Saturday, July 31, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Interesting old plastic kits

I'm always interested in historic model kits and this video made me search for something I, and the presenter, had never heard of - Renwall Aero-skin kits.

A method of replicating canvas covered aircraft, the plastic part, which show the aircraft ribs, are covered with printed tissue-paper decoration. This probably sounds like a better idea than it actually is, but I'm still fascinated. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Back to Groudle in 1996


It's no secret I'm a big fan of the Groudle Glen Railway, and I have a large collection of souvenirs of the line. The latest examples are eBay finds that didn't cost much, but are a bit of fun. 

The badge is the sort of printed plastic badge that were everywhere when I was a kid. I know I had loads of them with different logos printed on the front. This is new to me, and of course, as a bit of my youth, and GGR, it was three quid well spent. 

The lorry is a Lledo model sold through the Promotors brand. According to the certificate in the box it's number 238 of 523. Fortunately, I managed to beat off a slew of American millionaire collectors for this rare item, bagging it for a fiver. 

My initial thought was that it was so ugly as to be fun, but with the model in my hand, I really like it. The printing is really good and the design features both Sea Lion and Polar Bear - so what's not to like? 

More importantly, it reminds me that I visited the line for the centenary weekend in 1996. At the time, I was working for Lunn Poly travel agent on their systems helpdesk - a miserable place to work where my boss (yes, you Stella) hated me for no apparent reason from the day I arrived (that wasn't just my opinion, one of my collgues asked "Why does she treat you like s**t?") and I couldn't wait to leave. 

Anyway, I worked the early shift one Friday so I left at 4:30, heading straight to the station and then on to Birmingham International. A quick change to a 'plane and by 6:30 (I think) I was waiting for the bus outside Ronaldsway airport, breathing that clean, Manx air. 

This little lorry reminds me of that, and so is well worth it's asking price. 

Now, if I can find some photos, I'll post them here eventually.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Smoke & Steam

Many months ago, Warners decided to produce a coffee table style magazine for prototype railways. 

Although very much a side-project for the team, we picked some of the best authors we could find and then left our boss to talk to them about producing some material. 

The aim was something deeper than a magazine, allowing both articles and images space to breath on the page. The result is pretty impressive. 

One issue with anything like this is making sure the information is accurate. When you have an expert writing, unless you are also an expert, how do you know if they got it wrong? Well, the solution was a "peer review" process where articles were circulated between the authors for comment. After that, a little tweaking to make sure it all read properly and it's good to go. 

Sourcing the images was (I am told) a bit of a nightmare, but there are plenty in there that won't be familiar to everyone. I particularly like the shots around Dover docks, offering plenty of inspiration for detailing a B4 tank.

My part was to pen a small modelling feature on weathering steam locos. While this is primarily a prototype magazine, very few enthusiasts don't have a bit of an interest, and we are a model railway publisher too...

Full details on the World of Railways store.  It's not currently available in the shops.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Pootle's back!


With a spare radio receiver in my hand, I thought I might as well put it into my very first boat kit - Pootle. 

This George Turner kit was cheap, but also where I learned that bigger boats designed for radio control were easier to build than tiny ones that weren't. Eventually I managed to work something out and even wrote the results up for Model Boats magazine. 

Swapping the receiver was easy, and again, I replaced a couple of 2XAA packs with a flat 4XAAA version, and a bit of lead to restore the waterline. All the stuff you see above is hidden by an interior that slides in over it. 

On the water, sailing lasted about 3 minutes. The the boat wouldn't respond. Back on the bench, one of the batteries was weak, presumably dropping the voltage too low for the receiver. It might also be that RadioLink receivers don't like bots powered by a gutted servo. More work required.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Clyde Puffer back on the water

Deans Marine radio controlled 1:72 Clyde Puffer

A whopping 5560 posts ago, this 1:72 scale Clyde Puffer was the first proper post on this blog. 15 years later, it's back, because I need to bring the radio control gear up to date for some filming. 

The model is a Deans Marine kit built a very long time ago, and now a shelf queen in its display case. For various reasons, I wanted to be able to show that it worked, which meant either finding a working 26mHz transmitter, or replacing the reciever with something more modern. 

In theory, this is easy. But since it was the afternoon after yesterday's hose reel debacle, it wasn't. 

