Sunday, January 31, 2021

Support your local shops!

It's been an odd week on various social media. Three posts on different forums had a common theme that troubles me. 

Example 1 - Someone asks about glue spray for scenic work. I suggest hair lacquer to which they reply "Good idea, I'll check what the missus has and if not head to Amazon."

Example 2 - I've demonstrated a simple continuity test in a video sponsored by Squires Tools. One response, "Thanks Phil, I've always wondered how those work and have no ordered one off Amazon."

Example 3 - A post about a compressor and airbrush uses Amazon links to point readers at the model under consideration.

The common factor is Amazon. Now, I use them myself occasionally, but it seems that the web behemoth has become the default option for a lot of people. While convenient, and possibly cheap if you buy the Prime service anyway, I'd love to see a bit more imagination. 

For example 1, I pointed out that hair spray is available from every supermarket and chemist. Your corner shop will have some and it's going to cost less than two quid a can. Even with free postage, I doubt Amazon can beat that. 

The tester is trickier. I really like Squires, but you have to ring them up - the website isn't very good. Plenty of people prefer to avoid all forms of human contact, clicking being easier than speaking. You are also limited by opening hours too. That said, once you do talk to them, the service has always been excellent and I don't believe you can stop at one tool costing a fiver. I can't anyway. 

For airbrushes, I'd normally recommend, especially since we were looking at a Sparmax compressor and Iwata airbrush. More excellent service both before and after sales. Their price is slightly lower too. And Mick Bonwick agreed with me and he knows a lot more about spray painting than I do. 

For lots of people, Amazon or eBay are the go-to destinations for anything and everything. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but that's a shame. Our hobby has loads of small businesses trying to keep themselves going and offering more than just a buying experience. What do you do if you have a problem or question about your new Amazon purchase? Head to a forum, 'cos you are on your own. 

Partly, this is about cost. Modellers will trade pretty much anything for the chance of a bargain, but as many eBay auctions prove, neither they nor Amazon are always the cheapest, it's just that people think they are and that's enough. 

I'm not sure this is anything other and thinking out loud. I can't change anything. I can't even say I don't use big stores, because I do. The lack of taxpaying send me to local shops where I can, but sometimes convenience wins. Just like I eat McDonalds when I should seek out local cafes. 

All I can say is please support the specialist trade. They need us and I think (I might be wrong), we need them. 

What do you think?

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Saturday Film Club: William Towns designed cars that were ahead of their time.

William Towns was the designer responsible for, among other things, the Aston Martin Lagonda. A car so futuristic, that quite a bit of the amazing technology didn't work when new, and still terrifies car restorers today. 

He was very much ahead of his time. The video shows The Hustler, complete with removable fibreglass body panels so you can "repaint" your car by changing them over. Just like a Smart car today. 

There's also MicroDot - a hybrid powered by batteries but including a tiny engine to charge these up. BMW made some swoopy sports car a few years ago that worked like this, but the MicroDot featured working indicators too.

This film of the MicroDot in action intrigues me. I'm sure it's filmed near Leamington, but I can't work out where. Some of the buildings look familiar, even 40 years after the film was made.

Friday, January 29, 2021

New home for a very old layout required


Tom from the Model Railway Club dropped me a line last week to say they are trying to find a new home for a very old O gauge model railway layout. 

You can read the full details on their website. 

This is a historically interesting project. Power is from an outside third rail - prototypical for Southern electric trains but we are talking steam here. I don't think I've ever seen such a pick-up method in real life, but it used to be very common 60 years ago. 

Sadly, the stock is not part of the sale, but would be available separately. For me, this would be crucial to taking this project on (no, I'm not) as running modern tinplate would take away a lot of the historical interest. That, and you'd have to convert modern centre three rail (yes, you can buy it) to outside rail. 

Mind you, there is a mixed bag of stock. One of the steam locos appears to be a Bowman, so you could let that go and concentrate on the electrical stuff that isn't going to be of great value on the open market. 

The good news is that the model is designed to be split up so you don't need an angle grinder to chop it up. At 4 by 3 metres, it could even be turned into an interesting exhibition layout, if exhibitions ever return. Old trains thrashing around make a serious crowd-pleaser!

I hope the model finds a home. So many of these things end up in a skip, but being a bit different, this ones chances are better than most.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Woodyard, pylon, coach and gremlins in the March BRM

 There's an awful lot of me in the March 2021 issue of BRM. 

