Monday, November 30, 2020

Men at work - road painting

I have a pretty standard method for painting tarmac. It basically involves splodging Precision Paints tarmac and faded tarmac paint around with a sponge, then finishing up with some talcum powder applied with a sponge and finished with a big brush.  

This method has always worked well and given excellent results, so that is how I planned to handle the Selly Oak road. 

Of I splodged, but the effect wasn't working.At least on the main road. 

On the side road to the woodyard, it was as good as ever. This was weird. 

My only thought is that the side road is plaster, which is porus. The main road is MDF, which isn't. Thinking about this a bit more, I normally work on a card base, another porous material. 

Basically, the colours weren't blending properly. The result wasn't terrible, just not as good as normal. 

With a hint of desperation, I gave the road a very light coat of grey primer to tie everything together. The can was used well above the surface and very lightly. The result is a lot better. You can see the colour variations, but they are subtle, as they should be. 

It just goes to prove that we all learn all the time. Since doing this I've looked at a bit more information and see that many people are hitting the weathering powders for this job - something I've done myself in the past. I'll see how the road looks as the project progresses, but there is a pack of grey pastels on the shelf...

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Taking photos of trains

Chiltern Railways Silver train 

 For once I'm feeling that I'm getting on top of my projects. It might be an illusion, but I'll pretend and so headed out for a stroll on Friday afternoon. My plan was to head to the countryside, about a 15 minute walk, where I could watch trains go by.

 I've missed looking at a train and wishing I could be on it. I know we are supposed to be hiding under a table with a paper bag on our heads (where I live is in Tier 47 I think) but I'm getting tired of being led by people playing politics. And that's just the sceintists. Past experience tells me the politicians will be a waste of space. 

Anyway, I found some trains and took some pictures. 


 They aren't brillant, but I don't think I've captured anything exciting, just the railway doing it's usual thing. 

 XC Voyager 

One day, maybe, we will be allowed to get back on a train just for the fun of travel. I look forward to it. 

Chiltern train

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Being a generalist


An interesting video where Adam Savage, best known from TV's Mythbusters talks about never having specialised in a particular making genre - preferring to be a Jack of All Trades rather than a master of any particular one. 

This interests me as I'm very much a generalist and always have been. For my current job, this is pretty much essential. I need to be willing and able to have a go at any type of model making. OK, I'm not the best at anything, but then that's the situation most railway modellers find themselves in. You need a wide variety of skills to build a layout. 

Being a specialist is fine, but limiting. The hours of honing your technique doesn't appeal to me much either. I have a butterfly mind and like to try lots of different things. And since the appeal of a hobby is that you enjoy it, I need to go with what works for me. 

How about everyone else? 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Coles Crane


Random picture time. This is a Coles Crane on my layout Melbridge Dock. 

Built in the old days when we actually made things rather than buying them, the crane part is from the Airfix Recovery Set with a cab made from Microstrip. 

It sits on a simple scratchbuilt base that uses whitemetal wheels bought from the Langley Models spares pots at an exhibition. 

I'm always been quite pleased with this model. It's not the first to be made from this combination of parts, and probably not the best, but I made it myself and that means a lot to me.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Trimming the meniscus


Along the edge of the baseboard joint, there is a meniscus curve in the canal. I've been putting off dealing with it but eventually had to do something. 

The Woodland Scenics Deep Pour resin is pretty solid, so with no better ideas, I attacked it with a sharp knife, sliding the blade along, trying to cut slivers of "water" away. 

This sort of worked but eventually I resorted to scraping the blade sideways in the same way I remove mould lines on a plastic kit. This worked, but the slightly rough surface (above the blade in the photo) didn't look great. Not as bad as I feared though. 

A new blade and back to the slicing - the results aren't bad. Not perfect, but then I didn't expect that. The resin is a little rubbery, so not amenable to polishing with abrasive. The result doesn't stand out too much though. No worse than a baseboard joint anyway, and I still plan a pipe bridge to hide it further.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Weathering with emulsion paint


Back to the dirty arches.

