues using offcuts of both brass and plywood. The best bet seems to be UHU Power all-purpose glue. Used as a contact adhesive (spread on both parts, let it go tacky) the brass is very firmly fixed in place. Pulling the test parts we couldn't remove it once the glue was fully dry.

It's a nice thin bond too. Ideal for the job where you don't want lumpy glue messing the lines up.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Toy Fair 2020 fun

It was just a typical day for me, being attached by trolls...

I was on the annual trip to the London Toy Fair to report on exciting model railway matters. With Hornby, Bassett-Lowke, Bachmann and Oxford taking stands, there was certainly going to be plenty to see.

All this can be read in my official reports over on World of Railways:
 plus my favourite - 10 Train shaped things. 

Anyway, I spotted a few other goodies.

 This range of Hot Wheels cars are slot-together kits on friction drive chassis. Each will be sold in a "blind bag" so you don't know what you get until you buy it. Looks fun and a nice bit of construction for the buyer.

Playmobil haven't re-introduced the railway range (Boo) and the motorisable boats don't look to have been added to much either.

Although this rescue boat might just be big enough to get R/C in to.

The real stars though were on the Sixteen 12 Collectables stand.

Loads of Gerry Anderson models including a 3ft long Thunderbird 3 and lots and lots of Space 1999 Eagle Transporters. I want this beast of a model. 

 A 44-inch long model. Price £2,500. 100 made. All long since sold. And too far from the door for me to do a runner....

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Disapointed by King Tut


Say "Tutankhamun" to most people and one image will pop into their head - that of the great gold death mask. Look at this poster and what do you think you see? The very same mask, or do you?

"Great", I think, "I'm going to grab my chance to see one of the most iconic historical objects in the world." Tickets are booked for the show (£26.50) plus the train (bargain fiver each way, thank you Chiltern) and off I head.

The exhibition is very impressive. You walk through rooms with beautifully displayed objects. Each is very impressive. For me, there is a model boat.

King Tut's model boat

Most people are more excited by the gold stuff that the boy king's tomb was filled with. I'll admit that it is very impressive to look at. OK, the workmanship isn't as good as that of the Staffordshire Hoard, but we are seeing objects 3000 years old. An unimaginable time ago, some craftsman made this with his bare hands and the most basic of tools.

Anyway, we work our way through. The history of the king is told, as is the story of his discovery, including the detail that the famous curse was entirely invented by the Daily Mail. They wouldn't do that nowadays (cough).

Eventually, we are led upstairs, the suspense building. The final room. And a great big stone statue. Impressive, but not what I'd been looking forward to.

Querying the lack of mask with a steward, it was explained that the mask is too "fragile" to leave Egypt. Explained in a way that makes me sure that this isn't the first time the question has been asked. There is (I am told) a replica in the gift shop. Indeed there is, but it's poorly displayed and IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GIFT SHOP.

Now, I'm not alone in expecting the mask. The Daily Telegraph critic pointed out the same thing. What we are seeing, as anyone who can understand the text beside the image on the poster would grasp, is a miniature version of the coffin about 12 inches tall. It was used to contain some of the kings' organs.


Don't get me wrong, this is a beautiful thing. Both front and back are intricately decorated and stunning to look at, but they are not the iconic mask. I'm afraid I enjoyed the show but felt cheated at the end. 

Had I been aware upfront, I'd probably have given it a miss, or at least not so disinclined to spend money in the overpriced gift shop. It makes toy trains shows look a bargain by comparison as I was through the whole thing in under 3 hours.