The main project is Selly Oak's timber yard. Six pages of scratchbuilding, kitbashing and general modelling joy. 

Next, I build a 2mm scale Pylon from Severn Models. It's not a difficult kit, and the instructions are excellent, so I cover a lot of bending, soldering and messing with etched brass techniques. 

Over on the review corner, I'm looking at Hornby's new generic pre-grouping coach. 

This was a novelty - the model arrived before Christmas, weeks before it was officially announced. I don't recall this ever happening before. We usually get our paws on products before they appear in the shops, so the mag appearance coincides with this to maximise sales, but before announcement? That's a first. The box had to be kept hidden when I was on a Zoom call with my mates!

A long while ago - in the time before Covid, I photographed the 7mm scale layout Amalgamated Wagon Works. The results are now on the page. It wasn't on the list to shoot, until I saw it at Doncaster 2019 - and then it very definitely was.

Finally, BRMTV

I'm showing you how to diagnose simple electrical problems around a point. To do this, I had to make the point fail - which turned out to be easier said than done. In the end, there was PVA glue used to "break" the point (simulated a typical fault) that I could then repair. Just my luck, I want something to be unreliable and it won't play ball...

More on March 2021 BRM over on RMweb.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Tidy up the sides


This is one of those quick jobs that makes much more of a difference than I had expected - covering the sides of the hill with some nice, tidy plywood. 

In our stock of wood is some LitePly about 3mm thick. More expensive than normal ply, it has the advantage of being cutable with a heavy craft knife. Since I wanted the top to follow the contour of the hill, this seemed worth it. Besides, I wasn't looking at big chunks of the stuff - and anyway, there's no point in buying these materials if you keep saving them "for a special job". 

Anyway, the hill had to be trimmed back to allow the ply to be fitted, but I clamped it in place with a wodge of filler behind it and then tidied up the top (yes, I should have cone this before working on the mud) for a neat job. 

It looks stupidly good. Eventually, I'll paint it grey. Matching the colour of the rest of the boards won't happen so a contrast will look a lot better. 

As well as looking good, the ply will protect the polystyrene from knocks as the model is moved around in the future - another win!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Building a hill for a model railway

 A quick step-by-step guide showing how I made a hill on the corner of my Selly Oak project. 

The basis of the hill is expanded polystyrene blocks fixed together with PVA glue and then carved to shape. Ideally, you do this with a hot wire cutter, but a less smelly, if considerably messier, method is to use a bread knife. 

To give the hill a hard shell, pieces of plaster impregnated bandage, often sold under the trade name Mod-Roc, are dipped in water and then laid on the hill. By overlapping them and then smearing around the wet plaster with your fingers (another messy job) the whole hill is covered and left to dry overnight. 

I like quite a thick "crust" on my hills and while I could achieve this with extra layers of the plaster bandage, using some DIY store wall filler is cheaper. Apply it with a palette knife or one of these spatulas used for icing cakes. Wet the tool as you work, it makes the filler go on a lot smoother. 

Once the hill is covered to 2-3mm, leave it to dry overnight. 

You might be better at plastering than I am, but generally, the surface needs sanding to get it smooth. 

We're not looking for perfection, just to take the worst lumps and bumps out of the surface. Imagine you are a scale person standing on it and then think about a real hill. They might have the odd crevasse or cliff edge, but generally the land is smooth thanks to years of weather and erosion. 

This is another messy job. Have a vacuum cleaner to hand and use it constantly. You really don't want this stuff in your pointwork. 

Unless you are modelling s now scene, your ground needs to be mud coloured. I use emulsion paint to give me a basic shade. If you mixed your own filler for the previous step, it's not a bad idea to put a dollop of it in there, but I cheat with ready-mix for time and mess reasons. 

Finally, it's time for greenery. This is the first coat of static grass. I'm just giving it a base colour as the greenery will be more detailed with extra layers of grass and some scatter to replicate weeds. However, this makes a big change to the look of a layout, so even if the detailing is a way off, it's worth doing to show progress and inspire you to carry on. 

I hope this quick guide has helped. Don't forget if you want to know more, you can always Ask Phil.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Shops'n'steampunk in The Collector

Two new projects of mine appear in the winter 2021 issue of the Hornby Collectors Club house magazine The Collector

It's always interesting and challenging working out what to build for a workshop feature in a publication that you wouldn't think was as popular with people who make things as mainstream magazine. The main criteria is, obviously, that the project is based around a Hornby model. They normally supply the main item I ask for. 