I pondered how to weather them for quite a while. Airbrushing is the obvious method for such a large area, but I do that in the garage to keep the smell under control and didn't fancy lugging the arches down there and filling up the workbench. 

Instead, I had a go with sponges and emulsion paints. First on a test piece and then on the arches proper in an orgy of mucky-fingered painting. 

I'm using high-density foam, two shades of grey and some black. Dabbing the paint on seems to work, but a rolling motion works well for blending. I start with black and then move to grey. Each colour has its own sponge square. 

Working on a small area - about a foot long - at a time means the colours blend on the brickwork. I sometimes went back to black after putting on grey as it seems to soften any edges. 

The paint dries to a slightly different shade, something you only lean with practise. Even after the test pieces, I started on the back of my viaduct!

One advantage is that the colour dries perfectly matt. The downside of this method is it's not easy to get paint right into the corners, but that will be finished with weathering powders later on in the build. 

For the moment, I'm very please with the effect. It might be messy and not that fast, but it's certainly less smelly than spraying.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Look at those arches!


 Since starting Selly Oak, I've become a bit of a railway arches nerd. Watching an old episode of The Professionals the other day, I couldn't help looking at the background as they talked by a viaduct. 

The screen grab isn't great but these filled in arches look great. Better still, being genuine 1970s ones, they would be perfect for me. Not that I'm going to change anything now, but it shows that watching old telly sometimes counts as research. 

Via RMweb, SP Steve sent me this shot of arches in Wigan. While they might be all gentrified and clean, as a reference for brick colours, they are brilliant. There are a lot of colours in the blue bricks and three different shades of red too. 

I'm assuming the parapet has been rebuilt at some point, and wonder what that would look like on a model. Too different? Is it one of those things we accept in real life but not in miniature? 
I always remember someone explaining how they set up a passenger train with a mix of liveries to match a prototype photo, but it didn't look right. Maybe we need models to look how we expect them, not always how they should.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Mystery spool


In the random bag of tools I bought from the MRC, is this one. It appears to be a wooden handle with a chuck fitted in the end. The jaws look to be able to hold drill bits 2mm diameter and above. 

That's not a problem, I've pin-vices for the smaller ones and sometimes drilling with the larger ones is very useful. In the past I've used a chuck designer to fit in an electric screwdriver which isn't the comfiest thing to hold. This will be better. 

There is a mystery though. Housed in the handle is a spool of string. It can be removed by unclipping a metal cap on the end but would rotate is pulled while still fitted. 

Can anyone suggest what this is for? The best I can come up with is lining up bricks, but those are spikes, not drills.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

I took a trip to evil Tom's second hand stall of doom


New to the Virtual Show this time is the second hand stall run by the Model Railway Club. 

They always put on a monster at Ally Pally, but with this off for the time being, it has moved online so you can buy old trains at midnight. 

Anyway, to promote it Lawrence interviewed the custodian, Tom. I edited the videos, added some cheesy sound effects and they were good to go. Each one is a bit of a laugh with the definite hint of a TV shopping channel. 

Of course I spotted a kit I wanted. The Swiss chalet is just the sort of thing I'd pick up out of curiosity on a real second-hand stall. And I hadn't visited one of those for many months. There is an itch waiting to be scratched.

Being a fair-minded person, I waited until the event was over before heading to the shop. Unsurprisingly, I am the only person who wants this sort of thing, so it was still available. And while there, just like a real stall, I managed to pick up a few other goodies. 

A few days later, a parcel arrived with my goodies. Excellent service.

Some - the bus stop, billboards and bike shed - I have proper uses for. The tools looked interesting, and there was a boat kit. 


