Thursday, December 31, 2020

Spin me round like a painty, Steampunk turntable in BRM


How do you make a turntable rotate? I show you in the latest issue of BRM using a couple of different, easy-to-build kits. 

Mind you, the Peco turntable presented some problems. How are you supposed to bring three segments of the pit together simultaneously so they can all interlock, with only two hands? Do the Boyz from Beer have an extra limb for this sort of thing? 

In the review section, I take a look at the Bassett-Lowke Steampunk range of locos, rolling stock, figures, greeble and paint. They give me this stuff because I'm not grown-up enough for serious trains and also, I asked for it - Steampunk is fun!

Finally, over on the DVD, a little piece about bodging while painting models. 

February 2021 British Railway Modelling on RMweb.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

What I want for Christmas is a new fence


What do you do in that period between Christmas breakfast and your sister turning up so the day can start? 

Me - I looked at the fence erected alongside the Selly Oak canal and realise that I'd not allowed space for the pipe bridge that will camouflage the baseboard join through the water. And decide to do something about it. 

The ScaleModelScenery fence is well fixed into the baseboard. Yes, I know I should have put it in the right place before fixing, but I got it wrong. 
My scalpel wouldn't touch the laserboard, at least not without waggling around and bending things. In teal life you'd use a saw and that's what I did. The Xacto sliced through the material perfectly and reasonably cleanly. The corner could then be pulled apart and reassembled to allow more space on the towpath. 

 A little touch-up with some brown acrylic and the job is done. Fortunately, this is a scruffy fence, so my less than perfect workmanship won't be noticed. 

Not a long job, and something to stop me eating chocolate for a few minutes!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ask Phil: LMS Dock Tank


David asks:

 Having made a few kits, DJH and Ks mostly, I wanted to make an LMS dock tank and I know from your blog that you will understand when I say I wish I hadn't bothered.

Your blog has been a great help but I don't think I'll be attempting another all brass loco kit.  

Two Questions:  

1.What did you use to achieve the gleaming finish before painting? 

 2. How did you manage to paint inside the cab? 

At the risk of teaching you to suck eggs - When I solder nuts I thread the nut on a cocktail stick to hold it in position. In the worst case a few twists of a tap is enough to clear any solder. 

When making the waggly bits I just thread a piece of paper between the bits I want to stay free. Thanks for all the tips in your blog, I think I'll achieve a working dock tank though nowhere near as good as yours.

The Mercian LMS Dock tank isn't a beginners kit by a long way. Part of the problem is the prototype puts a lot of wheels in a small area, precluding much in the way of chassis strengthening where you need it. I recall putting bracing wires in in the same way you weld rods into car doorways when straightening the body, just to keep the chassis in line. 

Add to that all the waggly bits (never fun) and a cab roof designed to clip in and out that I've never made work, and this is a kit that requires a level of skill. Were it to be designed now, I suspect that most of these points would be dealt with. That said, it's quicker than scratchbuilding!

You can read one of my builds of this kit here. 

Anyway, the questions: 

1) Shiny locos come from regular application of Shiny Sinks cleaner. After every soldering session, I head down to the kitchen sink to give the metal a scrub with this followed by a nice clean with washing up liquid and plenty of water. Do this ever time and you remove flux from the hidden corners. 

2) The inside of the cab is black on my model. I know it probably should be cream, but I solder the roof wrapper into one piece, or even replace it with a plastic one, and that makes getting the brush inside a nightmare. I have done this, but it's fiddly, knackers the brush and to be honest, if you stand a crew in the doorway, you can't see in anyway!

Good point about the paper when making valve gear. I have used Rizla papers for this, but now prefer tin foil. It's tougher and yet repels solder. 

And don't think I'm a genius with the dock tank. Mind has more slop in the mechanicals than is really ideal, but I think that's why it runs well. I think I had to re-make the pickups at least once before I got there - but now it's a good-looking loco. It's a surprise that there has never been one RTR, but I'm not complaining. 