Subject is usually a matter of discussion between me and editor Paul. He's happy to take my ideas, but occasionally chucks something at me - and that's how the first project came about. It's a good idea as he gets to assemble a varied magazine since I can be let lose on something he feels till work for the readership. 

Project number one is a pair of shops. 

Starting with a couple of Skaledale models, I've backdated them to work on a steam age layout. In the main this is getting rid of the white window frames, adding a canopy and most importantly, changing the signage. 

Finding suitable signs is difficult. These came from a Howard Scenics pack which look like they were hand painted. Producing your own is, IMHO, incredibly difficult. Yes, you can print some on the computer, but they always look too modern to my eye. I'm sure a proper graphic designer could do it, but that's not me. 

Project two was my idea. 

I've been keen to have a go at some Steampunk for a while now. Trouble is, while it sounds easy, coming up with a suitable idea is a lot harder, and realising it harder still. 

What we need is something Victorian but with modern hints. I've used the Wills bridge kit for a turntable and powered it with the bits from an Airfix Rocket plastic kit. This, and the engine shed kit, have been radically reworked. 

I'd like to go further with this - and maybe will do one day. I'm pleased with the result though, and all the techniques used are useful to normal modellers too. 

The other highlight in this issue are the models made for the 100mm challenge. Loads of them (I'm obviously wrong about the lack of modellers among the readership) and some really superb modelling from all age groups. Judging by the numbers and quality in the under 16 category, the hobby isn't as poorly as many would like to believe it to be. 

Hornby Collectors Club.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Video: Hattons Genesis coaches


Another new box of goodies on the workbench for me to play around with. This time it's the pre-production Hattons generic pre-grouping coaches. Sadly, there was some miscommunication and it's the decorated samples that will arrive in February, not the production models. Those are hitting the shops in Q2 2021.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Saturday Film Club: What's in a 1972 dustcart?


 Thanks to my collegue, Howard Smith, for spotting this. An interesting 10 minute documentary on waste disposal with some terrific 1970s vehicles and even railway interest right at the end. 

I guess the London waste plan must have been state-of-the-art at the time. It's certainly clean enough to have hardly seen any use. Not sure I fancy being a traffic controller there. The days must have been very long...

Friday, January 22, 2021

Getting the needle


My mum has been having a clear-out and decided that she has more knitting needles than she needs. I know this, because the excess were suddenly donated to me. 

Now, I shouldn't look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I'm struggling to work out what I can use them for. Experience tells me that the plastic-coated metal versions are made from a very hard metal that is difficult to cut and doesn't bend well. 

But, I don't like chucking things away if there is a use* So, I ask my blog readers - any suggestions? 

*no, I don't plan to take up knitting.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Mud, glorious mud


There's quite a lot of scruffy ground on Selly Oak. My normal method of reproducing this involves lots of Wilco "Nutmeg Spice" emulsion, but I wanted to up my game this time, so added "Chocolate dream" and "Earthy Hue" to the palette. 

Mixing the three on the model gives a much better effect - but still too smooth. 

Not to worry, sifting some fine sawdust into the paint does the job. The stuff doesn't sink in, you have to work it with a stiff paintbrush. 

I know there are "proper" modelling paints for this sort of job, but they cost a fortune for the amount I'd needs, and I'm not convinced they are that much better. Maybe if you build a 1/32nd scale tiny diorama, but for a layout where most of it will be covered with undergrowth, stick to the matchpots.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Bigger adverts

I've mounted an adverting hoarding on the Selly Oak hill, but looking at photos, the realisation dawned that it wasn't big enough. Looking these things up online, I found this handy guide

Basically, a 48 sheet poster (so called because it's made up of 48 bits of paper) is 20 feet wide, bigger than the Wills hoarding and as large as I could fit in the space. 

Scratchbuilding something suitable in plastic wasn't that hard. I could see half of the prototype in a photo and guessed most of the measurement. There are some billboards near our local station that provided a bit of inspiration. Since they are on a junction, I've spent many hours looking at them while waiting for the lights to change.

The problem came when trying to find a suitable poster. I didn't want anything for a film as this sets the date of the model very precisely. Trying to find anything suitable for the late 1960s to early 1970s though - nightmare! There are a few modern ones around, but nothing for my era. Those I found tended to be portrait too. Oh, and although it might be authentic, no cigarette adverts please.

