Sunday, October 31, 2021

Hong Kong tram

According to my phone, this was seven years ago. It seems like a lifetime.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Saturday Film Club: The APT

I've always loved the APT, and yes, I do have a Hornby model on order. This film shows the train running both inside and out. It might be an ameteur film, but the shots are really good - someone knew what they were doing. 

I never saw the real thing run sadly, so this is the nearest I'm going to get to it. Sorry Avanti, and Pedolino isn't the same...

Friday, October 29, 2021

Great British Model Railway Show this weekend


All being well, this weekend, I should be exhibiting a variety of project at the Great British Model Railway Show. 

The plan is to fill a couple of tables with models I've built over the years. There won't be a demo this time as the idea of sitting opposite someone breathing into my face doesn't appeal right now. Instead, I'll be loitering around the back of the stand chatting and answering questions with a mask on. 

You can find me on Stand 54, right at the top of the escalator from the main motor museum floor. 

It's going to be interesting taking part in a show again. There have been a couple of garden railway events this year, but nothing for the smaller scales. To be honest, I'm not sure how comfortable I feel about all this, hence the slightly different format for the stand, but then if a few tweaks is enough to make things work, that's fine with me. 

You can read more at the Great British Model Railway Show website.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Tower wagon

Hellingly tower wagon

Since Hellingly represents a line under construction, and the important feature is the tramway overhead, I assumed that the contractors would have a tower wagon. The books show a very flimsy contraption, but I decided that something more substantial would be in order - and easier to build.

MER - Number 27 at Laxey

Inspiration came from the Isle of Man. On the Manx Electric Railway, there is a nice, chunky wagon and so all I did was built a standard gauge version of this from plastic. Pre-cut strips make a big difference to this sort of project - both making the build easier and the results a lot neater.

The chassis might look simple, but it is compensated as I was concerned that a tall wagon might be prone to derailment. As I recall, it isn't, but then that might be because I fitted that wobbly axle. 

The loco is a Centre Models whitemetal kit that I built over a weekend at the Sutton Coldfield model railway exhibition. Glued construction, it even runs on the original whitemetal chassis - well, I didn't have many options to replace it at the show, and it works pretty well. The 'Green Arrow' nameplate is due to it's speed of construction, and that I'd painted it (by brush looking at the marks) green.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Scratchbuilt van

Hellingly siding

This photo contains both one of the first, and (if I remember correctly) one of the last items of rolling stock I built for Hellingly. 

Furthest from the camera is a whitemetal kit from 51L. Lovely crisp moulding that show metal kits aren't all lumpen things. Pedants may wonder how a Hull & Barnsley wagon has found it's way so far south of course. 

The LSWR van is scratchbuilt from plastic sheet and strip sometime in the 1990s - one of the few complete scatchbuilt vehicles I've made. The prototype was picked for east of construction rather than it being useful for the layout. I think this came along afterwards. 

Running gears is probably Kenline, because I built up stocks of the stuff at bargain prices, and still have them. Well, bits like that might come in useful one day. 

Power comes from a High Level Models Black Hawthorn - the first of their kits I'd built and one that impressed me. There's a lot of components, and you do need to pay attention, but the result with its 108:1 gearbox, is a slow running model, perfect for a short layout.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Fun with wagon names

Hellingly crossing

While Hellingly is out for some video work, I can't resist taking a few photos on the layout. It's been a busy week anyway, so progress on other projects has been non-existent, so they give me something to post. 

With the layout set in 1900ish, I get to run private owner wagons with pretty liveries. I'm sure the purists will object, but it's my layout, so the wagons are partly chosen for colour and the name on the side. I think this makes the layout more interesting (there is a local wagon, and it's black) and since it's my trainset - my rules. 

At the top, you see a wagon that was a definite for me, because it's nearly got my name on it! We'll assume that Cedric Edward was a distant relative, which makes it all right. 

Loco nerds will be interested to know, that 'Angus' is a K's Taff Vale 0-4-0 kit, although all the chassis parts have been replaced with a scratchbuilt version that isn't made out of armour plate thickness metal. 

Hellingly shed

Now we have a really terrible joke - the wagon containing wood, is named 'wood'. Well, it's my model and this makes me chuckle. As a bonus, it's the only yellow wagon on the layout. 

Motive power is a High-Level Models kit which runs very sweetly. I wrote about building this on the blog in 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Vallejo varnish test


There's a discussion going on over at RMweb on replacements for Testors Dulcote - the fantastic American varnish which isn't imported any more, and will no longer be made as it's contains all sorts of terrible chemicals. 