Incidentally, the kit isn't available in 4mm scale any more, but I'd love to build the Gauge 1 version one day. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Christmas digger build

 I consider Christmas a success if my present pile includes something I can put together after lunch, while watching a good film. The kit mustn't be too taxing, and shouldn't form part of a serious project. Lego is perfect, but knock-off Meccano works well too. 

I think this Science Club digger came from The Works, and am told it cost £10 for a pair of kits - my dad has a 4X4 from the same range. So, cheap enough for a bit of fund and there might be some useful bits inside. 

On the bits front, the motor/gearbox unit has possibilities. At 20mm wide, it would fit in a garden railway locomotive. The 2 X AA battery box includes a switch and these aren't that cheap either. 

The metal bits are strong enough. I don't know if the hole pitch is the same as Meccano, but I bet it's not far off. Yes, I could check with a ruler, but there is chocolate to eat. 

Everything bolts together easily enough. A cross-head screwdriver and spanner are included in the box

and are good enough quality they will head to the toolbox eventually. Nuts and bolts are in reasonable metal so I didn't manage to chew the heads off any by using excess force. Three lengths are used, and these are identified at each stage of the instructions. 

You need your brain in gear as the photos for the instructions are tiny and so it helps if you can figure out things for yourself. The stage took me much pondering - it looks like the motor mounts centrally under a plate, but if you to that, the gearbox doesn't fit between the orange spacers. Offset it by one hole and everything is fine. 

The result looks like the model on the box. Throw the switch and it scoots across the floor at a modest pace. In fact, at a pace that would be good for a garden railway locomotive...

And the film I watched? Sparticus. Never seen it before and won't bother again, but I've ticked off another classic film hole in my memory. It certainly didn't distract me from building, and lasted well over an hour longer than the kit.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Video: Build a Metcalfe Models signal box


 Let's face it, we're all full of turkey and chocolate right now and can't be bothered with much. With that in mind, sit back and watch me build a card kit signal box.  

This is something I recorded during the year and appeared on BRM TV - but now has a general release. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Cheer yourself up with Thomas the Tank on cello


Let's be honest, we all need cheering up right now, and this is a video that's been making me smile all year. The Thomas the Tank Engine theme played by a talented musician on seven cellos and a bell.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Immortalised in fridge magnets

A nice early Christmas present arrives in the post from RMweb member Southern42 - a set of refrigerator magnets immortalising the BRM team in festive snow scenes. 

These were sent as a thank you for organising the Cake Box challenge and are set on her model using the plastic giveaway figures from a year or so ago.

It's a really nice gesture and makes me even prouder to have put together the challenge. We got a lot of people modelling and some superb dioramas were produced. Maybe it's time to have another round in lockdown. I'll have to think about it.

I'm not sure how Andy will take to being turned into Santa though!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Santas and reindeer


For a laser-cut sleigh, I need laser-cut reindeer and handily, HGLW produce a couple of sets. I ordered one with and one without Rudolph. 

Assembly simply requires layering the parts with some PVA and then fitting the antlers on the top of the heads. A bit of sanding sealer, some red paint and it's job done. 

Definitely, the oddest laser-cut kits I've ever built!

Finally, some Santa's.

Resin figures that just required painting. The taller one is 16mm scale, his diminutive friend is G. 

All of this for some final festive images: 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A rail-mounted sleigh

 I fancied something interesting and festive for Garden Rail this year. Looking through the HGLW website, I found a laser-cut sleigh kit. 

The model is intended to be a wagon load, but it seemed to me that mounting the sleigh on rails would be far more fun. Assembly is easy with PVA glue, everything slots together easily.

Using a Binnie tipper chassis, I found that the legs could just fit on the frames once the skis were cut away. Glued and then pinned in place, they just make it and seemed pretty solid now. 

The skis fit on the sides of the rails and it looks (IMHO) fantastic. Sprayed red and with white trim applied after painting, it really looks the part for the narrow-gauge Father Christmas. 

All we need, is something to pull it...

Monday, December 21, 2020

My first house


We aren't (currently) banned from having Christmas trees, so ours has gone up. Like many families, we have decorations that make come out of the box each year for nostalgic reasons rather than aesthetic ones. This is one of those. 

It's a model house I made when I was around 5. 