Two hours later, and thoroughly frustrated, I decided the Internet was rubbish and dug out my copy of Advertising the Beetle 1953-1978 and had a look through. VW advertising of this era was iconic, and since the basic shape of the car didn't change much, it should work for an extended period. 

Sadly, the adverts tended to be magazine ads, but there was something for a local dealer that looked like it might work. Scanning in the image (good for 1968 onwards) and matching the fonts, I mocked an advert up for a local garage. I'm no designer, but the end result looks OK to me. 

Most importantly, it doesn't stand out. I'll use coloured posters under the bridge where there are more hoardings, but this muted version will fade into the background in photos. 

In an effort to make the advert removable, I set a couple of tiny high-power magnets in the supporting posts behind the hoarding. The idea was that I could mount adverts on a piece of tin, and hang them to vary the scene. 

Utter failure. The magnets aren't powerful enough to grab anything. Good idea. Hopeless execution.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Making pavements


One of the jobs I've been least looking forward to on Selly Oak is laying the pavements. I'm not sure why, it's just a task I can't work up any enthusiasm for, but know needs to be done. 

Progress has been slow, but I have managed one side of the road. I'm using 2mm thick Daler Board cut to size and then scribed for the paving slabs. A home-made ruler marked out in slab sizes speeds this job up a lot. Even more if I didn't lose the ruler each time so I didn't need to make it up again.

This is sprayed with grey car primer and then painted with Precision weathered concrete paint. 

Years ago, I bought some very cheap packs of grey pastels which can be scrubbed on a very coarse file to produce powder. This is rubbed into the surface with a mucky finger. Dampening the digit helps the stuff stick into the scribed lines - although it seems to cling to the card pretty well. 

I'll use the same powder on the road eventually to add variety to the colour, but that will wait until the pavements are all down.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Ask Phil: A beginners Gauge 1 loco kit

Gauge 1 Diesel Electric Ruston

 Lionel asks: Is the Mercian Models G1 Ruston kit suitable for a beginner? 

This is a difficult question to answer. Everything depends on what you mean by "beginner". 

If your construction skills are hardly up to a simple Lego model, then no, it's not. 

However, if you've done a bit of modelling, then "probably". 

Looking back at my notes on the two models I have built, they seemed to go together pretty well. No significant fettling was required, and thanks to using 7mm scale technology in the chassis, it's modelling rather than engineering. 

It helps if you have some skills forming metal. Sharp corners are easy thanks to half-etched lines inside to put the bend in the right place. Curves are a lot tougher - where do they start and finish? How bent are they?

The biggest challenge is the bonnet top. The gentle curved is easy enough, but the sharper shoulders need to be in the right place, or the piece ends up off-centre and you'll be taking it off and re-bending it to sort that out. Then the brass work-hardens and won't bend as easily, no matter how much you swear at it.
It seems I bent the metal over the supporting framework, presumably annealing it first to make that job easier. Extra bracing for the supports would be wise too, although I suspect I didn't bother. It doesn't help that you have to punch the rivets first, then try to push the metal around without flattening them. 

Aside from this, the shear mass of brass is the other problem. Metal sucks the heat out of solder so you need to get that in fast. I tack the bits together with a 45W iron and then seam the joint with a small gas torch and lashings of flux. Lionel tells me he's a happy solderer, so this shouldn't be an issue. 

Bear in mind that the £300 price of the kit is without motor, wheels and gears. That will drive the final bill up by at least £100. Pop a lovely quality ABC gearbox in and you'll double it.
Having said, that, the photos remind me that this is a good looking model. I'd quite like one myself!
For real beginners, I'd suggest cutting your teeth on some Severn Models kits. They go together well and are a lot cheaper than a loco. If you don't want to keep them, I'm sure eBay would offer a return on your investment. Just ignore the glue and use them as a way to practise both your metal-forming and soldering. If you can assemble something like the garden shed, you're a lot closer to a loco 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Missing Ally Pally Model Engineering Exhibition

Alexandra Palace view from the organ

My TV is full of snooker, which tells me that today, I should be driving in to London for the Model Engineering exhibition. It's always fun to see the tables of baize in the foyer of the exhibition centre. Quite an eye-opened for me the first time as I'd never seen a full-sized table in the flesh. 

I've never enjoyed driving in the capital, but by using the M1 rather than M40, and travelling on a Sunday, means it's not too bad. Getting back is slightly trickier as the satnav aims at the M40 but I like to keep the North Circular miles to a minimum. 