Army paint from Games Workshop has been suggested, and last week I found a local boardgames cafe/shop that stocked this and the Vallejo range. Since my stock of Dulcote is down to a can and a bit, I thought I'd try the stuff on those Hornby Dublo models mentioned last week

Needless to say, they had sold out. Apparently, it flies out of the door as soon as they get it in stock. Good news for the shop, not so for Phil. 

What they did have, was Vallejo matt and satin varnish, along with the appropriate thinners - so I bought some out of curiosity. 

First up, the VW van. I felt that satin would be appropriate for this, and so mixed up a little 50:50 with thinners in the airbrush cup (yes, I know).  

It sprays beautifully. A fine coat that went on really well and dried quickly even without the attention of the hair drier. The result is a soft sheen, that looks great on a clean road vehicle. 

Next, the matt for the Scamell. Again, this was mixed in the cup (I'm such a rebel) and certainly sprayed well. However, it's not really matt, or at least as dead a finish as I expected. OK, this was a high-gloss model, but it's still got a little shine to my eyes. Not badly, but not as flat as expected. 

Having said, this, the ease of use of the paints scores well. I still need a rattle-can paint as I'm usually too lazy to use the airbrush, but this isn't a bad alternative.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Coaling up


Digging in a cupboard, I found some old photos, including this one of coal being coveyed into the bunker of a loco on the Dartmouth Steam Railway

There's a nice little modelling scene here for someone modelling a preserved line.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Batteries Included

Electric locomotives aren't a new thing and this short film gives a brief background before focusing on one on my "to build" list - Staffordshire No.1.There's even a kit from High Level Models to make life easier. 

One day...

Friday, October 22, 2021

Dublo vehicles

Dublo lorries

I've been looking for a Hornby Dublo VW van for many years. The originals aren't common, and those that appear are either tatty or expensive, or both. 

When Hornby announced a replica in their centenary range, I knew I'd be buying one so placed an order with my local model shop. The Covid happened and also the Hornby Tiers system put my local guy in Tier 3 which means high-demand items either don't turn up, or are very late. 

Grudgingly, I decided to take a quick look on eBay, where prices were normally 150% RRP - but patience paid off and I managed to snag a model for RRP plus postage.

Dublo VW

It's an interesting beast. The plastic baseplate is marked Oxford - which makes sense bearing in mind the connection between the companies. The decoration is top notch, but those "chrome" window surrounds are a long way from the "glass" and I don't think the front is vertical enough compared to a real VW. As I recall, on the puka Hornby Dublo (Meccano?) model, it was too upright. 

The Scammell purchase came about when I found myself in Chester Model Centre. Since my rule is that I always buy something if I visit a model shop, and I wasn't in need of anything really, the lorry was it. 

Dublo Scammell

Again, this is based on the standard Oxford casting, which looks the part. Decoration is also good. 

What to do with these models? Well, I could wrap them back up in their tissue paper, stick them in the collection and wait for the values to soar. But since everyone will be doing that, I'm inclinded to some matt varnish, flush glazing and even a bit of dirt so they can appear in the back of photos as set dressing.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Car dealership and Playtrains in the Hornby Collectors Club magazine

In the Autumn 2021 issue of The Collector, I've a couple of pieces. 

The first is a car dealership built from a MKD Kit, now part of the Joueff range. If you click the link you'll notice that out of the box, the aim is to build a Peugeot dealer, but I don't own any suitable cars - but of course do have a collection of VW's, so the building has been re-branded. 

It's an interesting kit with some experimentation required for the wall finishes and then, after some head-scratching, a surprise. The designer intended it to be lit up. No parts are provided, but with a little ingenuity, and a couple of LEDs, that's what I managed to do. 

I've also taken a look at the new Playtrains range, from a collectors' point of view. 

I'm a big fan of the new models, and I can see it being a sensible move to add them to a Hornby collection. After all, in a few years time, there will be very few mint, boxed sets out there. Possibly an investment purchase for the future? 

The Collector is the house journal of the Hornby Collectors Club.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Warehouse Wednesday: Insurance office

Thanks to Duncan Young for this photo. He says "Sojourning in Long Melford— the village is jam packed with modellable buildings but see this little stunner- about 15 feet across and an ideal filler for a gap. Its purpose and representations are fascinating." 

It is a little beauty. And "driving" up and down the high street reveals a few other candidates, such as the antique centre. In fact, the whole place offers a wonderful variety of architecture and building materials. One to add to a list for a future visit!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Return to Hellingly

For some video work, I need a working model railway, and so decided to pull The Hellingly Hospital Railway out of storage. 