In the big tin shed/garage with a workbench, I made my mum a house from a bit of wood. I can't remember how I carved it, but it looks as though a blade was involved rather than abrasives. The chimney as attached with a nail - my hammering technique hasn't improved mush over the years!

The weird thing is, I don't think this is the finished model. I seem to recall this was a test and I built another which had windows scribed in the surface and a blackboard paint coloured roof. I've no idea what happened to that one, but at least this survives - probably the earliest model I even built!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Douglas model boating lake

A nice little find while Christmas shopping is a tourist guide to the Isle of Man from 1960. 

Mostly full of adverts for hotels, there is a colour section at the front of the book with shots from around the island. 

The one that really caught my eye is this one caption "The children's (and fathers') Boating Lake, Loch Promenade, Douglas. 

What a wonderful facility!

Unsurprisingly, the pond has long since been turned into a sunken garden. I suspect that water is harder to maintain and potentially dangerous for a start. More importantly, how many people enjoy the peaceful pleasure of sailing a little boat this those shown? Sadly, not many. 

If I ever get back to the IOM, I'll do my best to identify the location of this image. The shelter is still there, so it shouldn't be too hard. 

Of course, model boating lakes like this weren't uncommon in seaside towns years ago. I'm sure I've seen them in the past, although I can't remember where. Can anyone else help?

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Leamington Spa in the late 1950s


It's always interesting seeing old film of the place you live - simply spotting the changes in street scenes appeals to me. 

These films are odd. The cameraman seems to have spent his time filming very random bit of traffic. Fascinating now, but I wonder why he was thinking this at the time. 

For me, the big surprise is just how much road traffic there is. Leamington has always resisted the lure of pedestrianisation, preferring to have a four-lane main road running through the town centre. It's obvious that this has always been a busy road too.

Friday, December 18, 2020

A new delivery van for Garden Rail

If you've read the latest issue of Garden Rail, you'll have spotted a review build of 3D Wayne's "Mostyn Seven" van. As well as the kit supplied for review, he also sent one over to me and I've turned it into a delivery van for Garden Rail. 

The kit is 3D printed so needs a little clean-up to remove print lines. A couple of coats of high-build Halfords primer did the job well enough for me. After that there was more rattle-can painting and a set of transfers made on my printer. 

I'm particularly pleased with the spoked wheels. The spokes are printed and all I did was draw them in with a bow-pen full of silver paint. 

This was a nice simple project and a bit of fun. I like the cartoony looks of the model. This fits in with the sort of people I populate my outdoor line with. Look out for this appearing on lines I visit - if we are ever allowed out to visit anywhere in the future!

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Garden Rail - January 2021


Our lead layout in Garden Rail this month is the stunningly realist Isle of Westland railway, built by Andy Coward. For an editor, it presented a big challenge - the photos are all stunning and I couldn't fit them all in, despite a page shuffle to give it a bit more space than recent months. 

We've also got some scratchbuilding advice for the larger scale modeller. If you fancy building a battery-electric loco, then read Dave's words. You don't need a well-equipped workshop, just hand tools and some stuff from a DIY store. 

Full contents listing over on RMweb. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Invisible work


Why do we fiddle with details that no-one will see on a model? 

"Because I know it's there." seems to be the stock answer when I ask anyone this question, and I guess it's as good as any. 

Normally, we build models to please ourselves. In truth, unless someone is paying you to build it, there is absolutely no point otherwise. On that basis, you make things to a standard you are happy with. This might not be the highest in the world, but it's a level where you gain the maximum pleasure - this is a hobby after all. 

Commercial modellers will have a different approach, but I know I'll never ben properly in that field. There isn't a magazine project I've worked on where I haven't done some work that won't appear in the photos on the page. Maybe I might take the model to a show (remember those?) and the fact the back of a building has been modelled will be appreciated by a visitor. 

On the other hand, it just seems odd to me not to do this. While I might build on demand, I'm still proud of each and every project, and leaving bits off would seem to be selling myself short. An attitude that might satisfy my soul, even the approaching deadline makes me wonder!

What's the most time-consuming detail you've added to a model that only you know exists?