Anyway, the London ME is my favourite of the breed. There's less engineering and a wider selection of model-making disciplines on show. It tends to have a wider audience too with families enjoying the show. That's probably why there is Lego, Tamiya trucking and even steampunk. The "Imagineering" kids engineering section would have appealed to a younger me. 

For grown-up Phil, there are plenty of boats and some garden scale railways to enjoy. I like the engineering, but you can see the same models several years running with little progress in between. Mind you, I often find I've photographed the boats more than once too!

Hopefully, this time off will see some new exhibits appear if we are ever allowed out again. Since the engineers are largely at the top of the list for vaccinations based on age, maybe they stand more chance of a show than most?

If you'd like to re-live those heady days in the past, my blog posts and photos for each year can be found here:

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Britain's oldest trains retire


2020 saw the last trips for the Isle of Wight tube stock, nicely filmed here. Had we not been locked down, I'd have been tempted to make the trip for this. My one visit to the island saw me stand on the station, but not see any trains. I did travel by hovercraft though, a win in anyone's book.

Looking at the countryside scenes, I'm wondering if there is an interesting moving diorama to be built with an EFE Rail train, shuttle unit and chunk of countryside. Nothing too long, but an attractive moving picture.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Trent Lifeboat

1:16 scale Trent Lifeboat 

A new addition to the Parker fleet, albeit one with a sad reason for it's arrival. It's no surprise that with model boaters tending to be on the older age of the hobby, that vessels come up for sale within the club due to illness or even death. 

The owner of this lifeboat passed away very shortly after his models were sold. I like to think that knowing they had good homes within the club will have been a tiny consolation. I know it would be for me. Admittedly, he wasn't a builder of models, but that doesn't mean you don't want to see them go to people who will appreciate them.

1:16 scale Trent Lifeboat 

The model is a beautifully built 1:16 scale Trent from the Model Slipway range. At three feet long, it's at the top end of the boat sizes I want to deal with, but look at the detail that comes with a big (to me) model!

 1:16 scale Trent Lifeboat 

The hull is fibreglass and superstructure plastic with castings. Railings are metal and cleverly slot into each other to allow the top to be removed for access to the interior. 

Power is from a pair of brushed motors independently controlled via Electronise speed controllers. The handset allows for these to be run as a pair, or at different speeds. The jelly cell was a surprise, but a big boat needs ballast to get the hull to sit properly on the water and we should see plenty of operating time.

I'm not one for buying RTR models, but this was just too good an opportunity to pass up. If and when our water reopens from Covid restrictions, then I look forward to sailing her. 

Looking closely, there are a few personalisations in my mind - the switches can only be operated with the superstructure removed so I'll move them to somewhere more accessible. Taking the model apart at the waters edge isn't a good idea. 

We also need more crew. A Trent should be manned by six people, so this gives me the chance to add figures, a pleasant job. 

Whatever the reasons I now own this boat, it proves the value of a club. Members know how to find homes for valued models and will normally pitch in to help. I'm sure this is appreciated by anyone looking at a collection that meant a lot to a recently departed family member, wanting to do the best with them, but not knowing where to start. Otherwise, they can be given away for nothing.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Is that Henry Greenlys' bridge in Garden Rail?


February's Garden Rail includes a piece on a historic model railway bridge, designed by none other then Henry Greenly. You don't turn one of these up very often and it reveals a very different world of large scale modelling to the one we know today. Unless you are able to get your staff to do the hard work that is...

We also take a look at Lost'n'Bodge works in all its various guises, build a Leeds tram (another bit of interesting history) and a Fish'n'Chip shop where you could swear you can smell the vinegar.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Diamond Dotz - or 16mm scale rivets?

For Christmas, mum received a "Diamond Dotz" kit to produce a picture of a gecko. She sat for hours, happily picking up little hemispheres, and sticking them to the self-adhesive background. Following the instructions, she's produced a very attractive picture, and thoroughly enjoyed herself doing it. 

Included in the kit is a plastic funnel-tray that looks a lot like those used for pills. This allows you to pour some dotz (Yes, I know. It's Amercian. Nuff said.) back into their little packets once you've finished dotting. 

To apply the plastic pieces, there is a tool with a hollow end. This is poked into some wax supplied for the purpose. It grabs the dot, assuming it's the right way up, but lets go once the dot is on the sticky picture surface. 

This is all very neat, but there a lot of dotz left over, and I'm wondering how useful they would be as fake 16mm scale rivets? I've seen people use tiny "jewels" for this job. The dotz are 3mm in diameter and 1.3mm tall. They aren't hemispheres, but slightly faceted. Not enough to show under a coat of paint I suspect. 