All my layouts live in an insulated, but unheated storage container, and I've always concerned how well they will fare in there. I don't have the option to put them up in a nice, warm house as efforts to win the lottery have so far proved unsuccessful. 

Anyway, the layout has been in the container, wrapped in an insulated bag, for at least 5 years since I last looked at it. First impressions were goo. The leaves are still on the trees, and apart from a little bit of fluffy mould (I think) on one branch, it survived well.

Except that when I unloaded the model from the car, I dropped one end of it two feet onto a gravel drive. 

Much scrabbling around later, I dug up what I hope is all the little details that came lose. 

The challenge is to match the detail to the blank spots on the ground. 

Some PVA, a few weights and a few minutes work, and hopefully the model is as good as it ever was.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Metal bomping

A busy week means minimal progress on the Hudswell Clarke shunter. All I've managed to do is bomp the rivets in the body parts. 

As usual, the metal goes into my GW Models revetting tool. Bought well over quarter of a century ago for what seems like a lot of money, but really isn't, it's still something I'm pleased I purchased while flush from a redundancy payment. 

To be honest, I don't use it to it's full potential on this job. The slides that allow for accurate rivet placement on plain metal aren't fitted. For etched kits where there is a half-etch mark on the back of the component to locate the proddy bit, I do this by a combination of eye and feel. 

Rivet size is judged in the same way. I don't bother to set the stop under the handle, I work by feel. You can tell when the handle, and thus the forming tool, is pushed far enough down. Proper model makers will be horrified, But the results look OK to me. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021


 Nicked from Instagram: 

It's very true in modelmaking as in life in general. Sometimes whatever it is you build doesn't work. But if you scrap it and start again, the experience you have gained will stand you in good stead. 

It's still annoying though...

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Disney on railroads

Ignore the title, the YouTube idiot stuck on this - it's a fascinating film showing three Disney people and their railroads, including Walt's own garden line. 

Nice bit of filming, as you might expect, especially the segment with Kirk Douglas driving a train.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Delightful drawers

At the recent N gauge show, I was doing my usual thing, rushing around trying to talk to as many people as possible, and snap plenty of photos. Several times, I passed a stand selling second hand model engineering tools - on top of which were these drawers. 

Each time I passed them, I looked. And I liked what I saw. Except the price, a whopping £250. 

The trouble was, I kept looking. I opened a few drawers and they slid perfectly. I tapped the top and it's a lovely bit of wood. At 58cm wide, there's plenty of space for "bits", and any modeller has plenty of those in need of organisation.

Obviously, I recognise the lineage. If you have ever seen an wooden engineers toolbox, you'll realise they have the same maker. 

Based in Ashford, Emir were until very recently, still making high quality workbenches and toolboxes. Sadly, they were a casualty of Covid. When furlough ended, they had no orders to re-start the business with, ending 89 years of trading. 

It's a crying shame when a firm such as this disappears. Firstly for the staff, but looking at the bigger picture, for the skills that will be lost. 

My set of drawers is a beautiful thing. After much deliberation, I negotiated a 50 quid price drop at the end of the day. That's one of the most expensive pieces of furniture I own, and I'm not disappointed. A quick look online found only one other example - which was tatty, missing a drawer, and twice the price. OK, cheap plastic drawers will work just as well for a fraction of the cost, but I won't love them like I love these.

The only problem is that I need to work out how to label the drawers. Writing on them is obviously out of the question. Maybe I can use the silhouette cutter to make some labels that can be held in place with the knobs (these screw in), but that's a problem for another day. For the moment, I'll just enjoy them.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

We're off to Germany in Garden Rail November

We're off to Germany for our lead layout this month - Waldheim built by Jim Trotman. It's a little slice of Saxony that lives in Cumbria!

On the workbench, there is a 100-year-old gauge one locomotive restoration, building some Darjeeling Himalayan Railway rolling stock, digging a pond with a railway bridge and then finishing off with a well-earned drink in a home-made pub. 

On review, is Garden Railway Specialists "small" Quarry Hunslet as well as all the latest news of products for the large-scale modeller.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Dirt stops solder - deliberatly

Time for a job I don't enjoy, soldering the washers on to the crank pins to hold the rods in place. It's one of those jobs where everything can go wrong, and you end up with a lump rather than a collection of moving parts. 