The Heller "Fauvette" kit looked interesting. Checking it out (after it arrived), the model has been in and out of the catalogue over quite a long period. Scale is 1:150, so no use for railways, but who cares? It's a small model so maybe I can build it and put it in a case one day. 

You'll notice a complete lack of actual trains. That's not because there aren't any, just nothing weird enough for me. I think this is an interesting new innovation, the sort of thing Covid has forced upon us. I know you can trawl eBay, but a percentage of the prices here stay in the hobby supporting the MRC, which is a good thing. Perhaps other clubs could think about doing the same?

However, the second-hand shop is online here, so we can all go an have another look. Tom is waiting to take your money!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday Film Club: A double-headed train on the Isle of Man


Finding a box of mini DVDs recorded on our old video camera, I rashly promised to produce a film for the recent Virtual Exhibition.

Trawling through the footage, this piece leapt out - an unusual train on the steam railway. I'm told double-heading is now in vogue on the island, but back in 2007, it was unusual so I'm glad I recorded it.

There are more disks in the box, so watch this space for more IOM!

Friday, November 20, 2020

A quick fireman


With a BRM TV filming session lined up, I had an idea for one piece that would need a painted figure. 

7mm scale people work better on camera and a quick dig in my stash found a S&D Models Fireman wearing a cap (OF24). He needs his arm and shovel attaching with superglue and is then ready for paint. 

A quick shot of primer to check the attachments looked OK was followed with an evening of hurried painting - yes, I'd left it to the last minute. 

Skin tones are Humbrol flesh dry-brushed with Revell's version. Various greys on the clothes also got the dry-brush treatment. Working fast blends the colours which is great, but that wasn't the reason I was doing this. 

The whole job took an hour, I'd have been faster with acrylics but didn't have the shades to hand, so there was a bit of dangling the figure over the radiator to get the paint to harden a bit. I know it says to wait 8 hours before overpainting, but sometimes I don't have that long. 

Looking at Facebook, I believe I'm supposed to say "It's not great but..." but I'm not. This little man is OK and absolutely fine for the job I needed him for. One day he'll find his way to a loco footplate, but building that model is a long way away!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

A quick wash of dog poo brown


Weathering the viaduct means I need some brown. Chris Nevard uses a lot of emulsion paint when he works and while I've dabbled with it in the past, I've not really used it in anger on anything significant. 

However, with a large area to cover, it's time to dig out the excellent Wilco "Nutmeg Spice" I use for groundworks (I'm on at least a pot a month I reckon, it would probably pay to buy the big tub) which should really be called "Dog poo brown" but isn't to avoid upsetting customers delicate sensibilities. 

Thinned with water, I've washed it over the plastic bricks. Adherence is a bit patchy, but that only adds to the effect. This is only the first stage anyway. Basically, I slop it around and mop up the stuff that runs to the bottom of the wall with a piece of kitchen towel so we don't get a brown tide mark. 

Proper modellers will use an airbrush and proper paint, but I didn't fancy taking the viaduct down to the garage for this, and anyway, on a project like this that isn't heading for a step-by-step piece in a magazine, I can experiment and have a bit of fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Paint your arches


Underneath the arches, we have some lock-ups and these also need paint. 

Boringly conventional, the woodwork starts with Revell Number 9 - Anthracite Grey - for both front and back. The the doors are painted grey or brown. I couldn't make my mind up about the later, so ended up painting it one colour and then a second shade before it dried. The effect looks OK though. 

What I'm aiming for here is colour that no-one notices. They need paint, but in sufficiently muted shades that they hide in the background, which I think I've managed. 

The canal will need a dust though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Going grey


Lots of arches mean lots of paint. Since these are grey bricks, I'm starting with a spray of Humbrol 27 Sea Grey. Too much of that looks a bit monotonous so all the brick surfaces are dabbed with 67 Tank Grey using a sponge. 
Normally I'd dry-brush bricks if painting, but there's so large an area to paint here that I need something quick and capable of a 90% job - and high-density sponge will do the job. 
Sponges are underrated tools. One day, I'm sure a proper modeller will write them up in a proper finescale magazine and suddenly, the rest of the world will discover them. In the meantime, I'll keep dabbing on.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Brace yourself!


