Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Overgrown huts

Overgrown huts

Spotted in an odd bit of land near me that is surrounded by a housing estate. According to a planning notice, this and the bungalow next door, will soon become a 2-bed house and some self-build plots. 

These odd corners are understandably becoming rare and it's worth keeping an eye out for them. In model form, overgrown huts like this (are these Nissen huts? Surely they are too small?) make lovely, atmospheric scenes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Newspaper solution

 Last year, I pondered the right sort of papers to appear in modelling magazine photos

Nothing too political, or with anything titilating on the picture front. You don't need controversial storeis appearing, or murders. In fact, it's probably best to avoid people's faces. 

But, the solution has arrived wrapped around yesterday's plastic kits - Japanese newspapers!

How cool will I look using thse when I need to protect my scenery from messy work, but need to take a photo?

Monday, January 17, 2022

I know I said "no more kits"...


In my defence, I ordered this pile before Christmas, and they have only just arrived. 

It's all TV engineer and motorbike racer Guy Martin's fault. In his latest epic, he built a racing Piagio. Liking the look of this, I did a little web searching, especially for the fun looking radio control version I'd seen in the past

In the results, was a photo of a Mazda T2000. I wanted to know more. Don't look at me like that, I'm not the only one to fall down an interweb rabbit hole. It's got 3 wheels and can carry a 2-ton load! A proper workhorse of a vehicle.

Another search and I spot a plastic kit. From the excellent Plaza Japan

"That looks fun", I think, and before you know it, I've clicked the magic buy button. Well, it's not much more than a fiver. 

Of course, there are other similar kits, as the same sort of price. Might as well make the order up a bit. 

Then I spot some cartoon Thunderbird stuff. And of course I fancy a model of FAB1 with Lady Penelope and Parker. 

And that is how I ended up £30 worse off, but with four more boxes of things I want to build. If nothing else, this is a stone, cold bargain. Any one of these kits would cost half that in the UK. And I'd still be tempted by one.

And I also own a complimentary little model of Mount Fuji - how good is this?

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Lamenting the modeller I used to be


Digging through my stash of bits'n'pieces for something that wasn't there, I couldn't help wonder how the pile of packets had come about. 

Loads of buffers, wheels, detailing components. All solid gold to the right sort of modeller - the sort of modeller I used to be. 

I'm going to be controversial and say, the best era for railway modelling was 1993. 

Iain Rice's book Detailing and Improving Ready to Run Wagons had just been published. RTR models were improving a bit, but serious types needed to tinker with them to add better brake gear and modify the bodies. You weren't aiming for perfection, just a few gentle improvements that would raise your layout above the herd. 

A few extra bent bits of wire for brake safety loops, perhaps even ripping off the plastic bits and replacing them with metal bits from Kenline would do the job. 

All this was within the grasp of a reasonably capable person who really wanted to have a go. 

Nowadays, RTR has pretty much reached perfection. Even the most basic four-wheel wagon has brake shoes inline with the wheels and often all the rods and stuff you should find under there. Generall, the quality will be amazing. 

I miss those days, and I miss that sort of modelling. While I can do my best to spread the gospel of tinkering with RTR models, I know I'm fighting a losing battle. The world has moved on.

Rice's efforts in his enjoyable books would be laughed at by the finescale talliban. You can't be cutting things out with a knife, you MUST use a laser, or better still, 3D print it. Why use a scalpel when you can sit in front of a computer? 

A sensible person would consider unloading all this stuff to clear space. 

I am not a sensible person. 

One day, I will hide in my cave and gradually upgrade old RTR models. I'll build Parkside kits. My layouts will be a bit better than those I created in the 1990s, but not much. And I will enjoy building them. On the exhibition circuit, I'll claim it's all retro, or ironic, but really it will be because I enjoy doing it. And that's all that matters.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Secret London microcar stash

Jonny Smith visits an incredible private London car collection full of the rarest custom and bubble cars. Like most classic car fans, I have a fantasy garage, and while I wouldn't fit in many of them, micro cars have always fascinated me.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Meccano Percy

Meccano Percy

My approach to eBay is to leave things on watch for a long while, on the basis that occasionally, I get lucky and something I want pops up at a price I am willing to pay

Meccano's model of Percy falls into this category. Launched in 1965, it's sort of O gauge and clockwork. The loco comes with some blue plastic track, of an interesting section, and a couple of wagons. A few years after its launch, a version with a smokebox door instead of a face appeared, something Hornby has recently done

Percy sets tend to go for £60+ and while I want one, not that much. I fancy running it on the Garden Rail layout at Peterborough as a bit of fun. Mine came in at £30 including postage. 

