Monday, August 31, 2020

A box for Willi


Willi didn't arrive with a carrying box. The postman delivered him well packed, in an old Amazon cardboard box. By the time I'd hacked away all the sticky tape holding it shut, that wasn't going to do the job containing him in the future. 

For years, we've made boxes for model boats, so producing something suitable for a small steam locomotive wasn't going to be much of a problem. 

The main parts are cut from 6mm plywood by our local wood shop. They do an excellent job with everything being straight and square. The open-fronted box is assembled with PVA and some 6mm square stripwood strengtheners. 

Once dry, the angled pieces to hold the sliding front are added. There's usually a bit of faffing around with the measurements on these, but they are soon glued in place as well. 

Finally, the box is given three coats of Ronseal hard gloss varnish - the stuff that dries super-fast and the brush can be cleaned with water. I like to sand between each for a nice finish and to make sure the door slides in an out without too much effort. On that score, let the varnish harden overnight before slotting it into place. 

A couple of stripwood lengths stop the model sliding back and forth. I'd put them lengthways except the loco can run in 32 and 45mm gauges and getting those right was a fiddle. This way works nicely anyway. 

I'm pleased with the box and have another under construction for the Piko "Clean Machine", a loco that is properly packed, but the packing is a nuisance to extract it from and this will be so much easier. And better looking.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Happy retirement Philip!


No not me, there's no chance I'll ever be able to retire - it's the good looking one on the right in this photo. 

From the Douglas Bay Horse tramways online pages: 

Strawberry roan Clydesdale "Philip", who is 21 years old this year and started tramming back in 2003, retired from the tramway yesterday and will be joining friends and former stable-mates at the Isle of Man Home of Rest for old horses. 

Yes, my namesake has retired from a life of hauling tourists along Douglas prom and will live out his days at the fantastic retirement home. He has a life of wandering around spacious fields, munching grass and being fed pony nuts by eager visitors to look forward too. 

All of this costs money, so as soon as I heard, I was on the phone to sponsor him. This only costs a tenner a year and when you see how well the animals are looking after, it well worth the tiny expense. If I can't travel on a Philip-powered tram, at least I can help keep him in nibbles. 

If you fancy sponsoring a horse, head over the Home of Rest for old horses website - and if you ever make it over to the Isle of Man, pay them a visit. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Climb the Forth Bridge


 I'm not good with heights, so I'm not sure if I envy anyone heading up to the top of the Forth Rail bridge. Mind you, it's a lift and the platform at the top is pretty big, so I could probably do this. Sadly, not something I'm likely to get the chance to do, but at least we can go there in video.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Splat autopsy

My Migo Splat has a broken leg. It was fine and then suddenly things went wonky and useless. 

This flexible tripod is invaluable, as I explained back in February, so a replacement has been purchased. £18 for something I use a lot isn't a bad buy, or at least I've spent more money for less useful stuff in the past. And so have you, so stop sniggering. 

I couldn't throw the Splat away without doing a bit of digging though. What's inside? 

Cutting carefully down each leg allowed me to peel the rubber away and reveal a flexible steel (I think) set of legs. One of these had fractured, hence the problem. At least I know now.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A train for Willi


Regner Willi on skip train 

Willi needs a train, and everything I have in 45mm gauge, for the line in our garden, is a bit LGB. Lovely, but hardly approproate for our vertical boiler loco. 

No problem - a few quid thrown at Peter Binne and a couple of days later, a box full of kits arrives. 

We chose Hudson skip wagons. At a tenner each, they are cheap and easy to assemble. A coat of red oxide primer followed by a dry-brush of Humbrol No.70 does the job for the initial paintwork. I plan to try some rust replication products on them later, but want a working train first. 

A couple of chassis were also added to the order and these have been turned into flat wagons - you can read how I did this on World of Railways. (Go, on click on the link. It will be funny if this blog makes it into the higher levels of the monthly stats report) A process that's pretty painless and yet the results really (to my eye) look good. 

The train is 77cm long - plenty for a little loco and it should look nice snaking around the line. Being plastic, the wagons are quite light, but I'll glue some lead under the central rib initially. If they need more, some dummy loads will be required.

