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

Kintsugi repairs


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

Working waterwheel

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

LMS Dock Tank front

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.

LMS Dock Tank rear

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!

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Return to Selly Oak


After a couple of months break, Selly Oak is back on the workbench. 

The first job is to write a to-do list. The project have become bogged down, but I need to finished it and the best way I think to make this happen is a checklist so I feel there is progress to keep my enthusiasm up. 

Off the top of my head:

  • Finish pavements
  • Install bus stops
  • Fill the gap in the bridge sides
  • Lay some track
  • Add a pipe bridge to cover the ugly joint in the canal
  • Adverts under the bridge
  • More scruffy green stuff along the front edge
  • Sign for the station

That will do for the minute, I'll add to it as I go along.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Book Review: The Hornby Book of Trains - The First one Hundred Years

Dropping in to my local model shop last week to buy some fencing for a project, I was surprised with a heavy cardboard package. It seems that one of the anniversary items I ordered many months ago had arrived. Not the diecast VW van, but Pat Hammond's book covering the history of this famous company.

If you want someone to write a history of model railways, Pat is your man. No-one has as an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, not access to the treasure trove of photos that this sort of project requires. Much of this will be from his time writing Ramsay's Guide as well as several other books on the topic. 

I have several of those, but this is the best. Pat takes us through the company history from the first days right up to 2020. Most years have a chapter allocated to them, although for obvious reasons 1940-45 are lumped together. 

There are highlights of years and decades at the ends of the chapters so you can spot all the most important models from the time. 

Photos, and there are lots of them in this 448 page tome weighing in as 1.2kg, are in colour and well reproduced. As well as models there is advertising from the appropriate period too - it's interesting to see how things develop over the years. As much as a history of the company, this is a history of model railways, from crude tinplate to the latest hi-fi plastic stock from China.

If there is a problem with this book, it's not long enough to do parts of the story justice. Had it been, we would be looking at a multi volume set that only the hard-core collecting nerd would buy. From a personal point of view, the omission of both the Battlespace Turbo car and Giraffe car is a shame, but there is a lot of other Battlespace. 

These are tiny points however. For a very modest £25, you get a cracking hardback book. Even if you just look at the photos, it's well worth the money.

Buy The Hornby Book of Trains - The First one Hundred Years from Amazon (Affiliate link)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

SECR Crane Tank

SECR Crane Tank

Once upon a time, I was exhibiting at a model railway exhibition, and I spotted a brand new kit for a crane tank. By the end of the show, my expenses had been recycled into the traders till, and I was the owner of a new box. 

Crane tank kits are rare. I can only think of this one from Wills Finecast, and the Backwoods Miniatures version no longer available. 

Of the two, this is the easier to build. Modern (then) whitemetal castings can be glued together for the body. There are etched parts in the crane, but superglue will do the job.

SECR Crane Tank

It's underneath where things get interesting. Like the Y8, tiny wheels mean the final drive cog is also titchy, and the model have a 20:1 (I think) ratio. 

Worse, the rear overhang is massive. On the prototype, this helped balance loads being lifted. On the model it means the front end can lift and the loco "wheelie" if you aren't careful with the control knob. Some sort of double-reduction box would be good, but the boiler is also tiny, so packing everything in would be a challenge. 

If you are going to do that, replacing the whitemetal cab back with something etched would also help move the centre of gravity forward usefully. 

Despite this, I can shunt with the crane tank, but it tended to be for showing off rather than because it's particularly suited to the job. Not to worry, it looks terrific in the display case and always attracted attention, which made me proud of my efforts.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Warehouse Wednesday: Canadian Folly


Thanks to David Youngs of Ontario, Canada for these fascinating photos from a local park. 

Apparently, this used to be the front wall of a local skating rink that burned down. However, the locals didn't want to lose the wall, so it was re-erected in the park. 

As David says, it's a prototype low-relief building, the sort of thing us modellers have been creating for years. The only difference is that this is pressed hard up against a backscene. 

In the UK, this sort of thing would probably be called a "folly", that is a pointless building often put up in the grounds of a stately home. I have always aspired to having the space to build one. 

Keeping this thing upright must be difficult, there's not much in the way of supporting walls - impressive engineering!

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Pedometer repair


I've been competing with a friend over the number of steps we take each day. I usually lose, and one reason is that I record mine on a 'phone and she has a smartwatch. If I don't carry the 'phone, the steps don't count, and I don't carry it around the house. I am not a 12-year-old girl. 

So, my friend presents me with a pedometer in an effort to even things up a bit. That and she'd ordered a batch of them as a corporate give-away. I clipped it on my belt and it started counting. 

A couple of days later - disaster. 

If you try to read the thing while it's clipped to you, the correct method is to remove the device from your belt. Try to twist your belt to see the screen and you'll break the plastic belt clip. 

Hmmm. I needed to fix this to avoid embarrassment. 

The plastic sticks pretty well with an ABS solvent. I've no idea what it is, but softer than ABS. The resulting join isn't really strong enough, so I bent a piece of brass and melted it into the join with a soldering iron. Still unsure, 2-part epoxy was slathered over the join. 

The result seems to stand up to general use, especially since I learnt to unclip before reading. 

Of course, I couldn't resist a look inside, and managed to do even more damage. The device works by a swinging hammer thing bouncing around as you walk. Somehow the pivot at A had broken off, so I stick it back with superglue and then drilled the plastic pillar out so a Peco track pin could be inserted to add strength. 

The tricky thing is the spring - B. This needs to be set to a not too strong and not too weak position. That seems to be the mid-point on the bottom fixing. Too strong and it doesn't record steps, too weak and it records too many. I was tempted to leave it in the weak position to raise my count, but felt too guilty. 

The good news is, my step count around the house is usually at least 2000, putting me in contention for the daily win if I take a proper stroll as well. 

You might argue that I'm wasting my time fixing this as it probably costs about 50p. That might be true, but I like the challenge, and anyway, throwing things away when you don't have to, seems such a waste.