For that money, you don't get "mint boxed". 

The box is tatty, the red van is missing a set of wheels and the key is missing. 

I must admit, I really like the box art, not least because it refer to the books, which I think are the only source of true Thomas material. I do wonder about the stick - wouldn't a couple of identical coaches have made more sense, or was a larger range planned? As the model was discontinued a year after introduction, nothing came of those if there were. 

The missing key isn't a problem. I've wound the loco up with pliers and it works fine. I'll make a new key at some point. 

Then I can recreate at least some of the famous appearance of this set in The Avengers episode, "A funny thing happened on the way to the station."

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Your friendly issue of Garden Rail


A garden railway is more than just a collection of tracks and trains - often it's the people who build and run it that matter. We visit the Friendly Light Railway, a G-scale line that has brought people together from around the world.
If you think that small is beautiful, The High Force railway will be perfect. It packs a terrific amount of detail and character into its 5-foot length, but uses locos that can also head out into the garden.
On the workbench, we turn some Bachmann coaches into realistic Southern versions, restore an Accucraft Excelsior and show how you can appear to ride on your own garden line.
All this, and the latest product news and reviews for the large scale modeller.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

These are not MY new kits


Having said yesterday I'll be shopping in my own stash for projects this year, I recieved a box of goodies from the Model Railway Club Second Hand Shop a couple of weeks ago. The usuaul excellent service saw a well-packed cardboard box arrive full of kits. 

However, these are all destined for my new BRM project layout DHAPR Wagon works. Those ready to use lights will be perfect, so is the bike shed. The platform trolleys are superb and one tucked in a corner will add to the scene. Not so sure about the toilets, but if I can't use them now, there is another project in the offing that will. 

At the moment I'm having to avoid temptation as there are a number of Builder Plus kits on offer, some of which are interesting designs. Were I collecting interesting kits as an end to itself, I'd snap them up. But I buy kits dreaming of one day building them - or that's what I tell myself. 

Of course, if you need more kits, then here's the link. Just don't blame me if you get in trouble with the family for spending the kids inheritance...

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Nearly calling the Doctor


I was supposed to be getting some work done on Saturday - it's often the best time to crack on without people bothering you - but thanks to an Instagram post, found myself falling down a Dr Who cast metal figure rabbit hole. 

Head over to Black Tree Design for the entrance. 

I posted a link on a Facebook Messenger group I'm on and then perused the site. And started adding a couple of figures to my basket. You know how it is, Tom Baker (the best Doctor), a couple of Daleks and K9. Just for painting fun. 

One of my friends responded with "Now, now boys, don’t spend all your pocket money at once." as I wasn't the only one looking. 

Which prompted me to abandon my basket. Not for cost (very reasonable) but because I've had a set of figures from the TV version of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, stuck to a piece of wood near the workbench for well over a decade.

There have been more added to the collection since then, including an excellent Count Binface, and none of these has been painted either. 

Basically, in 2022, I need to start shopping in my own stash of kits, not aquiring more. I know I'm not going to do this exclusivly, but the pile needs to go down, not up. Not even by one tiny Dalek...

Monday, January 10, 2022

Where's my Nutmeg Spice?


In the run-up to Christmas, I ordered some picture fromes from Wilko online. The local branch seems to mostly stock empty shelves and I need three identical ones. When filling in the order, I stuck a couple of emulsion match pots in the virtual basket since I wanted to add to my stocks. 

To my surprise, my favourite shade "Nutmeg Spice" wasn't in the list. I use this "dog poo brown" as the basis for all my scenery as it's a nice mud colour. I'd hoped to bag a couple more pots as I was down to my last 3/4.