Regner Willi on skip train 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Racing hovercraft


Other than this is in the Isle of Man motor museum, I can't tell you anything useful about this hovercraft - other than it is seriously cool*. 

Building a model hovercraft has always been on my radar, but they are horribly technical things. You spend more time worrying about weight distribution than details. After all, you want the model to work, not just looks good. 

Then there is the small matter of controlling the thing. Hovercraft don't work like boats, you have to plan your steering ahead of when you want to change direction. Despite this, I've always fancied having a go in a small one...

And yes, that is an Amphicar in the background. This place is amazing. 

*as if I would be any judge of this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lindberg Tugboat - all done

 Lindberg Tugboat on the canal. 

 For the final shots of the tugboat, I wanted to sit it on some brown water. The obvious choice would be the model boat club, but we're having to book in there to keep numbers down and I hadn't had the chance to do this when a sunny day appeared.

With a trip to pick up some wood required, I decided to try sailing on the canal. This was easier said than done as I wanted a nice, quiet spot. The first places I looked at were full of moored boats, or I could park anywhere near. Without a proper box for the model I didn't want to risk lugging it very far.

Lindberg Tugboat on the canal. 

Eventually, I found a spot on the edge of Warwick and set up. The water wasn't too far from the bank, another issue with the boat club at the moment, and the boat behaved itself when afloat. I was holding the camera and randomly aiming, but this worked OK. In a shady, spot, the flash made shots look better, the same as when I'm in the more controlled environment of the lake. 

The slight current kept the model on the move, but it easily overcame this and pootled around happily enough. Even a passing boat didn't seem to bother it. 

 Lindberg Tugboat on the canal.

I've enjoyed building this kit. Everything seems to go together well and the modifications required to fit radio control didn't cause any big problems. Now finished and weathered, I think it looks great. Maybe all those plastic handrails make it a bit fragile, I can live with this was it's a fair-weather model that demands calm water. Perhaps not a "Thursday Boat" I can take out at a moments notice, it will stand up to a big of use. There's not much point in fitting radio if you can't sail after all.

There are several other kits in this range. While they are probably very rare, I'll certainly be looking out for them.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Finishing touches to the tugboat


After testing on the water, I found a couple of little tweaks I wanted to make to the tugboat .

First, every time the superstructure wobbled, I was nervous it would fall into the water and sink. The retaining pieces provided aren't generous, so a 1cm tall wall is fixed inside the deck hole. Not only will this reduce the chances of the wheelhouse falling off, it will keep any water that makes its way on to the deck from getting it to the working gubbins. 

While I'm at it, the superstructure is tied to the hull with a length of very thin wire. If it falls off, hopefully this will allow me to retrieve it. I've done the same for other boats and at least once been very glad I did. 

Talking of the wheelhouse, the caption was rattling around having come unglued. Easing a knife blade under the edges and breaking the glue joint gave me access and I fixed him down again. 

Once happy the glue had dried, I put the wheelhouse top on, and it wouldn't sit properly. A few minutes prodding and wobbling the part lead me to realise the problem is he's too tall! Somehow, Lindberg made a mistake and if you want a man at the wheel, you have to file down his cap or chop off his feet. 

Since it's hard to see inside, I have gone for option 3, have him standing outside and hope no-one notices the ghost steered ship. The figures are too nicely made to hide away in the gloom anyway. 

I see I need to get some dirt under the lip of the funnel too...

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Do I need a DSLR?


My Nikon D5000 has died. 

When I switch it on, the lights in the viewfinder flash on and then there is nothing. My first thought was a faulty battery, but the replacement works no better. 

Now, this might be a known problem. The D5000 was offered a free repair by Nikon, but this expired 2 years ago. The problem this was to fix involved not powering up, so an e-mail has been sent to the company to find out if they can suggest anything. 

In the meantime, I've been thinking.

Let's assume the camera is dead. Should I replace it? 

The more I think about it, the more the answer is no. Quite simply, the photos I take can be taken on a quality compact. 