What I had forgotten, was that binding a RadioLink TX/RX is different from the same job with a Planet set. On the Planet, you switch the boat on, press the bind button and then switch on the transmitter. 

RadioLink, it's transmitter on, boat on, press bind button. 

But if you get this wrong, 'cos you are doing the same as the Planet, it still binds, or at least appears too. But the RX just ignores controls from the TX. This is immensely annoying.

Once I had read the instructions, suddenly all was well. At the same time I swapped the 4XAA battery box for a 4XAAA flat version, aiming to lower the centre of gravity. There was also a bit of rigging repair required, the elastic thread having become brittle.

On the water, the boat lists like a yacht every time it turns and so the sail wasn't relaxing, or very long. Fortunately, I didn't need it in the water for my filming. 

For the moment, the RX has been removed again and the boat reverts to Shelf Queen duties. Maybe one day I'll fiddle with the ballast a bit more, but it's not like I'm short of boats!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Hozelock reel frustration and resolution


This is a Hozelock retracting reel. It's a nice, neat way to have a hosepipe, and gave me a whole heap of pain on a very hot Saturday, trying to fit to the wall. Definitely one of those jobs that looks simple and descends into a nightmare. 

In theory, all you do is drill four holes, pop the rawplugs in, screw the support to the wall and it's job done. 

Of course, you have to get all the holes in the right place, and that's tricky as the plastic bracket gets in the way of marking things. 

The solution - make a cardboard jig. 

Ideally, do this before drilling a series of wrong holes and using up all the plugs supplied. 

This reel is heavy. 17kg as supplied, but it will get heavier when full of water and then even worse - it's the ideal perch for next-doors cat, and he's not small. 

So, you need really strong plugs. The ones in the kit have little barbs. 

None of the plugs in our garage had these, so when we hung the support on the wall and fitted the reel, they started to pull out again. I'd put all the supplied ones in the wall, so couldn't take one to the local DIY shed to try to find a replacement. I went anyway, and nothing they had in the very limited stock, was any better. 

Fortunately, Hozelock sell spare packs, and I don't care they are six quid for four screws and four plugs, I bought two. Delivery was quick, and the reel was soon fitted to the wall. So far, it hasn't fallen off, although one of the very long screws supplied has bottomed out in the hole, but it's at the bottom so doesn't seem to be effecting things at the moment. 

Fingers crossed, and let's hope the cat doesn't put on any weight...

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Manx night time

Douglas station at night

 It's three years since I was last on the Isle of Man, so here's a random photo from the last day there.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Holiday 1961

This week, a plea from the producers of Look at Life for holiday weeks to be staggered to spread the season out a bit. 

Plenty of lovely footage of the British on holiday - I'm amazed at the number of heavy coats being worn in the summer heat. I know climate change has made a difference, but is it really that much hotter today?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Fixing the pink Mini


Long-term readers may remember a pink Mini I built for a friends' daughter a couple of years ago. Well, it's still around, but the wing mirror had been knocked off on one side. 

Looking at the damage, they obviously weren't strong fittings as bought, because I'd added a length of plastic rod through the middle to add extra strength.

Tasked with fixing this on a patio table while being plied with cookies, I drilled into both mirror and door (I had been warned about this so took a small toolkit) and fitted a short length of brass wire instead of the plastic. 

Plan A had been to refit with superglue, but on the offchance I could use something stronger, I took a tube of epoxy along as well. With a sharpened matchstick, I managed to mix up a tiny amount and quickly, and neatly refitted the mirror using it. In the sunshine, the glue set fast in 10 minutes as promised on the pack, and the mirror now seems as well fixed as ever. 

Only time will tell if the young driver manages to detach it again though. Still, being paid for repairs in cookies isn't all bad.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

"Hood" ready to sail


And there it is done. A fun little project which apart from a little hole cleaning, went together perfectly. 

The finished ship is 16cm long and 9cm tall plus base. Big enough to see the detail, but small enough to fit in a display cabinet. Too small for radio control though sadly. I'd quite enjoy sailing a version twice the size. 

Meng's designer has done a cracking job to produce an identifiable, but caricatured model. I'm sure that's a lot harder then making an accurate one. I wonder if they would like to do some trains...