I might get the chance to try this theory out as it looks like there will be more of these kits arriving in the future, and that means more leftover dotz!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Cake Box is back

If you were inspired by yesterdays Hornby 100mm challenge, you'll be pleased to know that the Cake Box Challenge is back to relieve you of lockdown boredom. 

There has been a lot of demand for this, partly in the form of fridge magnets, and with the return of lockdown, it seems the right time to give a competition I'm very proud of, another go. With a bit of luck, having a focus for some modelling with take people's minds off the news. I know I need a bit of that!

The rules are the same as in the past - the model must fit in a 8 inch square Cake Box and contain at least two railway items. We've added another on to fit the mood of the times too - two items of rubbish must be incorporated into the model. Exactly what you class as "rubbish" is up to you. 

There's more detail, including a video, over on RMweb.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Vote on the 100mm challenge

Back in October, I was instrumental in setting up The 100mm Challenge in the Hornby Collectors Club magazine. Well, it's now time to vote on the resulting models. 

Hornby have put the entries into a couple of videos so you can take your pick.

Over 16 years of age


16 and under

To vote, go to the comments for each video and list your first, second and third choices.You'll need to watch these in YouTube to do that. 

I'm blown away by how many entries there are. Pessimistic Phil always worries that no-one will be bothered by all this, but it seems I am (happily) wrong. There's some nice modelling too in both categories, by some new modellers too. Always good news for the future of the hobby.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Video: Unboxing the new Hornby pre-grouping coach


Something nice and newsy today -a first look at one of Hornby's new range of generic pre-grouping coaches.

When these were announced, it was a surprise. Even more of a shock was that they were in the warehouse - and I could get my hands on one. 

The video is part of BRM's coverage of the news, and there will be a fuller review in the March issue of the magazine, but I thought anyone who had missed it would appreciate a look. 

Me? I have some ideas for projects...

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Making the Paddington 2 circus train


Best film I watched over the festive period? 

Not Spartacus. That was over-long and rubbish. The winner, by a mile, was Paddington 2

The finale involves a train chase from Paddington station with Tornado and the Orient Express pursuing a circus train. As far as railway realism goes, it was rubbish, but if like me you can get over this, it's terrific entertainment. 

Anyway, looking online, Corbs has made a couple of the circus train wagons using some neat techniques and videoed it for our entertainment and education.

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Airfix Beach Buggy is back!


Excellent news from Airfix - the 1/32nd scale Beach Buggy is back, and should be in stock early in the year. 

Young Phil built one of these many years ago, complete with orange bodywork. It wasn't great, and like most plastic kits, gradually deteriorated until it was thrown away. I've always fancied building another, but the prices for unbuilt kits were truly terrifying. 

You might remember, I had a go at the Revell kit a couple of years ago. It was OK, but (and it might be rose tinted specs doing this) I remember the Airfix version being made of proper, hard plastic and just a much better model. It also enjoyed a bikini-clad figure as part of the kit, which can't be a bad thing. 

So, I'm a happy bunny and plan to get the glue and orange paint out as soon as my kit arrives.  

I wonder if they can find the moulds for the Bond Bug next?

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Farewell to the Haynes manual


According to my Practical Classics magazine, the new owners of Haynes, Infopro Digital, are to stop publishing paper versions of the famous manuals. 

Apparently, they don't see a future in printing the guides. 

If I'm being generous, and not using the phrase "asset stripping"*, then I'd say they don't know their market. 

No classic car owner wants a digital copy of the guide, or at least they don't want it to be their only copy. Does anyone seriously expect the owner of an Austin Maxi to take an iPad under the car? Have they seen how mucky these things get? 

I usually have two copies - a clean one and a garage one. The clean one could be digital, but the dirty one? No chance. 

I've even got manuals for cars I don't own. Picked up cheaply, they are there for use "one day". I might never own a Type 25 van, but I could take it apart if I did buy one.

OK, Haynes manuals aren't perfect - the VW Type 2 fusebox photos are of a Beetle - but they have been part of my motoring life as long as I can remember. When a new (to us) car arrived, we went to Halfords and bought the book to go with it. Not having this option is very sad.

Now, I know that modern cars and their owners aren't quite so keen on tinkering, but the classic car market is massive, so if printing inventory is bad, why not offer a Print On Demand option? Very few people couldn't wait a few days for their copy to arrive. 