The Selly Oak viaduct is the biggest structure I've built in many years, and my normal methods need a bit of adaption. 
With the sides stuck to the plywood track bed using Deluxe Materials Speedbond, the structure still felt a bit wobbly. Cue several pieces of foamboard fixed in place for added strength. I only need this while the model is free of the baseboard, but they won't hurt. It's not like they add any weight! Fixing is with the special foam-safe UHU as it's quick to grab and holds really well. 
At the end, there some DIY wall filler also acting as glue and the same trick has been sued along the sides of the trackbed where there are small gaps 'cos I'm rubbish at woodwork. 
The viaduct can now be waved around in the air without issue - good news as it's now time for paint. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Virtual shows aren't so different from real ones


I spent last Sunday afternoon posting the features into the timeline of our latest Virtual Model Railway exhibition. 
The process of putting on a virtual show isn't that different to that of a real one. For a start, the week running up to the weekend was chaotic. There was an awful lot of last-minute work. Some of the trade interviews have to be carried out late in the day so they include announcements. 
There's also a fair bit of loose-end tying up. It's easy to put odd jobs off but eventually they come back to catch you out!

All the prep means that the weekend itself is reasonably calm. Mostly, while "on duty" you sit copying and pasting content into the site at the appropriate times. You have to be there, but it's not too tough. Real shows are a bit like this - once the doors open you have to get used to there being nothing more you can do. 

At the end of it, there's also the slight sense of deflation - after weeks of extremely busy build-up, it's all over. Back to work on Monday then. 

Oh, and just like a real show, I managed to splurge on the second-hand stall, buying stuff that I (mostly) don't really need...

Anyway, if you dropped in, I hope you enjoyed our efforts. Feedback is appreciated as we can bear it in mind for the next one.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saturday Film Club: A flying car


A flying car! A proper, working flying car! Finally, we get something 21st Century at last. 

OK, so it's probably not that practical, but the engineering of those wings when they fold away is just incredible. 

I'm still note sure I like it as much as I loved my Corgi Aerocar though. 

Friday, November 13, 2020



Thanks to Hugh Freeman for this unexpected addition to my Beatties collection. An unopened packet of track pins, complete with price ticket!

I don't know how old these are, but the same item from Hornby is now £3.45 (RRP) so inflation has definitely taken hold. 

The thing is, these are properly rare. I bet there are more Hornby O gauge Duchesses then packed of Beatties track pins. Let's face it, you didn't buy the pins for fun, so most packets would be ripped open as soon as you got home and pushed firmly into the Sundeala.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Fancy a portable, large-scale layout? This and more in December's Garden Rail


It's interesting the variety of layouts we get to feature in Garden Rail. This month I've chosen a portable model that despite it's small size - 10ft by 3ft 6 - still looks good and allows live steam to be run. It very much ticks the "Layout's Phil would like to build" box. 

Another dream project is the PDF Models Hunslet which looks fantastic. Surface finishing took a while according to the write-up, but the results are well worth it. 

I've also got to try out the LocoRemote system and am really impressed. Who needs DCC? 

(The sharp eyed might spot this isn't the final version of the cover. Yes, I know.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Building more plastic walls

 A little sequence of photos showing the construction of the final big bits of the Selly Oak walls. 


All the work is carried out with 2mm thick own brand plastic from Eileen's Emporium -  I think it's a little softer than Plastikard. It's also easy to work and cheaper. Bricks are from South Eastern Finecast. Glues are Revell Contacta, Mek Pack and Limonine for laminating. 