My magazine work is carried out with the Canon G12. With suitable software, it offers variable focusing for stacking. It feels great and although obsolete, good second hand examples can still be found. I have three - two workhorses and a spare I bought NOS. It does everything I need. 

For other shots, I have three compacts - Fujifilm AX650, Panasonic DMC-TZ8 and Olympus SZ-17. None is exciting and all are old, but they do the job. Plenty of pixels and the Olympus has a breathtaking zoom. All also do a decent job of video work. With 12-16 megapixels on offer from each, unless I want to shoot for a billboard, they are fine. And they fit in my pocket. 

On that basis, the case for a replacement DSLR isn't great. I enjoy using the Nikon but it's far from perfect. The flip out screen slows the autofocus from plodding to glacial. It's not great in low light, far worse than any of the compacts. Don't try to freeze loco on the move, sport mode is hopeless.

The standard 50mm zoom isn't as impressive as the smaller brethren. I know I can buy more lenses, but that's more cost and more stuff to lug around. 

The biggest problem is my photography. I tend to leave the camera on auto and let it get on with things. I like composing an image, I can't be arsed with the fiddly technical bits and for 99% of the time, I don't need to for any of the cameras. 

I use photos in print, but even a mobile phone camera used correctly can be good enough for that. Many of my pictures are shared online and every camera has been producing high enough resolutions for that for decades. 

"But proper photographers have a DSLR" I hear people cry. Well, I've had to work with the results from people with "proper" cameras and you know what? Some of them aren't impressive. Boast about editing in raw all you like, but when the photos have buffers or half a signal arm cropped off because you didn't point it in the right direction, then shut up. 

Likewise, if you have a camera that costs well into four figures but I end up with photos with soft-focus loco faces, then it's time you learnt to point, half-squeeze and then frame the shot. Yes, the middle of the loco is in focus, but that doesn't look right does it? 

There is a phrase that covers it - All the gear and no idea. 

There is one reason, and one reason only I can see to replace the Nikon. Using it makes me feel like a "proper photographer".

I've used SLRs since my early Zeniths and enjoy handling them, but do I enjoy handling them enough to shell out for another?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Mad, German, flying steam locos


Finescale model railway fans, look away now. 

I don't really know what to make of this video, other than it's mad and I love it.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Willi on the tracks


Excitement got the better of me and a day after Willi completed his test run on the bench, I brushed the leaves off the garden railway, hacked back a few plants that were encroaching on the rails and tested the line with a Piko Clean Machine. 

The rail clamps had done their work and everything was swiftly in operation. 

Willi was flipped over and after searching out the correct Allen key size, his wheels were loosened on the axles and moved to the correct gauge for my line. 

On the track, pressure was once again quickly raised after a little faffing around with the burner. I think I overfilled the gas tank as we had a few "burps" before settling down to a nice, steady burn. I'm one for turning the gas down as low as possible after hearing many stories of Accucraft locos with burnt paint on the smokebox because their owners like to hear the roar from the other end of the garden. 

With pressure raised, I gently opened the regulator and was really pleased to see the loco trundle off slowly

No high-speed travel for this machine, it potters at a very realistic speed. Or at least did until it tried to exit the tunnel when the chimney caught on the portal top. 

The problem was tiny - a couple of mm and I seriously considered attacking the cement with a chisel, but in the event, just shuffled the track back and forth to dig into the ballast a bit more and provide clearance. 

The re-start was slightly marred by setting fire to a plant, but only one leaf and there are loads more. Turn the burner up too far and you get some impressive flames shooting out of the chimney!

After this, Willi pottered around for around 20 minutes (I think, I forgot to time it) followed by another session because I was so pleased. He handles the slight gradients on my line easily enough and will surely haul a reasonable train. 

A train? Well all the 45mm stock I have is LGB and colourful. Willi needs his own wagons and that's another project/excuse.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

My new Willi


Roll out the double entendre's, I have a new locomotive!
Now, I'm not really a steam man. I mean, I like watching both miniature and full-size steam locomotives in operation, but the urge to actually own one has never been that strong. As a child, and even an adult, I never wanted to be a steam train driver. The smell is lovely, but all the effort to make the thing work, give me a diesel or electric. 

