A daily updated blog typed by someone with painty hands, oil under his fingernails and the smell of solder in his nostrils who likes making all sort of models and miniatures. And fixing things.
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
One aspect of garden railways that has always amused me, is the very pragmatic approach by the 16mm scale community, to couplings.
Re-bent paperclips are perfectly acceptable, but if you want to be really post (and I have a tweed jacket, so I do) then bath plug chain is the thing to use.
Needing to replenish my supplies - the current stock all living in the box with 45mm gauge tipper wagons - I headed to the local hardware store. £1.08 pence later, I owned 3 feet of chain. Large scales aren't expensive!
Half an hour in front of the TV with a pair of pliers unbending and bending links, and I have a couple of bags full, ready to use. I've 3 and 4-link sets so I can chose depending on the stock to be joined.
As I say, I love this hands-on bodgey aspect of the hobby. It's probably a very British thing - or is it? In the States, I think these are called a MacGyver. Can anyone confirm this?
Monday, June 28, 2021
Worth its weight in stones
A big show like the NGRS means a bit of preparation. All the stock I planned to use needed to be checked over, batteries replaced, and bearings oiled.
Along the way, I found a surprise. The little IP Engineering diesel that did so much work at the last event was full of gravel. I'd forgotten that when I first set it off around the track, it struggled to haul itself along with two coaches. The solution was to add weight over the driven axle - and all I had to hand was the stones sued to ballast the line.
Of course I meant to do the job properly eventually, but as the train worked a treat for the show, no more was thought of it. Until now.
The stones were put on the scales and then replaced with slightly more weight of lead. It's not dusty and should stay put better. Of course, it's also the "right" thing to do. Sometimes though, bodge repairs will do the job!
Sunday, June 27, 2021
National Space Centre
Something a little different, and without trains - a visit to the National Space Centre at Leicester.
Thanks to Covid restrictions, visitor numbers were low, which made wandering around and looking at stuff much easier. There is certainly plenty to see too.
As you would expect, there is a lot of stuff to enthuse kids. Buttons to press and fascinating displays explaining the solar system such as Saturn sitting in a bath because it would float in water apparently. For nerdy grown-ups though, there's plenty to read and some interesting artefacts to look at.
I learnt for example, that I'm too tall to go into space. That Russian capsule above - 6ft across and it accommodates 3 people. Not much chance of me getting in a Mercury capsule either.
There are several full size (I assume) cut-outs of Tim Peake, who is a good foot shorter than I am. Never mind, I don't fancy all that sitting on an exploding rocket thing anyway...
I was visiting with a friend and young daughter and that meant we got to sit at the craft table, and build a rocket each.
It's a clever design - colour in your model, then assemble (harder than it looks, folding the cone is tricky) and fire. Yes, you put it on a plastic milk carton, clap to squash the bottle and the air makes the rocket fly. Great fun and something you don't get to do as a 50-something bloke on your own.
The highlight of the trip is the planetarium, the largest in the UK. Sitting in your seat, the screen fills your view and then we head off for a tour of everything from the Big Bang to evolution of humans. There's some amazing visuals as the creation of planets etc is explained. The tone is aimed at youngsters, but not patronising for adults. Young Phil would have loved it, and old Phil enjoyed it too.
A terrific day out. The tickets covers you for a year, so I plan to head back and have some nerdy time reading all the captions and looking at things like all the rocket engines on display at some point.
There are a few more photos over on Flickr.
And, NO railway? Look what I spotted next door...
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Saturday Film Club: Building working Lego submarines
OK, it's Lego, but there is some interesting construction going on here with custom made parts for hydroplanes, and devices to fire rockets. I'm amazed how much kit can be soaked and still operate. If you didn't know about the issues of radio transmission underwater, there's some clever animation to explain it too.
Friday, June 25, 2021
National Garden Railway Show prep
All being well, by the time some of you read this, I'll be setting up at the National Garden Railway Show in Peterborough. Yes, an actual model railway exhibition!