Not to worry, obviously an online thing - but dropping in to the physical shop last week, they not only didn't have any, but there's no longer a space on the rack for it. 

Nutmeg spice has been discontinued!

My search for a replacement saw a quick trip to Homebase. There I could have endless shades of beige, but brown? Farrow and Ball do a nice "London Clay", but it's a fiver a pot. Four quid gets you "Cecily" from Craig and Rose. That's still over twice the price of the proper matchpots. 

On Saturday, my parents were heading to Stratford, a town much better supplied with shops than Leamington, with a dried up pot of the "spice" and instructions to look for colours like mud, or dog poo. 

They returned with Johnstone's paint "Mocha" which looks like an even better earth colour than "Nutmeg Spice". And B&M stock it for £1.49 a pot. Result!

You might wonder why this matters - well, when I produce a project for a magazine, the whole point is the readers can replicate my work. That means easily available products, not poncy paint. It's why I stick to Humbrol as much as possible, and why I wasn't interested in mixing colours for this job. Keep it simple, and the projects are accesible - which is the point of what I do.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Keeping the costs down

I know what you're thinking, "£362.99 for two power cars!!!!" and you'll probably head to your favourite forum to post something about model railways turning into a hobby that's only for rich people. 

How rich you need to be, largely (IMHO, but as I've said before, this is my blog) depending on on how you chose to do it. 

IF, your idea of railway modelling is to buy every shiny new box that appears, and stuff it in your cupboard, then, yes, this is going to be an expensive hobby. There's no way around this, manufacturers are making many, many new models every year. Since these tend to be at the hi-fi end of the spectrum, the prices are comensurate. 

If you watched yesterdays video, then you'll have some idea of the commercial pressures involved. Wages are (correctly) going up in China. Shipping is getting more expensive, and we demand more and more bits stuck on to our models. 

Years ago, Bachmann could knock out a single Class 40 body moulding, and it sold in huge numbers. Modellers who wanted a different version got out the etched brass and converted them. Now, the runs are smaller because every tiny variant must be catered for out of the box. 

And before someone claims excessive profits, I've been around all the main players businesses, and there aren't any fancy cars outside. Our last "slap up meal" from Barwell was a delicious sausage batch from the catering van on the industrial estate. Hornby might have a cafe inside, but the place isn't that salubrious either.  

Stuff costs what it costs. This said, the full-fat versions of Bachmann's Class 47 have sold out, even at £400. That's a lot of money for a single loco, but plenty of people seem happy to pay for all the bells and whistles. And hooters. 

So, how do you keep the costs down? 

Simple. Buy what you need.

If you are running a branch line, you don't need an APT. A couple of locos will probably do the job. Yes, you'll gradually end up with more to ring the changes, but that can happen over time. 

Then, be realistic about your modelling. I doubt there are many people who can build a layout to a higher standard than any RTR loco tooled up this century. So look for stuff that works produced in the last 22 years. Worry about running rather than cosmetics. There's nothing wrong with not having the latest model. When people cry that a loco MUST be retooled to "bring it up to the current standards" on models 5 years old, I always want to see their layout as if it's that good, it must be amazing. 

A 2001 loco sat on your layout might not be perfect, but I bet it looks fine with those card kit buildings. If everything is a consistant standard, the resulting model will look better than one or two standout items showing up the rest. It's a bit like chrome on a classic car - sometimes perfection just shows up the iffy paintwork. 

Keeping the costs down IS possible but you can't have a full cupboard and get everything in an instant. Enjoy the modelling. Take satisfaction from something you have built or modified. That way lies happiness my little padowan.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Q&A with Jason Shron

Rapido Inc's Jason Shron has always been open with modellers, and in this latest Q&A, he's pretty clear about the various pressures affecting the manufacture of model railways - something that will be hitting all makers of toy trains. 

There's also some nice scenery, honest admissions of where things have gone wrong - and a nice shot of my Selly Oak model.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Bradford Model Railway (Manchester) Centre bag

Would you like an old plastic bag from a model shop? 

Of course I would. 

Just around the corner from a Wimpy - can things get any better? 

The Bradford shop closed in 2006, but by then it had become "Frizinghall Models & Railways" to avoid confusion with the owners shops in Huddersfield, and Leeds as well as Manchester, and the closure was due to a move to an industial unit. 