In the garden, I love building battery electric locos. They aren't exciting to watch, or challenging to operate, but I like sitting back with trains trundling by without worrying if the thing is going to explode. I own an Accucraft "Ragleth" which is lovely, but that's mainly because I feel as Garden Rail editor, I should have a chuff-chuff.

Despite this, since watching a vertical boiler loco at ScoutRail earlier this year, I've fancied owning something similar. Watching all the moving, waggly bits is fun. 

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted a Regner Willi for sale on Facebook. I ummed and ahh'ed a bit then messaged the seller. It was still for sale and we agreed I'd buy it. A Regner for Mamod money (that's two full-ish fat OO locos for small-scale modellers) seemed almost too good to be true and I'll admit paying by bank transfer rang a few alarm bells. 

I didn't need to worry, the photo of a Post Office reciept was followed a day later by a parcel containing the locomotive. It was greasy, but looks good. 

The wheels were set to 32mm gauge and I don't have a line suitable for that, so the first test was on bricks. It makes sense to do this anyway. Go through the learning curve operating the model without having to chase it around.

Despite being warned it could be tricky to steam, I had it running very quickly. The only niggle was that you don't shove the reverser all the way around, 2/3 of a turn seems enough. 

Pressure was raised very quickly thanks to a warm day and warm water. 

And there we go! Chuntering away like a Swiss (or German) watch. Quality if construction seems really good, I especially like the hand-wheels on the gas tank and lubricator. I'm sure someone will say the geared drive isn't realistic, but I don't care. 

So, I'm happy so far. Time to clean the model up and break out the Brasso. Yes, I plan to polish my Willi...

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: Pl5 on a trailer


PL5 on a trailer

Taken on the Isle of Man couple of years ago, fishing dingy PL5 is berthed on its trailer on the beach. 

This is an interesting little prototype. The trailer is obviously pushed into the water, the boat sailed to hit the handrail, and then hauled out. That rail provides something for the skipper to aim and, and hang on to ensuring the boat is centred over the trailer bed. 

Scratchbuilding the trailer with some strip plastic shouldn't be too hard and it would make a nice piece of detail for a seaside scene. In larger scales, brass section and solder would probably be better. You could use it as a display base for a suitable radio controlled model.

How you make convincing, see-through lobster pots, I leave to someone else to work out...

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Back on the water


On a nice, sunny, calm day,  I took the tugboat to our pool (don't get excited, you've probably got inflatable paddling pools that are bigger. And a lot easier to set up) for final fitting out. 

Getting the weighting right took a little while. The battery pack is on one side so a matching lump of lead was required on the other. Then a bit more up front to make the model sit level. this foot-long model now weighs in at 366g - a bit heavier than I expected, but it sits well on the water and that's what matters. 

Under power it sails well. You only have to crack the speed lever open a tiny amount for a scale speed. I need to look in to programming the transmitter to change the rate there for more control. Turning is OK, about 3 feet for a full circle. Reversing involved lots of splashing and less steering control than I expected. My guess is that and even smaller prop would have worked perfectly well. 

To be fair, a garden swimming pool isn't the most realistic of places to sail, I', sure dodging batching polar bears wasn't something the prototype did. (The bear supports a thermometer in case you were wondering) so I need to get it on brown water for the final shots some time. However, sailing has made me realise there are a couple of finishing touches required.

Monday, August 17, 2020

All the bits are finally painted

Updates on the tugboat have been thin because I've been painting all the detail parts, and that's not very exciting, even for this blog.

However, it's all done. Everything is attached, even if the superstructure is just plonked together for the moment. I want to spray some dirt over the whole thing before the glazing goes in.

Many of the parts took a fair bit of cleaning up to remove lines from misaligned moulds. The result looks pretty good though and I'm looking forward to the final steps.

The Peco loco cradle is very handy for holding the kit too. Far easier than the supplied plastic stand. Do you think they will mind I'm not using it for trains?