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

More wall


Every time I drive in to the office, there is a wall that annoys me. It's newly built from stone and on a slight hill. And the line of the stones follows the hill.

It works fine as a wall, but I can't help feeling that the mortar lines are supposed to be horizontal. OK, that's more work as the lower levels will be slightly set into the ground - but it wouldn't niggle me as I sit waiting at the traffic lights. 

When it comes to the Selly Oak walls, I spent time looking online and am convinced I'm right. Mortar is flat so the wall has to step down as it follows down the hill. I think the top can slope, but even that seems to vary. I guess non-sloping is easier.

I'm started by going for the slope. It's very slight, the angle in the photo exaggerates it, but changed my mind and levelled it off. Plastic sheet is very adaptable. To be honest, no-one will be looking at these walls anyway, there is a lot of visual clutter to go around them. That's the trouble with this bit of the model. It's a fiddle, but no-one will be looking at it anyway once the whole scene is in place.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Why do I chose the big knife?


This probably sounds s bit random, but I've noticed a change in my model-making technique recently. 

Once, my scalpel would be almost like a finger, it spent so long in my hands. I cut with it, scrape with it and even poke things to make holes. 

Over the last few weeks though, I notice that I'm using the big craft knife for more and more jobs. 

Cutting jobs I'd have used the scalpel for in the past. Scraping too. 

I don't really know why. Maybe I'm just getting more confident, but then it's hardly like I'm a beginner at this stuff. Perhaps it's related to my enthusiasm for the larger file over the modellers favourite needle files. 

For many jobs, the big knife is faster yet still pretty manoeuvrable. This one fits nicely in my hand and the snap-off blades ensure I'm always working with a keen edge. Thinking about it though, it just doesn't seem right - but also ties in with a "get it done" attitude that many professional modellers have.

What is everyone else cutting with?

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Model shop news

 From the UK Modelshops newsletter*: 

Sadly we have lost 24 model shops this past year, but the good news is that 22 new ones have opened up, fairly similar to 2019.

 So, countrywide, we have a defect of two model shops for 2020 - considering what a s**tshow of a year we've "enjoyed" then that's pretty good.

Optimistically, I'd say that this year will have seen those with little or no online presence struggle and those heading for retirement decide that this is the year is the year to call it quits. There will always be gains and losses, hopefully, those that are left will be in a stronger position than ever.

Trade with a working website have struggled to keep up with demand over the last few months. Even raw materials have been difficult, but not impossible, to come by. While frustrating, strong demand will hopefully drive stronger supply in the future.

What this definitely isn't is the "death of the hobby" as predicted by doom-fetishists online. I'll take that. 

*If you aren't signed up for this, get over there and do it now.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Toy bus restoration


Interesting and impressive restoration of a very rusty toy bus. I couldn't help wondering about the state of the original however - it's a rotbox but all the tags that hold it together can be bent over. Surely most of these small parts would have rusted and broken when being straightened and re-bent? 

It makes me wish I had space for a media blasting cabinet though.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Rockin' VeeDub

A random photo from the archive of shots still to be filed from my hard drive crash a few years ago. Thousands of images that live in a folder and await sorting out, I look in occasionally and have a go, but it's a long job. 

Anyway, I can't remember where I took this photo, but it is brilliant. A handbuilt, wooden VW rocking "horse". The workmanship is amazing and I wish I'd had one of these as a child!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Cutting Woodland Scenics Deep Pour


Yesterday, I wondered if it would be possible to cut Woodland Scenics "Deep pour" water at a baseboard joint instead of trying to pour identical depths of resin either side of the gap. Since I had a lump of leftover resin in the bottom of the mixing cup, I decided to have a go. 

First point - this resin takes a couple of days to fully harden. If you touch the surface of the canal, it initially feels "soft" in the same way fresh paint feels soft. 48 hours later, it feels hard. The resin in the cup was the same, in fact when I peeled the plastic away, there was still unset material even after five days. 

After another 24 hours, it was time for science. Logically, if I'm going to cut "water" at a baseboard joint, I'll use an Xacto saw for it's fine and straight cut. I tried the fine-tooth blade because the coarser toothed version for wood seemed wrong. 