One part I have left off is the name "Hood" for the base. Knowing the history of the real ship, and her fate, I'm a little uncomfortable with a caricature version, so have decided that this is a model of HMS Troutbridge instead if anyone asks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Assembling the Hood


In theory, the Meng kit pushes together, but in the same way I don't do plastic kits without paint, I don't do them without glue either. 

Not that the model was likely to fall apart. Most of the holes into which parts are supposed to locate were on the tight side, probably not helped by a layer of paint. All needed to be slightly eased with a broach normally used for metal kits. 

The upper and lower hull parts benefited from some glue and clamping to avoid a tiny gap between them. These little clamps were just big enough to do the job. 

If you know the prototype, you can appreciate the effort the designer has gone into with the bridge area. Everything that should be there is there, just in cartoon form. The trick with the model is to pre-paint everything as the build (to my mind) needs to be very clean. I didn't plan on weathering the ship as I don't want any hint of realism about the finished product.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Meng cartoon "Hood"


My dad is still working on his scale model or the warship Hood - but when looking through the Meng website after finishing my Santa Tank, I spotted a plastic kit version and wondered if I could finish this before he had his on the water. 

Spoiler: Yes I can. 

The kit is designed as a push-together model that should be reasonably idiot proof. In theory, the modeller doesn't even have to paint anything as the plastic is self-coloured. Of course, I don't approve of not painting, so quite a lot took place before removing any parts from the sprues. 

As you can see, there are decks to paint at the very least - the box suggests half a dozen different colours. I decided that the pale grey bits could be sprayed Humbrol 64 and then dry-brushed with a paler shade as the detail is very impressive. The hull bottom gets a coats of Halfords red oxide primer, my standard anti-fouling shade, and as easy a paint to spray as you are likely to find. 

Then, everything was left to dry. For several months as it turned out...

Monday, July 19, 2021

New brushes

I paint a lot of stuff, and so am always on the lookout for modestly priced brushes that are good enough for the sort of work I do. 

£10 for 20 brushes counts as better than a bargain, at least if they don't fall apart after the first use. The pack came from Brushes 4 Models at the garden rail show recently. The make normally serves the art market, but also takes space at a few model railway shows. 

I've been using a both pointed and flat versions for a couple of jobs recently, and am very impressed. They have been cleaned many times and held both acrylic and enamel paints - and yet have held their shape and the attractive colouring of the bristles. I've certainly spent more and enjoyed less impressive results. 

The only problem? Brushes 4 Models doesn't have a web site, so you need to keep an eye out for him at exhibitions, but if you do, grab yourself a bargain.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Selly Oak sails away

Time to wrap up the Selly Oak story as the model has now been delivered to its new owner. 

The sharp eyed will notice that there are a few jobs still to do - laying the track being the main one. However, I've hit a really wall with the project and reached the point where I simply couldn't continue with it. I've never felt like this before with a project as far as I know, and it's not a whole lot of fun. Even admitting this isn't easy, but I know people will wonder what happened if I simply never mention the model again do I'll 'fess up to my failure. 

The guys from Rapido have been exceptionally kind and considerate about this. Fortunately, the model is at a stage were it can perform it's main function - acting as a background for model buses, so it's not a complete failure. Since you can't see the track from bus spotter eye-level, perhaps things are quite as bad as I think.

I'm happy with the modelling I did manage to carry out. There are several nice views to be enjoyed thanks to the complexity of the different levels. The general late 60s to early 70s griminess works - so the background won't detract from the model placed in the foreground. 

Lessons learned? 

1) I must never, ever take on a commission. Not a loco, not even a wagon, and certainly not a layout. I don't have the time or the stamina. My life is busy enough with toy trains without the added pressure of a build someone is expecting. 

2) Don't do long term projects. The only other layout I recall feeling this way about was "Melbridge Town" which suffered from lots of hard work that became a slog. The two aren't the same in many ways, but I gradually ended up resenting them both. Anything I build needs to be completed reasonably quickly or I just get fed up with it. Maybe this makes be a bad person, but we can't all have Peter Denny's commitment to a single layout. 

Anyway, the model is someone else's now and I feel better for passing it on. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Dresden Suspension Railway

 I visited Dresden years ago, but no-one mentioned this monorail funicular - or I'd have sought it out for a ride!