Lindberg tugboat 

 Weathering is nothing more than a quick blow-over using the airbrush to add some general grime to the model. We're seeing this boat from a distance (Imagine the Father Ted, small and further away skit) so I'm not worrying about very detailed dirt. Not right now anyway. This is just to tie all the colours together. 

 Glazing makes use of the clear plastic bits in the kit - except for two round windows where I'd lost the bits and had to use Glue'n'Glaze. I'm not sure this is better than the Lindberg version as those plastic bits have odd marks in each centre. 


Sunday, August 16, 2020

66 731 Captain Tom Moore


R30060 - Capt. Tom Moore 

Number 3200 of 3500 - Hornby's "Thank you NHS" special edition class 66 locomotive. 

Not my usual choice of model locomotive, but like Nena, I wanted a souvenir, just to prove the world was here. At least I wanted something as a memory when this is all (hopefully) all over, and a colourful model is nicer than photos of locked up childrens playgrounds - the other defining image in my mind. . 

It's also Hornby's fastest selling model and raised £140,000 for NHS charities, although if I wanted to send money that way, I'd have just donated it without buying a Shelf Queen toy train. For once though, I did something fashionable, getting caught up in the zeitgeist surrounding Captain Tom Moore, one of the few happy news stories from the spring. 


Hornby have done a good job with this. For a start it's been turned around very quickly. The packaging looks great and the model is well decorated. OK, it's nowhere near the most finescale of Class 66s on the market, but then it's also the cheapest and almost certainly the only one that could have been released while the story was still current. 

In the box are some air dams without coupling slots and stick on plastic nameplates to cover up the printed version. That, and a certificate of limited editionness to ensure it's collectability for years to come. Years when all this virus stuff is nothing but a memory.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Saturday Film club: London Docks

With all the tugboat work, I thought these films showing classic London docks would be interesting. It seems amazing to me that there used to be so much river activity in the capital.

The second is only half a minute long, but still worth a look.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Getting animated in September's BRM

I'm getting mobile in the latest issue of BRM. My big build is a working chair-o-plane kit in Ho scale.

Now, I could have just stuck the bits together, but that wouldn't be me at all. I wanted to make this look realistic, so the self-coloured plastic gets a coat of paint for a start.

The result looks great and is terrific fun. A long way from the sort of things that I'd expect to be building for a model railway magazine - but there is a good reason for it as you'll find out.

While we look at animations, I've picked 5 of my favourites and tried to explain how they work. While moving things other than trains are a bit of a gimmick, they are also terrific fun. All the more so when done well and subtly.

Finally, on the DVD, I show you how to use servos for building operating features. It's a lot simpler and cheaper than you might think.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Garden Rail September 2020

One of the joys of garden railways is that they develop over time, so we revisit The Peckforton Light Railway, built by regular Garden Rail contributor Rik Bennett. The last few years have seen station areas and yards expand to handle the extra sources of goods traffic that have grown up. Rik has grounded his model in a convincing history based on prototype information giving the line all the atmosphere of a real railway.

All railways need locomotives and we take a look at a couple of important new releases. For live steam enthusiasts, Bowande's Talyllyn is put through its paces by David Pinniger while for the younger enthusiast, , Ben Bukki looks at Hornby's move into the larger scales with their controversial Harry Potter train set. Gauge One isn't forgotten either, with a scratchbuilt NER Petrol railcar that would be perfect for the shorter line.

All these engines need to be stored somewhere, Mark Thatcher builds Bole Lasercraft's latest engine shed. They will need somewhere to run so we look at creating a child-proof level crossing as well as review of different types of rail clamps.

Finally, we bring some science to testing locomotive haulage capabilities by building a working dynamometer car. Along the way, our professor learns just what it is that makes moving different trains difficult.

All this and more, in the September issue of Garden Rail

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Waterborne Wednesday: St Mawes ferry

St Mawes ferry

Let's get things straight, even if I built a model of the May Queen, there's no way I'd be tacking the dazzle camouflage!

To be honest, while the paint job is striking, I don't think it suits the boat. Nor the duck that it tows.

Perhaps I'm a bit dull, but give the the traditional livery - far more suitable for those lines.