FMR still exist an can be found here. 


Thursday, January 06, 2022

Parkside Hand Drill Set

Bit of a heads up for a bargain. RMweb alerted me to a rather nice little tool set in the infamous middle isle of Lidl

£7.99 buys you a vice, pin vice and sets of drill bits with multiples of 9.5mm, 0.6mm, 1mm, 1.2mm, 1.5mm, 1.8mm, 2mm, 2.3mm and 3mm plus some "micro bits" ranging from 2.1mm to 3mm. 

The drills look OK. Certainly better than the super-cheap multi packs you see at shows for a fiver which frequently, in my experience, don't have points on them, at leat not where the point should be. 

Cost savings can be seen in the pin vice which , while nice to hold, doesn't have the nicely cast teeth of a better tool. It's OK for stuff about 1mm I would guess and possibly a little below. 

I bought the set for the vice. Again, I have much better machine vice's. This one is a bit rattly and feels cheap, BUT, it has screw-in jaws for holding round objects and thus is worth the price of the set alone. It's a problem I've often faced. V-blocks are OK, but don't go small enough for some work, and I think this will be better. Or at least OK enough for me to risk the money.

Leamington's store had about a dozen of these things on the shelf, but I suspect they will go fast.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Warehouse Wedneday: Scammell Trailer


On the way into the Severn Valley Railway car park, there is this wonderful (to me) abandoned Scammell trailer. It doesn't fit the railway's neat and tidy image, but is representative of road vehicles that had reached the end of their working lives, and were re-purposed as storage units. 

Peeling paint, the remainds of a poster on the side, plenty of greenery growing in the nooks and crannies - lovely and something that would make a nice addition to a 1970s layout. I actually tried this on Selly Oak, with an old box body removed from a lorry. 

Perhaps this is what I should do with my Hornby Centenry model? Or grab another Oxford example perhaps.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Railway Enthusiasts Diary 1979

I own a lot of railway books. Far too many if I'm honest, and every so often I weed them out by donating some to the local model railway club. Or a charity shop if it's one of those books every rail nut has given to them by well-meaning relatives. 

That doesn't stop me looking at more books though. My preference is the odd titles that almost certainly appeared once and didn't set the world alight. That's where the nuggets of gold are found. 

Just such a chunck of shiny stuff is Railway Enthusiasts Diary 1979 published by Hudsons Transport Department, although inside it claims to be OPC. Compilation is by DR Kennedy.

Nicely bound in dark green with gold blocked title and loco illustration, it's a fund of information. 

According to the info inside, this copy was origionally owned by Gordon Patston of Bromsgrove. He's even recorded his national insurance number and blood type as well as a next of kin. 

We open with details of pre-grouping railway company liveries - described as this is all black and white. Next, named trains of Britain. 

For the keen enthusiast, details of speeds and timing should you be watching the mileposts with stopwatch in hand. You'll be following the gazetteer of places to visit around the country no doubt or looking for one of the BR motive power depots and stabling points, all of which are listed with their depot codes. 

For the modeller, a list of OO gauge locomotive kits available from most model shops in Britain. No mention of RTR items. but there is a list of wheel sizes and their 4mm equivelents. 

Finally, a list of the preserved steam engines running on BR, and the routes operated. 

At last the diary section, and this is the best bit of all. Plenty of space to write appointments, or shed tours in Mr Patston's case, and every single day includes a historical railway event. For example, on 12th April, the atmospheric system on the Dublin to Kingstown railway was abandoned. 

What a terrific resource! 

Was this the only edition, or are there more to collect? How come I've never seen this before? Has anyone else got a copy?

Monday, January 03, 2022

The calendar dilemma


So here we are, 2022. I have a new calendar on the wall, and I'm wondering if like last year, it's there just for the pretty pictures. 

Is there any point in putting in shows and events, or shall I just save the ink? 

2022 could easily be as bad as 2021 and 2020 thanks to Covid, or even worse, thanks to messers Putin and Jinping. 