My stand is a repeat of 2019s "Garden Railway in a day", which means I'll fill the car with compost, stones, plants and a few trains. All of which means, last weekend, I had to service all of my little 32mm gauge locos to make sure i have sufficient rolling stock/ Will five locos be enough for the day?
One challenge is that in the past, I've borrowed the plants used on the display from a local garden centre. This isn't really appropriate in the current circumstances, so there's a bit more work in that area, and possibly less greenery - but I'll do my best and hope you like the scene if you come along.
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Book Review: Birmingham Buses - Route by Route 1925-1975
This is the book that made me abandon my bus stop. A book, chock full of high quality photographs showing Brummie buses in action all over the city, much of the time during my lifetime, or at least not much before it.
Lets start with the basics: A4 size, hardback, 175 heavyweight, glossy pages.
Price is £25 and it's one of those books you handle and know where the money has been spent. It feels quality.
Rather then focus on the machinery, author Malcolm Kelley takes us on a tour of Birmingham by bus route. This is a cleaver idea as many people reminiscing about buses remember a specific route they took every day and the sights they saw along the way.
I remember helping out on the Rapido stand at Wythall bus museum and while the quality of the model bus was important, the route number was the clincher. If it was the one you travelled on, then that made a big difference.
I'm fascinated by the views of bits of Birmingham that I know, but have changed a lot over the years. Often, I can recognise the basic buildings, but the details such as the signage are completely different today. A good example are those shots showing buses by the town hall - a pedestrianised area as long as I can remember, and one only now admitting trams to the street. The city has changed.
All the suburban shots are interesting too. We have a world where not owning a car was common, and two car families were rare. Streets are traffic-free and showing the care lavished on the homes and gardens. In many pictures, there is evidence of late 60s development with clean lines and concrete - stuff that didn't age well, but at the time spoke of a new optimism.
I'm sure there will be people picking captions apart, but not me. I'm not even really looking at the buses, I bought this for street scene inspiration for Selly Oak, and as such, it's proved invaluable.
If you like buses, or love Birmingham, a worthwhile addition to your bookshelf.
Buy Birmingham Buses - Route by Route 1925-1975 from Amazon (Affiliate link)
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Review: Clear PVA glue - The Works
It was an exciting moment when I dropped into remaindered book shop The Works, and found they had bottles of a clear PVA glue on sale.
We all know that PVA is supposed to start white and dry clear, but this stuff is properly clear in the bottle. I mean, seriously clear. What witchcraft is this?
In my modelmaking, I use gallons of PVA. Sometimes it's used neat and sometimes thinned with water. I use so much I actually have a favourite brand from the building trade.
So, is this new stuff any good? I had to buy a bottle to try it out.
It's clear. And slightly runnier than the 502 PVA I normally use. Slightly shiny too - a bit like one of the cheaper PVAs which always seem plasticy to me compared to the matt stuff of 502 or resin W. Maybe, this is because it's sold as a "craft" product rather than a wood glue.
Sticking things down
Good - the clear glue stays clear and dries nice and matt. I wasn't too careful about the pieces shown above and yet you can't see any splurges around the edges.
I'd say the drying time, or at least the time to grab, is slightly slower then other glues, but not enough to worry me.
Thinned with ordinary tap water plus a couple of drops of washing up liquid, the odd thing was that the mix appeared slightly blue - then I realised this was the detergent put in to break surface tension.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The wrong bus stop
I thought the bus shelter at Selly Oak would be pretty simple. Pre-cast concrete would be the way to go. Utilitarian and ugly would be perfect, and handily Merit produce something that fitted the bill.
The only snag is that my pavement slopes, so the legs need to be extended by 3mm at one end, but that's not a too tricky with some plastic and ABS strength glue. After that some Precision Paints concrete colour - weathered followed by a wash of new.
Finally, a wash of black emulsion added staining and engrained dirt. Blu-tacked in position, I was pleased with the look. It sits in the scene very nicely.
Then I bought a book on Birmingham buses, and realised that in the period modelled, the corporation had bought a job lot of spindly metal shelters. So I need something different after all.