Now that is a nice looking boat. I'm slightly surprised that there isn't a kit available. It's not an uncommon design after all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The perils of a 2nd hand kit

"Bollards", I said as I scrabbled in the bottom of the box looking for the the final parts to complete the model. The trouble with a second-hand kit is that you can't be sure all the parts are present.

One missing piece was the front bollard - but that was easily replaced with a bit of plastic tube and a 4mm diameter disk made using the handy leather punch.

At the back, the winch was missing one end, easily replaced with a bit of Plastikard even if it doesn't have the rivet heads that should be there.

Tricker were a pair of capstans. If I had a lathe to hand, I'm sure replacements could be turned up. As it was I improvised with a couple of brass bushes supplied with the servo. I've never really understood why these are included, probably an aeromodeller thing, so it's nice to find a use for them. More plastic disks from the punch (I must buy a proper set) and once they are painted, no-one will notice.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Boat crew

I don't like putting photos of model figures on the blog - they never look as good as in real life. However, they are part of the build, so here we go.

Three nicely moulded 3cm tall figures are included in the kit. A nice touch, so many other kits leave you to find some from the aftermarket and I'm not sure there is much choice in 5mm:1ft scale. There certainly wasn't when this kit was produced!

All were painted with Humbrol flesh and then dry-brushed with the lighter Revell shade. I suppose I could have left this since they should all be ruddy-face sailors. Or maybe they should be more orange for that American Presidents-style tan...

After that, some muted colours for the clothes and a wash of Citadel ink to put some shadow in. I wish this was sold in a slightly less dark shade as it's a bit stark, but that's the fashion for fantasy and military modellers, and as I say, it looks better in real life.

The lolly sticks as handles to hold the figures by the way. The superglue joints should break easily, but I found I needed to slide a knife blade under them after breaking the captain's toes off.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

A close up the “Snaefell Mountaineer”

NATS Railcar (22)

One of the least spotted vehicles on the Isle of Man is the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) railcar.
Normally hidden away, it come into its own transporting personnel up the mountain when the Snaefell Mountain Railway isn't operating.

A couple of years ago, the railcar went to Claytons Rail Services for a refit and there and I managed to visit and take a huge selection of photos with a view to building a model. This hasn't happened yet, but if you fancy the challenge, these pictures will help.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Emett special

We start with a well-made documentary on Rowland Emett's "A Quiet Afternoon in the Cloud Cuckoo Valley" - which is now owned by the National Railway Museum and currently on display at Shildon.

Then we head over to the Brockhampton & Umbridge Railway Preservation Society's Emett Collection, where we have Emett inspired models in G scale.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Croc boat

Laurie Calvert can be blamed for many things. Hornby's Steampunk range for example.

And now, me being £17.75 poorer and the owner of a radio controlled crocodile head. He posted a photo on Facebook and I just knew I had to have one...

And I'm not sorry. The head is 30cm long and pretty well detailed. OK, it's not going to fool David Attenborough, but it looks great. Inside is a USB charged battery pack fitted in a watertight compartment underneath. The plastic it's made from seems pretty tough and the paint job isn't bad either.

Drive comes from a pair of props controlled by a 2.4Ghz controller using "tank steering". Press both buttons forward for ramming speed. Take your finder off one to turn. Press reverse on one to turn faster. The advert describes this as "swerve sailing". No, I have no idea what that means. 

On the water, it's far too fast and leaves a wake, but I don't care. This is silly and I like silly. Despite the price and madness of the model, it works really well. Range is more than adequate for our lake and the battery duration is at least 10 minutes, so plenty of play time. I look forward to the day when I can introduce it to the rest of the club.

I wonder, can you sail more than one at a time? Would a racing series be possible? Hmmm.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Dual-flush cistern bodging

Is there anything more annoying to not work at home than the toilet cistern?

Most bits of house equipment can be worked around, but we all need to poo!

So, when our dual-flush cistern decided that it would keep filling rather than filling and stopping, repairs had to be effected quickly.

The problem was that the seal on the bottom of the flush mechanism had hardened a little and couldn't be relied on. Wiggling the unit with every flush fixed it, but was hardly ideal.