I'd love to say I'm looking forward to shows and events, but years ago, learned that looking forward to something was to invite, if not disaster, at least disapointment. I'm someone who (fortunatly) isn't disapointed at not winning the lottery on the rare occasions I buy a ticket, because I figure that a big win would only be accompanied by an even bigger disaster. 

Truth is, I miss shows. While not in any way gregarious, I miss having a reason to go somewhere, look at things and buy stuff whilst meeting (mostly) interesting people. Sorry anti-HS2 people, Zoom and online alternatives just don't cut it long term. It might be cheaper to have a virtual beer with freinds, but I would like to go to a pub. Maybe watching a movie is more convenient at home, but I like the occasion of a cinema visit. And yes, you spend less eating at your own table, but just being able to walk in to a cafe without worrying about infection, well I miss that too. 

As I write, one of my favourite shows, Stafford, is off for another year. Maybe that's for the best as a big chunk of the fun is the train and vintage bus ride to the venue. Would I want to make those trips that way? Probably not. 

Will we see any shows at all in 2022? I can see some might sneak though thanks to an airy venue and professional door staff. Others will decide to "give it another year" - but at the end of 2020, we believed the vaccine programme would mean Covid was a memory by the end of 2021, wheras we aren't far off from the same position. Can anyone believe the end of 2022 won't look very similar? 

Please feel free to fill the comments with positive vibes, I could do with them. 

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Festive Film Club: Watching trains at the SVR

It's something of a tradition for me to take a trip to the Severn Valley Railway to watch some trains between Christmas and New Year. Starved of days out, I reasoned that standing on a station platofrm, outdoors, in a breeze, ought to be reasonably Covid safe. OK, I drove as the train trip is still off the agenda for the moment, but at least I went. 

One benefit was the chance to test a new DJI Mimo camera for work. Well, I need to point it at something, don't I?

Saturday, January 01, 2022

2021 - Review of the year

2020 was rubbish, and so was 2021 if I'm honest. 

OK, here's the annual project update copy'n'pasted from 2020:
  • 7mm scale Garratts STILL haven't been out of their boxes. I'm looking for a new builder for the one I've been commissioned to produce.
  • 3mm scale Class 25 hasn't bothered to build itself.
  • O gauge "Flying Banana" railcar, still in the box.
  • 4mm GWR steam railcar, I know it's one people would like to see finished. Me too.
  • Still can't face finishing the Cravens DMU. 

The Beetle didn't change either, but not through want of trying. When our Berlingo was in for a service, I chatted to the mechanic, who took me to a very nearby car restoration place. They were going to be in touch a couple of weeks later, and that was over three months ago. This is a bit of a pattern with trades around here - you wonder how much everyone wants work. 

Anyway, on to the projects. 

The biggie, which was in progress last year, was Selly Oak. My model based a slice of slice of Birmingham made progress, but ultimatly, I hit a wall and couldn't face working on it any more. Fortunatly, the good people at Rapido were very kind and took it off me at the point I ran out of steam. They have since used it in publicity for the new Brummie Bus, so it certainly wasn't a complete failure. 

Apart from that, it's been thin pickings this year. I haven't build a model boat other than the Meng cartoon "Hood". 

There was an Airfix Beach buggy

I started a Hudswell Clarke shunter

That was back in October, and the model is now shut up in its box again as other things have taken priority. 

All this explains why the plan for a post every day has fallen by the wayside. I managed 345, which considering how little I have made this year isn't bad going. It shows just how much rubbish I can write!

One thing that has become apparent is just how much I am missing the social interaction and inspiration visiting a real show offers. There have been a couple this year and I notice how different my energy levels are afterwards. I want to do things - a big chunk of this hobby for me is showing off. Maybe that's something I should be embarased about, but it's true. 

I've always said that I'd not build model railway layouts if I couldn't show them to other people. That's not just for the ego boost of people telling me something I have made is good, although I won't say it doesn't help, it's the interchance of ideas. Also, getting out and going somewhere different! We're not even supposed to take a train ride for fun any more. Officially (and if you listen to the interweb, even this advice is too lax) trips out are supposed to be a stroll around the block. Well, after two years, this is driving me nuts.

Anyway, thanks for dropping by and reading this stuff. I can't promise 2022 will be any better, but I'll see what I can do.