My solution is to put permanent marker everywhere I don't want the solder to go. Since the stuff will only stick to clean metal, in theory (and practise I'm pleased to say) it won't stick to the penned up bits. 

As an extra precaution, some light oil floods the crank pin hole in the rod. This is the old skool way of doing things, but I'm always concerned that the heat of the iron will boil off the liquid and let the solder do its worse. 

Anyway, in the photo, you can see the true horror of the over-large holes in the rods, but as the chassis works fine, I don't care how much it annoys proper engineers, I'm not bushing them. 

Another handy hind, ignore the washers provided with Romford crank pins, you only end up filing them much thinner, just use some 10BA brass washers and save some effort.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Whirling cranks

I hate this bit. Flycranksare a pain in model form. Part of me wondered about chopping the conrods short and leaving them off - but I'll try to do it properly. 

The cranks were fitted, with a spacer washer behind each one, ad the overlong axle marked for cutting. Once the right length and slightly chamfered on the end, it was fitted through he crank. This was a loose fit on the axe. Only by a fraction of a mm, but not a press-on job like the other then. 

Then the rods went on and I hoped these would handle the quartering. 

Plenty of non-corrosive flux on the end of the axle, followed by a smear of solder and the thing is in place. Turning the motor by hand suggested things were OK, so it was time for power. 


Not too bad. There's a lot of slop in the system, but let's see what happens with the retaining washer are fitted to the crank pins. Maybe we'll have a working chassis. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Driving Scamp

A couple of weeks ago, I was filming with the There and Back Light Railway, and Steve generously let me have a drive of his petrol-engine backup loco, a Scamp. 

For those that don't know, Scamp is a 7 1/4" ride on locomotive designed by Colin Edmondson. Rather than waste space here, head over to the website for all the details, including those of the kit to build it

That's right, this is a kit-built loco. Yours for £2375 RTR, but a grand less than that if you pick the far more fun option to build it yourself from what is, I am told, a really easy to construction set of parts. 

There's more on Scamp over at Apa Valley. 

Now, I really don't need any more projects, but if I did, I could be very tempted. Steve's Scamp moves at quite a rate, and since he had only just put the track down, offered a bit of a white-knuckle ride when I drove it. This thing is terrific fun. OK, I look ridiculous, but that's pretty much par for the course. 

One challenge is that Scamp is tiny, and you need to balance the loco, especially if you are a tall and fat bloke. That means leaning back in the seat to keep your centre of gravity over the wheels, all while juggling the various controls (throttle, revs, clutch, brake) and trying not o break anything - both me and the loco. I'm sure Steve was more worried about the later!

Later in the day, I was also handed the controls of a steam loco, and it was also very enjoyable too, but Scamp was the one that really got me wishing I had the space for a small line...

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Campbells Quarry and Quarry Hunslets in Narrow Gauge World

Bit of a catchup post - in the October issue of Narrow Gauge World, I have a few photos. 

First, we have a combined article covering Multi-award-winning Black Country metal basher, John Campbell's layout "Campbells Quarry". Editor Andrew has combined both my original piece and the update showing the engine shed extension. 

Then we have the news about the Bachmann Quarry Hunslets in 009 with a big batch of my photos. Obviously there will be plenty of NGW readers who will be very taken with these lovely little models.

You can buy the October 2021 issue of NGW online.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Saturday Film Club: Forward to First Principles - 1966

This British Transport film might seem a bit Open University with it's study of economic principles, but even if you don't follow the narrative (although it's interesting) there are some cracking pictures of trains.

Friday, October 08, 2021

It seems that I am an influencer now with an appearance on the poster for Heaton Junction's first public appearance. 

My quote is from the BRM article, and absolutely correct. This layout is massive. 

You walk along the front, and keep on walking. I've never seen such a massive model railway. 

Looking along the line from the view in the photo above, you simply can't see an O gauge model as it starts its journey from the other end - it's the lights that catch the eye first, long before you can see the nose. 


Don't forget that there is the same length around the back for the fiddle yard too. A fiddle yard full of very long trains, my favourite of which is the Motorail one. 

I leave it to you to guess why. 

More at the Heaton Lodge Junction website.


Thursday, October 07, 2021

Tin engine sheds and Flash in BRM

In BRM's November issue, we continue with the industrial layout build, this time looking at the engine shed. I've had this project in mind for some time, and this was the chance to do it. 

Wanting a wiggly tin shed, the original plan had been to scratchbuild, but when the guys from Budget Model Railways got in touch with their 3D printed version, I decided that as it looked pretty much the same as my planned version, it was a chance to bring a new cottage industry to everyone's attention. 