*According to the magazine "a fire sale" of the workshop has already taken place.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021



There are quite a lot of advertising hoardings around the Selly Oak bridge, and although my model has moved things around, I want to include adverts to add a bit of colour to the scene. 

Wills have provided the first one for the hill. All I had to do was pluck a couple of adverts from the web, re-size them and spray with matt varnish to avoid them fading. Why this looks odd in the photo is a mystery, but they look fine in real life. 

I reckoned an APT would make sense, since this model is for Rapido who built the APT-E model, and since Brexit was apparently done and dusted on the day I printed them, something about visiting Johnny Foreigner for your holidays in an Austin Allegro looks nice on the other half of the board.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Lunchtime - a Parker perenial


A little scene on Selly Oak. Two workers in the wood yard enjoy a bite of snap sat on a stack. 

The greaseproof paper is a tiny square of Rizla paper, the sandwiches bit of microstrip and the flask a short length of microrod. 

It occured to me that this isn't my first attempt at a model lunch. 

My first was on Melbridge Dock, and the materials haven't changed in decades. This isn't the first man sat there though, the original was lost as a show and had to be hurriedly replaced. He's feeding the ducks in the bay, so there are bits of sandwich in the water. 

There's no time for lunch while building the Hellingly Hospital railway, but we still have someone sat on a cable reel drinking a cup of tea. 

People grabbing a bite make a great little cameo scene - there wouldn't be much movement, unless you fancy building animated jaws of course!

Monday, January 04, 2021

Does anyone actually BUILD the Wills bicycle shed?


The Wills SS23 Bicycle shed with Bicycles is a lovely kit, and one that has been around since the dawn of time (OK, 1980s), but I'm not sure how many I've actually seen built up on layouts. 

I wonder how many people, like me, see it as a source for rather nicely moulded bikes to decorate the layout? 

At a quid each, they don't seem cheap, but I can't think of a more economic way to add this vital detail to a layout. Well, unless you want to bend them up out of wire that is - and I don't. 

Selly Oak has gained a couple tucked away in the timber yard and I think they look great. A few dotted around are a quick and easy addition which give that all important clutter needed to make a layout come alive. 
If anyone can suggest alternative cycle suppliers though, I'm all ears! This is a 1970s layout, is there a 4mm scale Chopper out there?

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Calendar time - but is there a point?


In the past, I've provided an early list of shows I'm adding to my calendar as a way of filling a post, and reminding myself how busy I am. 

We all know how badly wrong this went in 2020. Almost every event on the page was scribbled out, a victim of the pandemic. 

Now I have a 2021 calendar and am faced with thinking how we'll get on this year. 

From the pronouncements of various politicians, you might believe that anything after Easter is good to go. Sadly, all the politicians are liars and idiots, and I've read the future in the October editorial from the medical journal, The Lancet

COVID-19: we will not be returning to the old normal

This is worth a read, but you get the gist from the final couple of sentences, "It is time to forcefully impress on people that basic measures to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are here to stay. This is the new normal."

And that pretty much wraps it up. We will always wear masks. We will always social distance. Everything will always be shut down. At least in the opinion of the doctors who wrote this, and if you watch Twitter, you will have spotted they aren't alone.

"That's overly pessimistic", I hear you cry, "Once more people have the vaccine, we'll open things up. Normal life will return."

Will it? My suspicion is that if things do improve, and I very much hope they will, the clarion cry from the medical profession will be "Zero Covid". Some see themselves engaged in a war with the virus and only total victory is acceptable, no matter what the cost in businesses, jobs and people's mental health. Our press love a good war, witness the suggestion a few weeks ago that we'd be using gunboats to handle a fishing dispute, even though this meant firing on citizens of a county with nuclear weapons. I can see then wetting themselves about the idea we can "win" the battle with Covid, and our increasingly useless politicians will agree. Either that or be considered uncaring. 

Anyway, if this is correct, then we'll not see any physical shows in the future. Even if it's only slightly wrong, getting the show scene back up and running will take time. I wouldn't put loads of time and money into an event knowing it could be cancelled at a moments notice on a politician's whim. 

It's not the end of the world though. One thing has impressed me over the pandemic - the ability of businesses to adapt to the changing rules. Go to a supermarket and there are plastic barriers protecting staff and shoppers from each other. Click'n'collect has become normal. In our hobby, online traders have been doing breathtaking business. People have embraced creative hobbies with a passion.