Monday, June 21, 2021
My problem is that we need to cover the late 1960s to early 1970s, and advertising design changed a lot in that period. A fair bit of time was taken finding images that would look OK in all period before printing them, out to fit the boards I have built.
These aren't anything special - just pictures printed on normal paper. I wound the colour saturation back by about 35% and then gave them a good coat of matt varnish. This last step will protect them from fading (I hope) and mutes the colours a bit further so they sit in the scene rather than dominate it.
Annoyingly, when I took the photos, I realised, one board had slipped while the glue dried, so will need to be removed and re-fixed. I'm happy with the effect though and it's helping to bring the scene alive. Good thing too - as there are two more boards to erect and the big beer advert on the front of the bridge to come.
Sunday, June 20, 2021
Statfold Barn enthusiasts day
How have I not visited the Statfold Barn Railway before?
It's everything I love about trains - odd looking prototypes that don't run very fast.
Anyway, last weekend, my dad and I took our first day out in over 18 months to the enthusiasts event. According to Google, the trip should take 45 minutes, although the satnav said 75 until I realised it was set not to use motorways. Quickly fixed and yes, the 3/4 hour journey time was pretty accurate.
On arrival, since we didn't really know the layout, we hopped on a train - something else I last did in February 2020. Arriving at the exhibition hall, we were mightily impressed by the sheer professionalism of the place. OK, from reading Narrow Gauge World, we knew there was a fancy exhibition hall, but the whole setup is slick. There's a good cafe, and since it was a special weekend, several small halls full of trade selling books and railwayana.
If you subscribe to any Facebook or Twitter narrow gauge railway group, you'll have seen loads of photos over the last week, but this is my blog so you get some more.
One surprise was the "garden railway" - I'd expected something 16mm scale, but instead it's a big garden, with a lovely 2ft gauge railway running around a lake. A lake that would make a rather nice model boating pond.
Of course the perfect day has some Isle of Man in it - that was proved by the sight of Maitland in the shed undergoing restoration. That's an awful lot of new metal in there - including around the cab to fill in bits cut away to fit a larger boiler years ago. Outside, Mona's tanks were being used as patterns for the new ones. I wonder how much IOM loco is really original?
Anyway, a cracking day. Only one complaint - the cake was hopeless. All prepacked stuff. To compensate, I enjoyed a delicious (and cheap) gourmet burger cooked in a horse box. Which I forgot to photograph because I'm out of practise at this sort of thing.
Anyway - more photos over on Flickr.
Visit the Statfold Barn website.
And finally, some video. Which I have recorded in an nice old skool aspect ratio. Do not adjust your set.
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Saturday Film Club: Groudle 125 - the people
It's always interesting seeing railways through the eyes of non-enthusiasts, and this five-minute film by Culture Manin is just that. Quite stylised, there's a lot of emphasis on the people behind the line rather than nerdy history or rivet-counting. It's a good watch though.
Friday, June 18, 2021
That's one layout gone
I mentioned yesterday, that Andy and I had visited Rocks by Rail for BRM. The trip had been planned for a year, but Covid got in the way. This meant that one of the objectives for the visit also found itself held up - they needed a new model railway layout for the cafe area, and I planned to donate the Hornby Family Fun Project layout I built a while ago.
You can read the full build for free on World of Railways.
Anyway, the model was dragged out of store and brought home for some track cleaning and testing - something it passed with flying colours. Then it was another trip to Rutland - where I handed the model over to the railway.
Storing old layouts is a bit of a problem. I really like this one, but it's wide and doesn't pack up into a form that protects the scenery. In my dream house, I'd have space to enjoy all my layouts set up - but as that is a very distant dream (read: impossible) then I'm not sorry to see it find a good home.
Part of the donation was the stock that comes with the FPP, but Andy also produced a more personal loco for the occasion.
I'm pleased to have handed this over, not just to get it out of my way, but they are such nice people. I was even allowed to sit in the cab of a digger - although with the thing firmly switched off!
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Word up, it's cameos, boats, wagon numbering and rocks by rail in the July issue of BRM
Don't tell anyone, but I've snuck some model boats into BRM this month.
Under the pretext of building a quayside, I've used a nice little Admiral's Barge in an amusing scene where a recalcitrant shunter is refusing to move his train so the Senior Officer can get his car near to the boat that will take him out to his fleet.
The sharp eyed will also notice that a navy launch at a quayside could very easily be a scene from my novel, Kate vs The Navy. Obviously this didn't cross my mind at all, but if I can find some suitable figures, I will be tempted to have a go.
Talking of figures, for the first time in my modelling life, I found a use for one of those Slater's sailors that seem to be in every packet.
Having made one scene that's a bit of fun (as well as some serious modelling), I've set up some other cameo scenes on some old projects. I know "proper" modellers don't like this sort of thing, but hopefully those who fancy a bit of fun will find inspiration. While I'm no fan of filling a layout with this sort of thing, they do help draw the non-enthusiast into the model, in a way that no amount of superdetail doesn't initially.
On BRM TV, I'm demonstrating the use of a mapping pen to produce cheapskate wagon numbering. Not a tool a lot of modellers will be familiar with, it's cheap and has a multitude of uses - hopefully some more inspiration for viewers.
Finally, Andy and I have been to Rocks by Rail to look at interesting rolling stock, shunting locos and diggers for more BRM TV.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Lessons to be learned in Garden Rail July
Any railway enhances the garden it sits in - and Andy Parkin's layout Gladstone Park might fit into a modest space, but still looks amazing. Over the years, he has modified it and explains how he's learnt over time, what works best on the line.
If you have ever been tempted by an evening class, never mind making pots, how about creating buildings for your line, we show you how. Definitely something to get fired up about!
There's also building G1 signal boxes, DHR luggage vans and a Kerr Stuart "Skylark" plus all the news for the large scale modeller.
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Replacing road markings
I'm still at cock-up corner, but this time it's an old mistake, I'm not making new ones for a change.
Placing the pavements on the road, I realise that the dotted line for the bus pull-in is in the wrong place. I've joined up the walls, and of course, I should join up the corners of the pavements.
Once I decide I really can't leave the lines and pretend they aren't wrong, the challenge becomes how to fix them with the least amount of damage. Method one, a scratch brush, is quickly ruled out. I'd hoped to be able to polish the white paint away, leaving the great. No chance.
Out comes the paint remover, this stuff from Deluxe Materials, applied with a cotton bud. Again, I hoped to remove as little paint as possible, but the dark grey basecoat still comes through.
In the right place, this effect would be quite good. Modern road markings are burned away, and this doesn't look bad if you want to model that effect. Sadly, I don't, so it's out with the grey primer and weathering pastels to try and rectify the damage.
After that, the lines were put back in, and of course the making didn't work as well as I would like, so there's some cleaning up of the edges with a damp brush, followed by more powder and generally messy scenic work.
However, the pavements are in - a job I've been putting off for a long while. Next, I need a bus shelter and some street furniture.
Monday, June 14, 2021
Cockup corner, Selly Oak
Back at Selly Oak, I'm reminded of one of the more valuable bits of advice I've gleaned from model railway magazines.
In an article on building an N gauge display layout with some Z gauge forced perspective was the statement that when building something, if what you make isn't right - discard it. If you don't, the less than perfect item will always niggle you no matter how good the rest of the model.
I had a bit of a bad day when attempting to finish the pavements.
Attempt 1 - I marked out the flagstones incorrectly and ended up with them twice as long as they should be. The marks should be every 6mm, not 12. Then when you scribe every other length so the slabs are correctly staggered they line up.
Attempt 2 - Then I realised that I was also marking them out at 90 degrees to the direction they should run to match the rest of the model.
Fortunately, this is only a small piece of pavement, so it wasn't too painful to make this bit three times. A bit annoying though....
Sunday, June 13, 2021
I don't understand antiques. When I watch experts on TV, they stand there biting into china things and announcing that the item has been restored and is therefore worthless.
My thought is - if someone has taken time, or spent money, on restoration, surely this means the item in question was considered so valuable that it was worth the time or money used to make it perfect again. You only have to watch a few episodes of The Repair Shop to realise the efforts put in to make something look like it's fresh from the box.