In the reviews section, we have Hornby Playtrains. 

This is another piece I've been looking forward to writing. Partly because I am A Big Kid, but mostly because this is a really interesting product as it's a range, not just a standalone set. With extra track and rolling stock available, and more in the pipeline, I'm hoping this is a success for Hornby. 

Of course, I'm not really in the target market to play with this, so I recruited a couple of assistants. 

Erin, who's 7, and Thomas 3, both had a go with the set and their opinions are found in the mag. Better still, if you get the digi version, there's some video of them trying it out. Both kids came out well on camera, although I think Erin is very much a star of the future...

Talking of video, my practical this month is looking at scribing and bending plastic sheet. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Cutting broaches

I spent ages looking for the axle the flycranks are attached to, before realising the great bit piece of brass rod was it. I'm not sure why we need enough for a 7mm scale chassis, but that's what's supplied. 

No matter. It's a very nice 3mm diameter - the same as the axles used for the wheels.

The holes in the cranks are undersized, which is far better than oversized, and need to be opened out using a set of large broaches. These aren't cheap tools, but pretty much essential for this job. Trying to use either a file or a drill for this job is likely to result in an oval hole in the wrong place (OK, drill in a pillar drill properly held will probably be OK, but if you can do this, you'll own broaches). 

I enlarged the hole to 3mm and then opened it up a couple of twists with the tapered reamer. Then the axle and crank were put in the vice and it used as a press to force them together. No need for solder or Loctite here! It won't be moving on the axle either, or at least I hope not. 

All this takes time, but I hope to get that back with minimal fiddling to fit this thing in the chassis.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021



Why are there so many flycranks on the kit etch? I pondered this for a while, then remembered that Romford and Gibson wheels have slightly different crank throws. You need to chose your parts to suit the wheels on your loco. 

Having worked out which set I needed, and there are several with two distinct designs, then it's a simple matter of juggling five layers of etch, lining up all the holes accurately, and running solder around the edges. 

The result is, in my case, a pretty messy job, but cleaning things up doesn't take long with some abrasive. 

The crank pin holes could be tapped and the pins screwed in place, but I just soldered them in position. At least that way they will stay put on the loco. 

Monday, October 04, 2021

Selly Oak goes to work

Selly Oak has appeared in public for the first time in a Rapido advert for their Leyland Fleetline

Nice to see it doing it's job and really nice to see the new bus in position. There's a definite whiff of 70s nostalgia for those of us at a certain age. I know I've travelled on one many times!

Sunday, October 03, 2021

What is it with the L&B?


A mystery. Why are manufacturers so obsessed with the Lynton & Barnstaple railway? 

Last week, Lionheart Trains announced a new range of O16.5 models of both the locomotives and coaching stock. Before this we saw Peco and Heljan plough the same furrow in 009. 

Now, I understand that the locomotives are attractive - and iconic, and therein lies the problem. 

Build a layout with L&B locos and it can only be the L&B. No-where else had these machines. 

Worse, the L&B was laid to mainline standards. Generous curves and long turnouts were the order of the day, and the locos were built for them. As many 009 modellers have found, they simply don't do tight curves, because the prototype couldn't. That's got to limit their usefulness. 

If it were me, I'd go down the Bachmann route with the very useful Baldwin and Quarry Hunslet locomotives. 

Both are really useful prototypes that can be found in many different locations. They will also handle the sharp curves beloved of narrow gauge modellers. The QH will run around a track bent around a 2p piece!

This would seem to be a more sensible investment - but then it's not my money tooling up for the L&B models and I have no reason to think that the decisions are anything other than commercially sound. 

It's a real mystery to me - can anyone help?

Saturday, October 02, 2021

Saturday Film Club: A railway in your crawl space

 Does anyone remember the April Fool's story in Railway Modeller years ago, where someone had built their layout under the floorboards of the house? I know I was fooled by it for a long while. 

Well, it seems that life follows art, and here we have a special effects laden video showing someone really building a miniature railway in the crawl space under their floorboards.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Myton Hospice wagon


I'm not into limited edition wagons normally, but Myton Hospice is a local charity and my local model railway club have commissioned a fund-raising wagon from Dapol in both OO and N gauges - so I've bought one of each. 

The project is in memory of a member's wife who was supported by the hospice in her final days and as such means a lot to many of us. 

I'd like to think that one day I'll weather these and run them in a "normal" train on a layout. For the moment they are a useful scale comparison tool. 

If you'd like a wagon, send an e-mail to: