Friday, September 17, 2021

Tiger - my first home-built garden railway locomotive

Tiger wasn't my first scratchbuilt locomotive, that was a OO gauge Hunslet, but he is the first garden railway locomotive I built from scratch. At the time we had a Mamod steamer, but it was pretty uncontrollable, and I felt a battery electric loco would be a better idea. Of course, in the 1980s, my funds for this sort of thing were incredibly limited. 

What emerged from my workbench, isn't the most realistic in the world. The design is pragmatic. Square edges because that's what's easiest to cut in 2mm Plastikard. Side skirts because I needed to hide the wheels. Even I knew they weren't realistic. 

Underneath, the chassis is a rectangle of square brass tube soldered up, from which dangle running gear made from Coopercraft 16mm parts. Handily, these were available as a reasonably priced pack, but no loco ever ran on curly-spoked wheels. 

Power is a cheap motor driving a single axle through some Proops (remember them?) pound pack gears. 3 AA batteries provide the go, and a DPDT switch the control. To say the model runs slowly would be to underestimate it's lack of forward progress. Plenty of power though, you just better be not in a hurry. 

The body detail owes a lot to old plastic kit cars. While the model might not be fast, it's powered (apparently) by a honking great V8 engine. I have no idea why its mounted back to font, and I didn't really understand which bits were engine and which gearbox. 

Crew is an Action Jack figure with a paper overall to hide the joints in his lets, and some Milliput hair. The headlight is a Playmobil cup with the handle cut off and wires added. I suspect the lens comes from the spares box - I never threw bits away. 

Tiger hasn't run for a while, although he still works. I suppose Marjorie Kondo would declutter him to the bin, but I prefer he sits on the bookshelves behind me when I'm on Zoom calls. We all have to start somewhere, and shouldn't forget that modellers develop, they aren't born.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Small layouts in Garden Rail

 Do you fancy building a garden railway, but worry you don't have the space?

Fear not – this month we feature five different large scale model railways to inspire you and cast aside all those space worries. Whether you can find the space in your garage, or need to fill the patio, we have something for everyone.

Back at the workbench, there are livestock wagons to build, a remote-controlled scale car and an Irish railcar.

All this plus the latest product news for the enthusiast including a review of Roundhouse Engineering's Palmertson “Small England” live steam locomotive.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Motor and gearbox


I'm still rusty at kit building, but some things are starting to come back to me. The gearbox in this kit seems familiar for a start. 

 The etch looks a bit hand-drawn. That's not a bad thing if done properly - the method is to work 4X normal size, so any errors are reduced when the parts are etched. To be honest, using a ruler and pair of compasses, an accurate part shouldn't be beyond the wit of man.  

Anyway, the first job is to work out which of the half-etched holes should be drilled out to fit the motor. The compasses quickly establish this - I think I've done it by eye in the past and things haven't gone well, but this time there's no problem at all. 

One common feature is that the hole for the motor boss is too small - no problem to open out with the tapered reamer, but if you've not done this before it might be off putting. Do NOT just screw the motor to the metal without opening out the hole, you'll bend things in a very bad way. 

More opening out is required for the axle bearing holes. Again, easy with the right tool and not bad practise as over-large holes are a nightmare to deal with and model railway etching isn't always as precision a craft as we might like. 

A much bigger problem arises when it's time to fit the worm gear. The one supplied had a great big, fat boss with the grub screw in it. It's so fat, that we find the motor is fitted off-centre in the cradle and the boss rubs on one side. Bad enough to stop the motor turning. I have no idea why this is, but it shouldn't happen.

A bit of fiddling around and it seems I can mount the gear backwards on the motor spindle with the boss just clearing he crown gear. 

Now, I seem to remember this being a show-stopper in the past with replacement gearboxes being the order of the day. Hopefully, I'll get away with it this time...

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Pink chassis cleaning


It seems that Shiny Sinks, my favoured cleaner for post-soldering sessions on etched locomotive kits is no more. Maybe my annual purchase of a bottle wasn't enough to keep the company afloat or something. Whatever, I need an alternative. 

Cue, much rummaging around in the cupboard under the kitchen sink to see what could be found. I'm sure that most people have far more cleaners than really required, unless you are one of those annoyingly smug people who use vinegar for everything and tell us it's a miracle that we don't know about. 

Anyway, nothing really seemed to work. Not stainless steel cleaner, Cillit Bang (Bang and the flux is still there!) but then I gave The Pink Stuff a go. And it worked. 

I've no idea what is in this bubblegum coloured paste, but apply, leave for a minute and then scrub away with the old toothbrush and it works. This is annoying as anything that describes itself as "The Miracle Cleaning Paste" or looks like something you buy from one of those market stalls where the vendor uses a microphone to keep up some running patter, should be rubbish. 

It should also be expensive, and this stuff is a quid a pot. Bargain. And Vegans can eat it too, what more do you want?

Monday, September 13, 2021

Chassis on the jig


Since this is a blog build, and not a magazine one, I can use any bit of fancy-pants kit at my disposal, without worrying how anyone else will be able to do the same. Hence, out comes my Hobby Holidays chassis jig. 

It needed a little freeing up, but nothing that some WD40 and remembering to slacken ALL the Allen bolts wouldn't cure. 

The rods were carefully set to match the spacing of the conrods, reminding me that I never got around to ordering the set with smaller ends that actually fit into the crank pin holes. Still, I think I'm accurate enough. 

Once the chassis sides and spacers were soldered up, I put it on the jig with the bearings. Or at least I did once I'd opened out the centre holes and huge along (at least 1mm) as they seemed to be in the wrong place. The ends are fine, and using the jig, this isn't a problem - just slosh plenty of solder around and let it sort itself out. The gas torch was handy here as there's a lot of heat absorbing metal. 

Once cool, I cleaned it up and then remembered I've run out of Shiny Sinks cleaner and need to find a replacement before the flux stars going green.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Repeat after me - I do NOT want a Rolls-Royce...


When I was a kid, I thought there were two things that marked you out at rich:

You owned an electric toothbrush. 

You drove a Rolls-Royce.

Simple really. Now, I have achieved electric toothbrushing, and a few weeks ago, I was faced with the opportunity to complete the list. 

At Warwick classic car show, there was a man selling his Rolls. £15,000 and I could have driven it away. 

Tempting. For a start, it's the right car. Not one of the horrible modern ones that look like they hit every branch as they fell out of the ugly tree. This is the proper Rolls shape for people my age. 

The colour is good too. I'm not a fan of gold cars, but on a Rolls (I know the cognoscenti say "Royce" because he started the company, but Rolls is traditional) it seems to work. Gold and dark brown really looks nice. 

Now, these cars are notorious money-pits. If you have the hydroelastic suspension, it used to be £2000 a corner to fix.  This car doesn't have that. Apparently there are some of the fittings at the front, but they were blocked off at the factory. 

From that you will guess I chatted to the owner. He was very nice and let me sit in the drivers seat, because I've never been in a Rolls before. It's very plush in there in a very 1970s way. Lots of controls and stuff that you would take for granted in a modern car, but in the later, I suspect they need less attention. 1978 wasn't a great time for electric stuff, but the chances of fixing it if it goes wrong will be higher. 

The MOT history looks good, this car has been well looked after. It's not used for weddings, just wafting around in. I'm told everything works. The only bad bit it there is a wing that could do with a bit of touch up spraying.

Technically, I could have ponied up the money and bought the thing. OK, it's a big hit on the savings, and the insurance would have been an "interesting" bill (out of curiosity, I looked a quote up on Direct Line and the website refused to produce one) and the running costs wouldn't be paltry either. 

However, I need money to get the Beetle back on the road and that matters more than buying another car that I don't need. It wouldn't fit on the drive (these things are massive!) and I don't have a need for "wafting around" anyway, not one the Peugeot won't satisfy anyway. 

Maybe I should buy as an investment. Not too long ago, this car was worth £7000, so looked after, the value is only going one way. But investment means dry storage is required, and that's expensive. 

But I can dream. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Mattel Vertibird Toy Helicopter

The Vertibird helicopter is firmly in the realm of toys I looked at in my mum's mail order catalogue, but knew I'd never actually see. To be honest, I'd still rather have had some Lego or something for the train set at the time, but that didn't stop me wondering. 

This video is fun because it's recorded by someone into RC helicopters who can explain what the controls really do, and also shows us how the toy works, which is very ingenious. If I'd had one, I'd probably have taken it to bits and broken it anyway.

Friday, September 10, 2021

OO/009 micro layout, Lyn and Copenhagen Fields in BRM

Last month, my BRM project was deliberately on the small side, because I needed the time for something a bit bigger - a micro layout with both OO and 009 track.

The model is a test-bed for several Geoscenics products as well as a chance to scratch an itch that's been with me since we visited Rocks by Rail a few months ago. The idea of building a loading bank appealed a lot, and there an obvious influence from Giles Favel's "End of the Line" too. 

I really enjoyed using the scenic material - the pole hole road kit has long been a favourite, but the track weathering is the business too, especially the oil spill kit. Look out for these returning in future projects. 

Sticking with 009, along with Narrow Gauge World editor Andrew Charman, I've take a look at Heljan's "Lyn". 

 And finally, the camera has been out again, this time for a visit to the MRC's "Copenhagen Fields". 

The club were very generous and allowed me to place the camera within the layout so I could snap angles and scenes that you can't see from the normal viewing position at an exhibition. Being able to get the G12 right down into the model shows some really interesting scenes that won't have appeared in print before. 

Finally, BRM TV has me talking viewers through the little industrial layout. 

This is a fully Phil filmed and edited piece, and I've been experimenting with the content a little with extra cutaways and odd snippets filmed during construction. I hope this works well - I'm quite pleased with it, and have plans for the future.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Talking about garden railways

If you are in London this evening, I will be talking at the Model Railway Club about green-fingered modelling. I have a feeling that when I agreed to this, I thought it would be by Zoom, but it seems I need to get on a train - not sure how I feel about this...

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Sides and spacers

Moving on the big bits of metal, chassis sides and spacer were removed from the fret, bent up, and then test slotted together - something they did perfectly. 

The tabs on the spacers fit through slots in the chassis, but stick out proud of the side. This makes keeping everything together without frying my fingers a little bit of a fiddle. After a bit of juggling, I found a way of holding bits of leftover MDF from another kit in such a way that I could tack the joints together, at least on the ends. 

Checking that the chassis was both flat and square, pleasingly it was, I added some generous fillets of solder. Not because they are really required, but because they are fun to do. This metal flowing is what I dreamed of when I decided to build the kit. 

The centre spacers went in easily, if a little wonky (it seems to make no difference) and all the tabs filed flush with the outside face. A little scraping and polishing and I'm convinced that whatever skill I have building these things, hasn't entirely deserted me. Maybe it's like riding a bike, you never forget. I hope so...

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Bendy rods


With the soldering iron warmed up, water in the tip cleaning spong and solder and flux to hand, it's off to work on the Hudswell Clarke shunter. 

A logical place to start is with the rods. These are made up of three layers, and straight away I find myself with a challenge. 

Real rods are jointed, and on the model the knuckle is represented with a length of wire through a hole beside the main crank pin hole. The trouble is, these are etched quite large, and there is only the thinnest piece of nickel outside the hole - so the rod tends to become a zig-zag once released from the etch. 

With care, each layer is tinned and then sweated together into something like a straight line. I filled the smaller holes with solder to keep things under control. Once happy, a little drilling of the soft metal allowed me to stick a bit of 0.7mm wire in - this being cut to length once the solder had cooled. 

It's also important to ensure the rods are handed by not sticking the wire in from the same side on both. 

These might not look like big jobs, but there's over an hours work here with all the careful soldering and cleaning up. Time well spent with a bit of luck.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 shunter

For a few weeks, I've been in the mood to do some soldering. Maybe this is a sign of my modelling mojo returning, or just that I fancy doing something a bit different. Whatever, I've been dreaming about messing around with hot metal. 

Out of the stash has come this Mercian Models kit for a Hudsell Clarke 0-6-0 diesel-mechanical shunter. It looks quite a lot like the BR Class 07 with it's central(ish) cab and bonnet front and back. I've always like the 07, so this appealed as something a little different. 

BR owner 10 of these machines - numbers D2510 to D2519. Introduced in 1961, they only lasted six years in service before being sold off to the NCB. One, D2511, is now preserved. 

History records these locomotives as another odd purchase. By the time they appeared, the standard BR shunter offered either 204hp or 350hp. Was there really a benefit in a tiny class producing at the lower end of the scale? Perhaps they were a welcome re-design from nine earlier HC shunters (D2500 to D2509) with their distinctively steam-era styling, complete with chimney and bunker, but that's hardly a reason to buy more is it? Those machines also lasted until 1967, so were arguably more successful, even if none were preserved.

The locos found themselves allocated to Birkenhead, Borrow-in-Furness, Watford and Crewe South, whose staff must have been delighted to receive orphan locos whose quirks they would have to learn when maintaining them. 


Anyway, the kit wins it's place on the workbench by virtue of being complete - I have the earlier HC design to build one day, but need to sort out wheels and motor, so that can wait for another day. 

Most of the model is etched in nickel-silver, so promises good soldering. The instructions are exploded diagrams, and apart from the jackshaft drive, shouldn't be too challenging to build. Good, because my loco building skills are distinctly rusty...

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The great Model Railway Journal massacre!


Forgive me, for I have sinned. A few days ago, I owned a full set of Model Railway Journal magazines. 

Every single one, including the apparently rare, Issue 0. 

Now I own a few years in original binders, and a box file with a load of articles. Essentially the distilled essence of MRJ, or at least the bits that appeal to me. 

What caused me to commit such a heinous crime? 

Lack of space for a start. The things were piling up around the place. I never really looked at old issues, even though it's easy thanks to an on-line index. Were I the owner of a proper "railway salon" with endless shelves for magazines and books, I would have left well alone. But I'm not.

Years ago, I made a real effort to complete my set, digging through piles at exhibitions and even resorting to eBay. At the time, I wasn't convinced MRJ would survive (I think we were in the low number hundreds and things looked shaky) and a complete set would join my complete set of MORILs. But I'm pleased to say, the mag keeps appearing, so the completist in me has accepted defeat.  

It's interesting to see what I pulled out for the box file. Lots of practical articles on things that I'm actually likely to have a go at. Plenty of scenery, some buildings, weathering, a few locos and some rolling stock. Gordon Gravett, Geoff Kent, Martyn Welch, Stephen Williams and Pete Kaizer are the names on many of the articles.

There's lots of inspiration in the box, and none of the things that annoy me. MRJ can be very pretentious - "peak MRJ" was a loco weathering piece by Martyn Welch, described as "the most important and relevant article we have ever published". That alone consigned it to the recycling bin. For a start, it wasn't - there are many articles from the very early days that could lay claim to that such as the first mention of electrostatic grass, something that has changed the hobby. Also, most of the techniques were in The Art of Weathering, a book that is listed as an influence in many of the articles in the magazine.


I don't care. With the possible exception of Garden Rail, no magazine is perfect. I've reduced all the ones I've not got a byline in to box-file contents. It's impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. Some topics just don't interest me - signalling and coaches being low of my list of preferred reading matter. On the other hand, I kept all the articles where Gordon G builds model boats, which I bet many readers aren't that interested in. 

I don't buy the "ALL THE MAINSTREAM MAGAZINES ONLY TALK ABOUT BUYING THINGS AND NOT PROPER MODELLING" either. There's plenty of articles in MRJ about fiddling with RTR and I'll admit I've kept none of them. The tone can often be a little bit patronising "Oh look, some RTR that we deem acceptable to us better modellers". To be honest, I don't buy MRJ for RTR stuff - I like that it is different to everything else. Even the occasional pretentiousness isn't an issue, I WANT the mag to see itself as a cut above, that's its character.

Maybe I miss the days in the late 1980s-1990s when to build an exhibition layout, you built kits. And with a bit of application, your kit built models would be better than the contemporary RTR. There was much modifying and mangling going on. That, to me was the era of the best MRJ issues - the ones I still have whole in binders. 

Anyway, the deed is done. I now have a box full of really good stuff that I will enjoy browsing through. All killer, no filler as they say in the music world.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Great Laxey Mine Railway

Another Manx video for you today - this time the lesser-spotted Great Laxey Mines Railway. 

This 19inch gauge line is a relative newcomer to the IOM train scene, re-opening in 2004. The ride is short, but fun and the locomotives are unusual. 

One interesting feature is the flange lubricator on the initial very tight curve out of the station. I can't recall seeing one before, although I know they exist on the main line.

Friday, September 03, 2021

A little piece of Ian Allan for my wall

The sad closure of the final Ian Allan shop in Waterloo leaves the country with no chain model shops. 

However, thanks to the generosity of the new occupant of the premises, a little piece of the shop will live on. On finding that there were still a few shop fittings knocking around, rather than throw them in a skip, they took the time to find RMweb, register an account and then post, offering the signs from above the shelves to anyone as a memento. 

The effort required was substantial, and incredibly generous. 

I leapt at the chance, and soon found myself the owner of the "New Title" and "Maritime" headers. I was beaten to the "Railway" one by another evil blogger, but I'm not too worried. The chance to own a little bit of somewhere I had enjoyed visiting means I'm not really fussed, and both are appropriate for me anyway. 

The shop itself is to become a dental practice. 

The iconic tiled frontage and unusual window is retained, so if you are in the area, it's still possible to spot the old place. 

This isn't the only bit of IA memorabilia in my collection though. I bought this for £3 at a show years ago. 

Luck was on my side - surely I can't be the only person who would want it?

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Partwork season is back


The schools are heading back, which must mean it's time for all the new partworks to launch. Cluttering up your local newsagents for the next seven weeks are a couple I spotted. 

Build the Fast & Furious Dodge Charger

If you enjoyed the films, then for only £1100, you can build a 1:8 scale Dodge Charger. At 68cm long, it's quite a beast of a toy car. Sadly, it's a bit of a static model although the steering works and you can fit batteries to make the headlights work. 

Assuming this is what it looks to be, a simple screw together kit, then if the Charger is your thing, it's probably as a good a way to spend money as any. The same cash would buy you a 2010 Vauxhall Insignia

First issue is 99p, but the bits in it looked a bit useless unless you plan to buy the set, so I didn't bother. 

Warhammer 40,000 Imperium 

This is more like it. £2.99 buys you a couple of plastic figure kits, half-a-dozen good quality dice and some stuff to play a game on including a clear plastic ruler thing. 

The figures are designed to push together without glue. That makes sense as paints don't arrive until later in the series and you are going to have to take these things apart for painting. However the two characters can be used for a game. In theory at least as I looked at the rules and was thoroughly confused. A step-by-step guide is included and I think it will make sense if you concentrate. 

A bigger problem is that one of the figures didn't want to stay together without glue, and even with, putting the final bits on defeated me, so it went in the bin. More dedicated, or less ham-fisted modellers will be fine I suspect. At 5cm tall, these are quite impressive and I will slap some paint on mine one day. 

Interestingly, there is a premium option for £10.99 per issue (£2 more than the standard issues) which give you extra figures and paint - but this involves four issues a month which sounds like a lot of money and an awful lot of painting. 

One thing that does fascinate me is the imagination that goes into all this. Whole universes have been created with epic back stories to give these character life. It's a bit of a pity that all that effort has gone into creating a world of continuous war, but then I guess they know their market.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Narrow Gauge World and Model Boats appearances plus explosive Rapido action


A couple of out-of-the-ordinary appearances this month. 

My cartoon model of the Hood appears in the Readers Models section of Model Boats magazine. I mention that I'm not happy with calling it the "Hood" and the designer suggests "Pud" as another option. I think I quite like that...

Over in Narrow Gauge World, there is a review of Heljan's "Lyn" in 009 to which I contributed photos and a few comments on the running of the model. Andrew has sorted out the prototype detail as it's his area of expertise, something I appreciate for the next issue of BRM. 

Finally, I helped out with some filming for Rapido a few weeks ago. The results have appeared on the web. You have been warned!