I quite like the Japanese concept of Kintsugi. Instead of making the repair invisible, they conside it part of the life of the object - a piece of its history - and celebrate this by making the rectification obvious with gold mixed into the glue.
Old objects have a tale to tell. The antique expert will bang on about patina, which basically means dirt, wear and tear, but look horrified at a crack acquired during the same time. Now, I know we prefer things perfect, but if that crack has been repaired really well, how is this different?
All this is a way of explaining why much battered pedometer now had a piece of plastic where the battery compartment door used to be, because the door fell off and I lost it. I can't make a replacement that slips in, but I can cover the gap to keep the battery from falling out. When this runs low, I'll just undo the screws and take the back off to replace it. And in the style of the great Japanese repair masters, I'll not be hiding the fix, even if this does reduce the resale value on the 2nd hand pedometer market.
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Saturday Film Club: The last Pacer
I've never ridden on a Pacer in service, and now I won't get the chance. I know people hated them, but it was Pacer or no trains for many branch lines. The idea of a bus body on a railway chassis always seemed ingenious to me too. I suspect that's no compensation for a draughty door on a winter morning however!
Friday, June 11, 2021
Looking to replace a water feature in the garden, my parents came back with a working waterwheel.
Powered by a couple of solar cells, it's not little thing. The base is 46cm square and it's 54cm tall.
I wondered how close it is to 16mm scale, and the answer, is: a bit small.
Unpainted Tag is just over 10cm tall, a big bigger than the real thing if we are being picky about scale, but you can see he towers over the "door". Although it looks like a window, but that's the least of the problems.
That said, the thing works well, and for £130, isn't stupidly expensive compared to other resin buildings. Used towards the back of a layout, it could be said to impart useful forced perspective. If you like cartoony buildings in the garden, it fits in well to the scene.
Water is pumped from the reservoir at the base, and needs a fair bit of sun to make things works. When they do, the direction the wheel revolves (it's driven by the water) seems to be pot luck.
Pleasingly, for tinkerers, there is a hatch in the back so you can get at the pump. If it fails, look out for a blog on replacing it.
Thursday, June 10, 2021
PVA water experiments
With a project involving water on the horizon, I fancied trying a different method to a commercial product or my usual yacht varnish - and I'd heard about employing PVA for the job.
A few YouTube videos later, I decided to give it a go. Rather than pile in on a project for the page, I made a small test piece with a blob of wall filler on some cardboard. Once dry, and painted with emulsion, I applied a thin coat of 502 Wood Adhesive - my go-to glue of choice at the moment.
It dried clear, as expected, so I put a thicker coat on. This started to clear and so, in a rush, another thick coat was slapped on.
Two weeks later, it's not gone clear. A lesson has been learned.
According to YouTube, PVA's differ and it looks like the one I have to hand needs to be put on in very thin coats if it's to remain clear. That's not very looming deadline-friendly, so I went with the varnish. It's smelly, but I know it works for me.
However, I've not acquired some clear PVA. Time for another test piece...
Wednesday, June 09, 2021
LMS Dock Tank
The LMS Dock tank was a challenging kit. An etched brass product from Mercian Models, it was probably a bit beyond my skill level when I took it on. Despite this, it eventually became one of my favourite models.
The first challenge was to roll the boiler from a flat sheet. I messed that up and so looked for a bit of tube the correct size. The nearest I could find was too small, so I wrapped it in several layers of Plastikard using superglue. With the smokebox wrapper fixed the same way and then chimney and dome glued on, you can't tell on the finished model.
An interesting design feature is the cab roof. Designed to allow the centre section to unclip, I could never make it work, so more Plastikard.
The chassis was expected to be trouble, but as I recall (it was many years ago), once I had it square, the waggly bits were no worse to build than expected. The short wheelbase means less frame supports than I might like, but that's the prototype for you.
I really must straighten out the coal rails!
Anyway, sorting our the pickups too several shows until I was happy, but eventually, I got a fine-running model that really looks fantastic. The lesson is that with perseverance, it's possible to overcome problems and find alternative solutions.