An evening's work and a very pleasant one at that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Installing the walls


Once cast, the walls "just" needed to be bedded into cement alongside the line. Our track is laid on a bed of breeze blocks so there is enough spare either side of the track to cement too for much of the way, and where there isn't, the ground is compacted enough to allow for foundations. 

Keeping the walls far enough away from the rails to avoid being clouted by Ragleth cylinders was achieved with a simple piece of wood Blu-Tacked to a Playmobil wagon. There were two, but one fell off. 

Not only did the wagon help with gauging, it could have plastic tubs of cement placed on them and then shoved to my dad who was fitting the walls whilst I mixed muck. Around the back of our oval, it's a bit tight between plants and this turned out to be the easiest way to deliver materials. 

This work wasn't fun, but hopefully, combined with the rail clamps, the line in this difficult to get at spot won't need much attention once the ballast goes in. Come spring, the plants will soften the edges a bit and it will look nice and tidy.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Casting walls for the garden railway


It's always been the plan for our garden railway to surround the track with low walls. These will neaten the edges, keep plants back a bit and stop the ballast running everywhere. The trouble, low wall sections are difficult to come by. 

I found a couple of examples, one from a supplier who promptly disappeared, and another in a bundle of heavy concrete pieces under a second hand stall. 

After lugging the later home, I set about trying to track the maker down. The walls were perfect, we just needed lots more. Sadly, when I did, they had also stopped making them. 

However, they did agree that I could make some copies. For my own use, but enough to do the job required. 

So, we bought some Gelflex Blue, made a simple set of wooden walls, heated the gel up on the hob in a cheap pan bought for the job, and made a mould. 

 The first lesson is that you need more gel than you think, but once it has cooled, the resulting mould works really well.

My dad set himself up in the greenhouse over the summer and every morning, made a concrete mix up and cast another section. The following morning, he'd turn out the previous section, mix another and repeat. For over a month. 

We cast in excess of 40 wall piece from the mould and it's still going strong. Occasionally, some release was sprayed in but mostly we didn't worry too much about looking after it. The gel can be re-melted to make a new mould, but we didn't need to do that. 

After a few days, the correct mix of water and concrete was established and we got better at turning out walls without breaking. As it happens, some short versions would be useful, but mostly they came out whole. 

You can buy Gelflex Blue from Hobby's.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Douglas signal box

This is the signal box at Douglas station in 1993. It's not there now. 

That's because it was moved several feet forward when the station was remodelled and the carriage sheds behind the box replaced with a bus depot. 

The box doesn't work any more, but at least it can still be enjoyed. And they've put the steps back.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Minecraft Big Boy


 I don't really understand Minecraft. It's a sort of virtual Lego. If I was a kid, I suspect I'd be madly into it like many others. 

Anyway, you don't have to understand it to enjoy this video of a virtual "Big Boy" steam loco running through a landscape. It's the details like the spotters and shadows around the station that impress me. There's certainly a lot of work in here, even if it is all mouse'n'keyboard rather then at the workbench.

Friday, November 06, 2020

It's back! Virtual Show II is this weekend


It's time for our second Virtual Model Railway Exhibition - I've been hard at work interviewing people and editing videos for the show. 

Last time, we brought you masses of interesting content, and the plans tell me that there will be more of the same. The biggest problem will be finding time to fit it all in!

So, since we are all supposed to be hiding in cupboards, you'll have plenty of time for us to entertain you. 

Head over to World of Railways tomorrow for all the fun!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Railcar build, canals and dirty diesels in BRM


I've wanted to build the Sentinel railcar from the old Nu-Cast range for over 30 years, and I've finally managed it. 

The kit was reintroduced a couple of years ago by Branchlines and South Eastern Finecast, which gave me a good excuse to turn it into a magazine project. Single-car trains are always popular with modellers and in theory, a whitemetal kit with a RTR power unit should be perfect for the newbie. 

Spotting a prototype piece on canals in the plan, I said, "I'm building a canal, why don't I do the modelling content?" Well, it never hurts to volunteer for jobs you are going to do already, does it? 