Since I was up to my neck in Virtual Show, my dad called a plumber. He had a look, said it would take a week to get the bits and left leaving a quote for £70. This seemed a bit rubbish - I'd expected to see a van with spares in it, not a car for a start. There is a reason he was available the same day.

Anyway, I left the computer for a while and had a poke around. The flush unit is separate from the inlet, so with the water turned off at the in-line valve, and a Readers Digest book of DIY to hand, worked out that twisting the unit would unlock it from the outflow and it was lifted away. This is how I found the hardened seal.

An hour later, dad was back with a complete replacement unit, price £27. Not a week, an hour. Parent 1: Plumber 0

I put the new unit in place and hoped all would be well. It wasn't.

There were two problems. First, the flush wasn't particularly powerful and worse, the clip that connects the control cable to the button, kept falling off.

The design of the clip is rubbish. It hangs limply on the bottom of the button. I tried swapping parts around with the old unit, and in an unexpected twist managed to reverse the direction of the cable so it no longer tangled with the inlet valve. This didn't help much, but I was pleased.

Anyway, I worked out that a screw passing across the edge of the connecting hole would tighten things up - and after some careful drilling, screwing and adjusting, this worked. The clip stayed put. Result!

The flush was still a bit rubbish, but I had a plan. You see I'd worked out this set-up wasn't very good and headed online to see what the alternatives were. Ideally, I wanted something that didn't need me to get at the bottom of the cistern because the design of this toilet covers it up. Removing the cistern would be doable, but more time and trouble than I could do with.

What I found, from the very helpful Plumbase, was the Wirquin One. According to the instructions, and videos, the unit takes about a minute to fit. It twists into the fitting in the bottom of the cistern (check this, they vary, there seem to be 2 or 3 designs) and then sits under the button hole.

The unit arrived and I fitted it.

Fitting is indeed quick. Set the flush levels (Max power!), unscrew the button. Pull the cage thing up and put the lid on top. This pushes the cage down and puts the screw thread right under the button hole.

Screw the button in place and flush away. Job done!

OK, it took three goes before I was happy. Every so often, including 2:40am, the unit wouldn't seal and the filling carried on, flowing straight through the unit and into the bowl. Grumpy face.

I rang Wirquin and they couldn't help, recommending I reinstall the unit. A bit like being told by IT to turn your computer off and on again. I did this three times and now (fingers crossed) we seem OK. Lots of flush, although when you release the button, not when you push it, and a reassuring slight "whump" noise after the flush that indicates the unit has sealed and will let the cistern re-fill. Reassuring in the same way a solenoid point motor is when you know it's gone across. I like reassuring noises.

I like toilets that flush as well. I'm giving this thing a fortnight, if it works, all the old cistern mechanical stuff goes in the bin and I'll buy a Wirquin spare unit. It's a lot cheaper than a plumber. Even one neither surprised or bothered when he is cancelled.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Tin shed Wednesday

Tin shed nursery

Driving through Selly Oak recently, I spotted this fantastic tin shed in use as a playgroup.

Luckily, as it was a Sunday, there were no children around so I could grab a photo. During the week it would be difficult to explain my enthusiasm for slightly dilapidated corrugated iron buildings...

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Bachmann K6 telephone box

I hadn't intended Furness Quay to feature a telephone box, but browsing in my first post-lockdown visit to my local model shop, I spotted this Bachmann model handing on the wall. Those who know the layout name comes from the film "Local Hero" will know that a 'phone box plays a big part in the story and I decided that the layout could do with a splash of colour.

What sold the model to me was the quality. Unlike the Merit version, it's the right scale. The glazing is printed on clear plastic so it's flush and the bars are nicely thin. The only better box you will find is a well-assembled Langley kit.

For £5.95, I was happy to find it space on the model. Lovely little model from a range that isn't widely known about. I love a happy find - has anyone else a similar unexpectedly good item in a range to share?

Monday, August 03, 2020

Red lines

Lindberg's box art suggests the lower portion of the superstructure should be painted red. If I was any good at masking things, this would be fairly easy to apply - tape over the white to stay and blast with red paint.