Eventually, you pick up more skill and since building this model, I've built two others, including one in HO. Being able to roll a boiler helps, but I never made that cab roof work as intended. ]
I'm always surprised this loco hasn't appeared as a modern RTR. It's a handsome beast, but perhaps the valve gear puts manufacturers off. That's fine with me.
Tuesday, June 08, 2021
The Melbridge Dock display case
Last week, Woz commented: "You mentioned "it looks terrific in the display case" do you have an overall picture of the display case showing the goodies inside ?"
Here's a view of the business end from the layout's last appearance at a show - Doncaster in 2016.
The display case came about early in the models' life for a couple of reasons.
First: People kept looking over the top of the fiddle yard to see what else was in there. I'd already built more locos than we needed and visitors wanted to see what else there was. With only one loco in use on the layout at any one time, you could wait a long while to see a selection.
Second: The layout is 9ft long, and 3ft of that is fiddleyard. Basically, a third of the frontage was "wasted" as far as the public was concerned.
Adding the display case solved two problems. People could see those locos not in use, and it added more display. Better still, the fiddleyard was clearer, leaving more space for tea and cake.
The downside was that the layout no longer fitted in a Mk1 Ford Fiesta and we had to hire a small van instead, pushing the expenses up. On the plus side, moving from a 957cc engine to something over 1 litre, made driving more pleasant.
We pretty quickly settled down to a way of working that saw the really good running locos (02, 07, Y7) on regular shunting duties and everything else in the box. This suited the visitors as the workaday models aren't that exciting so the box had weird stuff in it.
Looking at the view above, I think we have the Crane tank, LMS Dock tank, Class 01 diesel, 03 diesel (which always works the very first train of the day), Class 17, Garratt, Not sure, Scratchbuilt Z5, Y8 and Fowler Petrol loco.
Contents varied a bit. Now I wouldn't be so worried about the Clayton, but in those pre-Heljan RTR model days, it used to cause a stir.
We'd happily do requests for specific locos if someone wanted to see then operating. Even the Clayton would make appearances to haul out the odd train.
Having the models to hand meant we could swap things around a bit too. I like to rotate the reliable models so they all get a bit of wear over a weekend. And of course, if anything breaks, then a replacement is readily to hand.
Mind you, by the time that photo was taken, I had too many locos for the display case..
Monday, June 07, 2021
Build a plywood van
A few weeks ago, I needed an unnumbered van for some filming. Not a problem I thought, I have a box with built, but unpainted kits somewhere.
That somewhere eluded me, but I did find a Parkside kit for a 12T planked van. Perfect. It's one of my favourite models. You can work out how old this is from the price...
I always ignore the instructions and build the chassis first. There's no point in spending time glueing things together is the model won't run, and anyway, I find it easier to work with the floor upside down on the modelling board. A little cleaning up of the mould lines and then some sticking soon saw a rolling base that would also sit with all four feet down on a mirror.
Taking the body out of the packet, I spotted an issue. One of the sides was missing. I searched the modelling space and, no, it definitely wasn't there. Some bad words were said.
Another dig in the stash and another result - a kit containing just the body for a plywood sided van. I've no idea where the chassis went, but since the body would fit the floor, I didn't much care. I think the wheelbases are the same, but for the purposes of the filming, that didn't matter much.
Underneath, I added the brake gear and even replaced the safety straps with bent staples. It's a simple mod that looks great if you look along a rake of wagons. Well, I think it does anyway and it's one of my few concessions to finescale.
On the bufferbeam we have a pair of vac pipes from the whitemetal bits stash and a random set of buffers from my collection as there weren't a suitable set in the kit. I think kit one assumed the housings were on the body, but kit two had a flat beam - and I didn't have the chassis mouldings for kit two. Buffer fiends will tell me they are wrong. By this point I didn't much care.
A spray with some bauxite colour (for a change I didn't just use brick red) and brush painted black bits finished the job. I only sprayed because the sides would be seen in closeup, so a good, consistant finish was required.
Next time though, I'll make sure the kit if complete before starting work!