The resin cut very well. It's hard work but cuts cleanly enough - so it looks like this method is a goer for future layout work. 

Out of curiosity, I tried polishing the off-cut, first with a sanding stick and then with some Brasso wadding. The results are impressive, even if they don't show up well in the photo. With work, and I only had a quick test, I think you could produce a nice, clear surface. I managed a little section even with minimal work. 

Next time, I will make the canal in one piece, pour the water, then cut it on the joins when set. That will certainly be easier then trying to match the levels in the way I have done this time.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

2nd pour for the canal


Some delicate work now - time to try to bring the canal on the right hand board up to the level of that on the left. Ideally without sticking it to the worktop again. 

My plan was to bring the water level up to the top of the meniscus, using this to hold the "water" back. This would see it close to level all the way along. 

I'm not sure how I could have done this better. Maybe it's possible to saw through the resin once it's set. Seal the entire canal, pour it in one go and cut through later. I don't know, but I'll have a play with the leftover resin and let you know how I get on. 

Anyway, once poured, the model is covered with a sheet of foamboard and I go and hide in the office to avoid risking raising any dust that will stick in the water.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Fixing the arches down

Not an exciting photo, but this is a big moment for the Selly Oak build - the arches can be fixed down permenantly!

With buildings this big, glue alone isn't a great idea but those 9mm thick bit of plywood supporting the track bed are fat enough to screw into. As long as I drill some pilot holes anyway. We don't want to be going on a fishing operation with the electric screwdriver trying to find them from under the baseboard.

I'm getting there now. With the board cleared, I can see the model and get a proper feel for it. There's a long was to go, but putting things together and stepping back for a look helps keep the enthusiasm up.

Monday, December 07, 2020

The Donald's new hobby?

This is an official photo of this years Whitehouse Christmas decorations. And it includes a train. According to Fox News, this is "The White House Express".

Melania doesn't look awfully impressed does she? 

Maybe The Donald is taking up a new hobby now he's going to have plenty of time on his (small) hands? 

I feel there should be a caption competition...

Sunday, December 06, 2020

A giant train-shaped cake!

I get some interesting press releases in my job. Many are irrelevant and go in the bin. This one doesn't fit a model railway magazine, but is perfect for this blog. To be honest, it's too wonderful not to share. 

2020 Hasn’t Derailed This Train of Christmas Cheer 

The Broadmoor Unveils Gigantic Cog Railway Gingerbread Creation

Creating a fanciful, over-the-top gingerbread house is a holiday tradition at the 102-year-old Broadmoor resort in picturesque Colorado Springs, and 2020 (despite its best efforts) is no exception. The gingerbread isn’t cancelled. 

We repeat: the gingerbread isn’t cancelled! 

Led by The Broadmoor’s Executive Pastry Chef Adam Thomas and his team of chocolatiers and bakers (plus a few carpenters), The Broadmoor gingerbread creation has been a holiday staple at the resort since 1964. 

This year’s installation was inspired by the resort’s own The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway, one of the top tourist attractions in Colorado. Originally built in 1891, the cog railway is the highest railway in America reaching a height of 14,115 feet above sea level. Since March of 2019, it has been closed as it undergoes a massive $100 million renovation of its tracks, railcars, and depot to totally reimagine the experience to the summit of Pikes Peak where "America The Beautiful" was inspired. It’s on track for a May, 2021 reopening. 

Previous gingerbread displays have included the resort’s intricate Pauline Chapel, the original 1918 resort, and, in 2019, The Broadmoor Special, a 1918 Pierce Arrow Touring Car that was converted by Broadmoor Founder Spencer Penrose into an iconic race car. The first Broadmoor gingerbread was a fairytale gingerbread house with Hansel and Gretel, complete with a tiny oven where the old witch put the bad children. 

Since 2013, the gingerbread creations have been life-sized and played a vital role in the resort’s holiday celebrations – going up at Thanksgiving and remaining on display until the new year. They are beloved by families who visit the resort during the holiday season. 