If I try that, there will be all sorts of paint creep thanks (partly) to the those raised plank lines.

Plan B - Using tape to give me a guide, draw along the top edge of the red with a bow pen and then paint the rest with a brush. The lined line gives me a guide to work to. At least it follows the gentle curve upwards towards the front of the superstructure. Can't do that with a ruler.

And that's sort of what happened. The line wasn't perfect, the Tamiya tape is very thin so not was easy to follow as I'd hoped. A Bob Moore pen would probably have been a better choice in this respect.

Still, a couple of coats of red, a bit of fiddling and the result looked OK.

Since this is to be a weathered model, I burnished the red with a fibre pen to give it some wear. The pale grey base colour shows through in a few places and I quite like the effect. It's something I've done on PO railway wagons, but this is a new slant and I'm sure I'll do it again one day.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

When shows come back, do I want to go?

This week, there have been the first flutterings of the return of the model railway show. A couple of sizable events have said they plan to go ahead this year - and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

A few basics:
  • I love going to shows. I really love turning up as either a punter or an exhibitor.Trains, boats, plastic kits, old cars - that's a good day out for me and has been for most of my life.
  • Through a combination of ignorance and incompetence, I don't believe our government has a clue what it's doing or saying.
  • This is a fluid situation and things can and will change over time. The science behind Covid will be better understood. Treatments will get better. Less people will become seriously ill.
  • I like to look at the numbers rather than the click-bait stories in the popular press. Being told that we are about to have an apocalyptic "second wave" when hospitalisations are down, cases per 100,000 tests are down and calls to 111/999 are down is simply playing to the misery porn on social media.
Having said this, like everyone else, I need to decide how comfortable I am going to an event where there are crowds of people who won't social distance and think hand washing after using the toilet, never mind during the day, is for wimps.

One of the issues I suspect will be wearing masks. I don't like it, but have been covered up in shops etc. for weeks before Boris said it was a good idea. Half an hour in the supermarket is one thing. 6 hours plus at a show? I'm less keen. And yes, I know medical staff wear them for long shifts etc.

When I attend as a demonstrator, a requirement for at least one of the events, I'm going to need to sit there with people breathing at me. Statistically, even without a mask, I should be fine, but in my head, there is still a risk. I'm sure there will be plenty with spurious reasons they can't wear a face covering too, and suspect the overlap with those who don't see the point of showers and washing machines will be large.

We've spent months being told that trains and buses are dirty. That you should never venture outside. That everyone breathing on you means death. The drip-drip-drip of this sticks in your head. I've not rushed to the pub, booked a holiday or headed to the beach, and I still don't want to. Since the end of March, I've been in exactly 6 different shops, two supermarkets, two hardware shops, a model shop and a newsagent, and right now, that's plenty. Even when we were allowed a single stroll a day for exercise, I didn't bother because when I tried, everywhere was too quiet and horrible to stay out. Far better to hide indoors. In safety.

So, I look at the science and the statistics (except the PHE ones which it turns out are rubbish and they don't seem inclined or able to fix) and am uncomfortable with heading to a show. How many people who get their news from the Daily Doom are going to want to go anyway?

"Vaccine" I hear you cry. Well, we won't have one for months and then to be effective you need 80-85% of the population jabbed. Already the anti-vaxers are out in force and there will be many potential Andrew Wakefield's lining up with made up science to do for Covid vaccine what he did for MMR. We might do some good there, but it's a very long way off.

The shows that will be back first are trade events. Lower numbers, better separation because of this and people in clean clothes with washed hands make these a much more plausible idea. I hold out some hope for the London Toy Fair in January. Just a little.

Toy train shows with a scrum around layouts and trade stands? That's a very different prospect.

How's everyone else feeling?

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Matchbox in 1970

A relaxing walk through the 1970 Matchbox cars catalogue. For those of us who grew up in the 70s and played with toy cars, there's a lot of "I had one of those" recognition to be enjoyed.

Quite a bit of coveting as well. I really fancy trying one of those "Steer and Go" sets. But of course, I'm far too grown up for that now...