And finally, on the BRMTV, I weather an N gauge diesel using simple methods.

More details of the December 2020 issue over on RMweb.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

The big baseboard cut


Time for a job that I've been putting off. Cutting the excess baseboard away. 

On the left hand side of Selly Oak, there should be a massive factory. It's not there now, I can't find much in the way of photos and even if I could, modelling the thing would take forever. 

So, the plan is to trim the board back so it's a two foot wide at the end, which will allow any extension boards to just feature the embankment the line runs on to. 

I had initially thought jigsaw for this, but that is dusty, so the work really needs to be done outside. And it was raining. Also, jigsaws are great for intricate cuts, hence the name, but a bit rubbish for straight lines. 

So, out came the big fine-cut saw and I summoned up the courage to have a go. 

With a but of care, I managed to confine the bulk of the cutting to the top surface, which was then peeled away, leaving the supports. These were then marked with a square and cut as neatly as I could. 

A fresh piece of 6mm ply was nailed and glued in place and then trimmed back. The result looks quite tidy. 

I'd like to do something with the corner between the two boards, but I have kept the old corner to experiment with. For the moment, I need to make progress on the scenery.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Servicing a 45mm gauge USA Trains point

We've been fitting rail clamps to the garden railway and after rounding the curve at one end, reached the first station point. 

The mechanism had seized so the chance was taken to remove it and give the turnout a service on the workbench. 

Opening up the switch box, there was a bit of earth in there and some general much. I removed it all and lubricated the moving parts lightly with some furniture polish. I don't want to use oil or grease, these will attract dirt. Far batter to polish all the plastic parts so they move smoothly. 

Taking the box apart, all but one of the corner screw connections had broken, but the bits were still in the box. First with superglue and then with Poundland Epoxy, they were fixed. I think the screws are self-tappers so a bit of glue in the holes wouldn't have worried them much. As long as I waited until it was dry anyway!

Reassembling the box is a bit of a fiddle as the turny bit has to engage with the slidy bit, but once done, the point changes perfectly. After that, a quick burnish with a track runner, the electrical contacts under the blades polished with a fibrepen and the point could go back in place. 

There's still work to do on the line. More clamps for the other curve, more ballast and tightening up the joints in the station area, but we are getting there.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Spooky goings on

Inspired by a window of Danish tat shop Flying Tiger, I decided that Garden Rail should have a couple of spooky images for Halloween. 

A giant pumpkin loaded on a flat wagon seemed like a good plan , especially as such a plastic vegetable could be bought for a couple of quid. 

It turns out that spending the money was the easy bit. While the pumpkin included a light, this only stayed on for a few seconds. And made a noise. 

The solution was a real tea-light candle Blu-Tacked inside, not too near the plastic. As you can see, during the 15 second exposure, the "rope" holding it in place got a bit singed, but nothing caught fire. 

With the pumpkin lit up, I needed a loco and a driver. An LGB 04-0 would do, and I wedged a posable rubber skeleton into the cap, also from FT. 


On the track, I tried a few shots. Purely by accident, I hit upon the idea of illuminating the scene with a wave of an LED torch for a few seconds while the shutter was open. This worked really well, the blueish light looking just like moonlight and allowing you to see the models a bit better while leaving shadows that I could darken on the computer. 

A lot of work for one silly image, but it's things like this that make my job fun.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

The best time to plant a tree is...


They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. 

My horse chestnut, planted well over a decade ago, has produced a nice crop of conkers. The question is, what to do with them? 

Well, there is a sports field near me which has a large copse area at one end. Most of the trees in there seem to be self-set, so I borrowed a dibber from the greenhouse and decided to add my conkers to see if some of them would flourish. 

I picked clear areas away from the paths to give then the best chance. Don't know if anything will happen, but just maybe we'll have a few more trees in the future.