We've seen Virtual Shows, and whatever happens, they will continue. For the housebound or those living a long way from a physical show, this is great news. It's certainly new and different, and still evolving. We are sort of at the second series of the Great British Bakeoff, a very different beast from the sixth series when they had refined the format. 

The practical upshot of all this is that I'll be adding events to my calendar on a monthly basis. I really, really hope things get better this year, but I won't pin my hopes on anything. As I've learnt in the past, looking forward to something is a sure path to disappointment. 

But let's hope this is a blog post that ages badly, and we can all laugh about next year. At least the pictures in my calendar are pretty.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Draw a VW camper van


Time for me to remember that as well as a Beetle, I own a VW campervan - I just don't know where it is. The guy who did mechanical stuff for me was supposed to be selling it, but moved to Bloxwich (I think) taking it with him, and I've never chased it up.I still have all the registration documents, so I assume it's just sitting. 

Anyway, while my van is a bay window, let's learn how to draw a splittie, courtesy of Shoo Raynor.

Friday, January 01, 2021

2020 - Review of the year

2020 was rubbish, is there anything more to say?

OK, here's the annual project update:
  • 7mm scale Garratts STILL haven't been out of their boxes. I'm looking for a new builder for the one I've been commissioned to produce.
  • 3mm scale Class 25 hasn't bothered to build itself.
  • O gauge "Flying Banana" railcar, still in the box, and now there is a RTR version on the way.
  • 4mm GWR steam railcar, I know it's one people would like to see finished. Me too.
  • The Cravens DMU did see some progress but I fell out of love with it again, so it's back in the box. 

The Beetle didn't change either. I keep looking at it. I even bought a couple of VW magazines in an effort to find someone who would accept money for working on it, but that's proving harder than you might expect. 

Despite thinking I'd have to ease off the blog posting a bit, I've put out a post-a-day all year, something I'm both proud of and y amazed at. Page views have dropped off a bit towards the end of the year - that's a reminder to me to be more engaging and interesting. This isn't helped by my being busy, but we'll come to that later. We did hit the 5000th post in January, that's got to mean something. 

What did I build? 

Parker's Lockup from a Petite Properties kit.


A Lindberg Tugboat 

 A festive tank. 

and of course, there is the on-going Selly Oak project

There have been a few other little builds this year, but the truth is that Covid has seen me busier then ever with magazine work. One of the biggest hits to my time has come from Virtual Exhibitions, both took astounding amounts of time to put together. 

For the first, I built a micro layout called "Ferness Quay" and made videos of all the stages. This took place over four weeks in addition to my normal work, so there went several weekends and evenings. I'm really proud of the model, and it's been very useful as a background for other projects and reviews. 

There's been a project or two an issue for BRM, some for the Hornby Collectors Club and of course, editing Garden Rail

Shop closures, especially during the first lockdown, have hit physical magazine sales for everyone, although I'm pleased to say we are doing OK. There's been a lot of work going in to put out more digital content as well as the Virtual Shows. Our weekly newsletter always has a contribution from me and increasingly, this is more than just posting an article from the past. 

In theory, the loss of the show calendar should have left me with lots of spare hours - but it's been quite the opposite. Where does the time go? 

All this is very exciting, but I'll be honest, the thrill of building something for myself has been dented. Truth is, I struggle for motivation. I look at potential new projects and feel a flicker of excitement, but the enthusiasm to actually get started on something isn't there. 

Not being able to go anywhere or do anything has hit me harder than it really should do. Of course there are many people far worse off than me, so I shouldn't complain, but this is my blog so a tiny self-indulgent moan is allowed in my opinion. I've definitely used work to take my mind off the rest of the news and in doing so, buried myself and sometimes not stayed in touch with people and let them down. I must do better in 2021.

With a bit of luck, things will look up. My workload is looking a lot better for the early part of next year. As I write, I'm ahead on both main magazines with the prospect of improving this further in the near future. Mind you, last year I wrote, "I have a number of projects I'd like to work on and maybe there will even be a bit more time as my workload sorts itself out a bit and perhaps I become a bit more focussed and efficient." and THAT didn't happen did it?

There are some time-eating projects on the horizon with some exciting opportunities I'm keen to try. This is all part of the evolution of my job. We'll see how it all pans out. 

Anyway, thanks for reading all this, thanks for dropping in to the blog and seeing what I'm up to. Let's hope 2021 proves to be an improvement on its predecessor!