 In the past, non-guests would flock to the resort to get a glimpse of the impressive creations, along with a host of other public holiday programming, but in 2020 as crowds must be kept to a minimum, only hotel guests may view the gingerbread and other lavish decorations. This year, the resort has made digital viewing available, as well as created a video with The Broadmoor’s talented pastry team/chocolatiers that gives families tips on making their own gingerbread creations at home: 

For those who can travel to the property for holiday cheer (or indulge in a restful staycation), the resort is offering a Winter Spectacular getaway, with rates starting as low as $249/night, valid on select dates between now and March, 2021. For more information about The Broadmoor, visit


Saturday, December 05, 2020

Saturday Film Club: Crewe - August 1989


In the good old days,most trains had a proper engine on the front of them. Sadly, that's all gone, but we can relive the fun times for a couple of minutes thanks to this video from Nick Tozzer. I know the quality isn't amazing, but you can almost smell the fumes, and the anticipation of something worth spotting.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Toy Town, the shop of dreams

As a youngster, there was one shop in Leamington that I wanted to visit - Toy Town. 

Two wonderful floors of toys and games. My Lego came from there, so did my Playpeople. Every birthday, I would take a crisp five pound note, and chose a new big set from the display in the middle of the ground floor. 

I liked the upper floor more though. That was where the models were. 

Trains, boats, cars, plastic kits. Paint Glue, tools - you could buy them all. Helpful staff could advise you on the best way to spend your money. The range on offer simply doesn't exist in many retail outlets now. 

These photos, which I think date to 1986, were taken by Mark Dobson and posted in the "I Remember Toy Town" group on Facebook. He generously agreed to me re-posting here.  

I miss Toytown. It closed in 1995 thanks to massive rent increases. The Facebook group shows I'm not alone, although I remember working with someone who ranted how she hated the place due to all the staff "looking superior" and the prices being higher than ToysRUs. Well, they've gone too. 

Looking at these photos, I wish for a time machine so I can go back and just wander around the shelves with my pocket money burning a hole in my trousers. Looking at models I could only dream of owning, but dreaming that one day I would carry a big box out of the shop...

You can read more about Toy Town here.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Garages and fencing in BRM

After the virtual show, I had thought I was doing well with my magazine work. That was until I realised that the date I'd writen on my To-Do list was when the mag would head to the printers, not when I needed to get my copy in!

There were a couple of long days, but the result of my rush is a car workshop based on a Auhagen plastic kit. 

As supplied, this is a pretty and efficient German establishment. Nothing like the sort of place I like to take a car. To represent that, I needed to do a lot of work. 

The result looks good and would be useful for many modellers who fancy an interesting and characterful space-filler. 

Over on BRM TV, I'm demonstrating how I made the fences  how I made the fences for Selly Oak using some ScaleModelScenery fence kits with a bit of modification. 

I'm also providing the voice-over for film of John Ahern's Madder Valley Railway. 

January 2021 BRM on RMweb.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Palette knife rescue

While painting the roads, I managed to knock over the tin of fresh tarmac paint. This is frustrating and smelly. Fortunately, I had my palette knife handy and was able to scoop much of the paint up and drop it back into the pot.

There's still a grey pool on the board, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I managed to save with a bit of quick work.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Road markings

Adding road markings is a nice simple job. Armed with a ScaleModelScenery stencil set, I splodged Humbrol 147 though using a sponge. 

For some of the stencils, it's worth placing masking tape over the adjacent holes to ensure paint only goes through the ones you want, but otherwise, the task is easy. Using paint looks better than self-adhesive tape as it becomes part of the road and simulating wear just means putting less 147 down. 

Exactly what the road markings should be is a little tougher to work out. Somewhere I have a 1973 RAC book which I'm sure would help if I could find it. However, even that assumes the markings were up-to date. 

Photos seem to show only a single line down the middle of the road despite there being four lanes. Mind you, a couple of decades earlier, London roundabouts enjoyed no markings on roundabouts, despite there being three of more lanes! Perhaps drivers in the past were considered capable of dodging each other. 

The photo above shows the roads without pavements - those are still to come so don't worry, it's not finished yet. I'm tempted to add some patch repairs, another job for the future.