More information on Wikipedia.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Pop-pop boat


"What did you buy at the National Garden Railway Show Phil?", I hear you ask. 

I bought a pop-pop boat. 

Well, it was only a tenner and I liked the look of it. You'd pay more for the power unit

I also recognised the model - it's a Hobbys magazine "Jungle Queen" plan. Sometimes, my encyclopedic knowledge of the model kit world comes in useful...

The 29cm long model is reasonably well built, and with a bit of a tidy up should be perfectly seaworthy. I need to find my solid fuel tablets to fire up that engine.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Garden Rail August 2021

Does building a garden railway take a long time? I set out to build a working layout, complete with plants, in a day for the National Garden Railway Show. See how I got on, and enjoy highlights from the event too.

On the workbench this month, we have a battery-electric Bagnall, classic Penrhyn railway brake van, convert an LGB loco to battery power and a stone engine house. If you fancy some technology, how about using a computer to generate freight movements for your line? Or if steam is your thing, we take a look at Roundhouse Engineering's' Darjeeling Himalayan Railway loco. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Camping coaches and buying kitbuilt locos in BRM

This months' project is one of those that grew the more I dug into it.

My plan had been to take a Hornby generic coach, paint it then plant the result in a field as a camping coach. 

Then I found a prototype and things spiralled. The chassis needed to be replaced with something simpler. The roof line was wrong. And there should be a travelling van as well. 

In the end, the project took more work than expected, but looks, in my opinion anyway, fantastic. 

On BRM TV, I'm taking a look at locos. 

With a growing number of second-hand kitbuilt locomotives hitting the market - if you've never built a kit before, what should you look for in a built-up model? After all, you can't reply on the manufacturer, and will probably never know the builder. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Monday, July 12, 2021

Birmingham bus stop

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Brummie buses didn't stop at shelters looking much like the Merit concrete version. Birmingham had it's own spindly metal design, which appeared all over the city. 

As far as I know, none still exist in the real world, and I'm not going to tour the bus routes to find out, but Wythall transport museum does have one, and I've taken some photo and measurements. 

 A few detail views too, in case I want to try and make one. 

The shelter seems to be a mix of steel and fibreglass - for the roof panels. It would have been a revolutionary material when these things were built!

For modelling purposes, I can only think of etching. There's no other way to achieve the strength for a model that will survive, and delicacy of the window bars etc. Maybe you could cut it by hand, but I doubt the result would be particularly neat. 

The measurements for one bay (the stop photographed has two) are below in scruffy notebook form: 

I'm not planning to build one at the moment, but it's useful to have the information - and this post might help someone else!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Painting the dragon

I wasn't confident I would have enough plants to fill my garden railway display and decided a little more colour would be useful, and ideally, something amusing. 

Our garden is home to a number of concrete ornaments, normally nicely painted by myself. I use cheap acrylic paints, the sort bought from The Works for a quid a bottle, and even though these figures live out all year, the paint usually lasts for three, before they look tatty. It then takes at least another two for me to do something about it. 

The little dragon climbing out of a manhole cover was well overdue for refreshment, and since he occupies a reasonable area, but without being too tall, I decided that his time had come to make a public appearance. He's always been one of my favourites too. 

An hour of painting with cheap brushes and some sponged highlighting and he really looked the part. The paint needed a little thinning for the black cover to make sure there weren't any bald spots, but basically, I squirt it on a plastic lid and use straight from the bottle. 

Although around the back of the display, a few people spotted him. Maybe I'm not taking the hobby properly seriously, but then I think it's all about having some fun!

lthough around the back of the

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Saturday Film Club: The ugliest loco on the Isle of Man

Much as I love all the Isle of Man railways, number 18 "Ailsa" is in any eyes, pug ugly. Built for work on the London Underground as a contractors loco, it was never meant to be seen much above ground. Moved to the island in 2000 to help with laying a pipeline under the railway, it transferred into the fleet as a shunter. 

Unusually, it ran the length of the line months ago, hauling a couple of steam locos to the place they were going to be stripped of asbestos. This video shows that train in operation. 

It also provides plenty of views of this ugly duckling. Handy, because it's so ugly, I'd really like to model it. There are already a lot of photos in my collection, I just need a plan (and some time).

Monday, July 05, 2021

Time for a break

I'm afraid there aren't going to be any posts this week - I need to take a bit of a holiday from blogging for a few days. 

Sorry about this. If you need a bit of my drivel, there are well over 5000 posts to dig back through, so please talk amongst yourselves for a bit. 


Sunday, July 04, 2021

National Garden Railway Show 2021


It's just over a week since the first large model railway exhibition since the start of the pandemic. All in all, despite a bucket-load of restrictions, it went very well. 

The challenge for me was to build a 3m square layout, complete with plants, in an afternoon. I managed this, and you can read all about it in the August issue of Garden Rail, on sale 15th July. 

It was weird being back at a show. The hall is large, tall, and had a big door open as both exit and to provide some air movement. On the day, (nearly) everyone wore masks, which made conversations a little tricky, but we all managed OK. After many months of face coverings, the crowd didn't seem that odd, even if you could only see the top of their heads. It was nice to put (part of) faces to names, and I had forgotten just how much information you get from chats around the stand.

Mask etiquette is interesting. When I arrived, I walked in wearing one, but was pretty much the only one. With around a dozen people in the hall, and a howling gale thanks to all the doors being open, I reasoned I could do without while lugging soil, stones and plants around. My own little social distancing square helped with the 1m+ separation!

Building the layout was 5 hours work, and boy, my legs hurt. Putting the plants in was particularly painful, next time I'll do some muscle stretching exercises first!

Numbers were planned to be down. The 16mm Association had planned on the basis that, as they guessed, we'd still be under restrictions. Extra space had been allowed around the hall and I never felt any more at risk than I would in a supermarket or shop. Hopefully, we won't have many more shows like this, but if we do, they can work. At least if the organisers can make the financial numbers work, easily the most difficult thing at the moment. 

By 6:30, I was all loaded and heading home, ready to process photos and write some words for a very imminent deadline. All being well, I'll do the same next year.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Saturday Film Club: The secret life of the sewing machine

Not the most obvious choice perhaps, but this is one of the films from Tim Hunkin's wonderful "Secret Life of Machines" TV series from the 1980s. Each one explained, in simple but not idiot terms, how different devices worked. 

It's worth checking out the other videos in the series if you are too young to remember them, even if someone has to explain what a fax machine is!

Friday, July 02, 2021

Meccano Clockwork Motor No.1A

I sometimes get calls asking how and where to dispose of old model railway items. I'm no expert and usually recommend the local model shop, or MRC Second-hand sales, unless the items are especially valuable, in which case a proper auction house is the place to go. 

A recent request saw me conclude that some 1970s/80s Hornby wasn't going to set the world on fire. There were a couple of kitbuilt locos that suggested the MRC, and so that's where they will be heading eventually. My thinking is that there might be collectors of hand-built models interested in them. It's a niche collecting sphere, but I've dabbled, so I'm sure others do. 

Anyway, in the collection was a Meccano clockwork motor. I've wondered about buying one of these for a while to power something boat shaped. A quick check on eBay showed these aren't worth much surprisingly, so I made an offer. This was turned down on the generous grounds that I'd been helpful, so I could have it as a thank you. I am a "good home" as I'll be interested in the item.

My new motor certainly IS interesting. For a start, it's big. The main part is 4.5 by 3.5 inches and 3/4 inch thick - all this plus leavers and drive shafts.

Fortunately, the key is in the box so I can have a go.

The motor smells of 3 in 1 oil, and runs silkily, like a mechanical device that has been kept dust free, but probably treated to a bit much lubricant. Not to worry though, it works in both forward and reverse. Cogs spin satisfyingly, but for only 15 seconds. Is this right? Would it run longer with a load? 

I'm new(ish) to clockwork motors, so suggestions are welcome. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Rusty bridge sides


A bit of gap filling on the high-level rail line. Using some Wills Vari-girder bridge components, fairly heavily hacked around, I've joined the bridge parapet to the canal bridge at last. 

There's some very heavy hairspray weathering going on as I wanted something very rusty, so nearly all the topcoats has been scrubbed off. It took a lot of toothbrush work though, possibly because I left the hairspray for a few days and it over-hardened. I do like this technique though. Even with limited skill, the results look (to my eye anyway) great. 

I'm now thinking the canal bridge side needs to move a bit so it doesn't stick out as far, but that's for another day.