Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Steam talk on the Isle of Man

I know, another Isle of Man film. Well, it's my blog and it looks like this is the nearest I'll be getting to Mona's Isle for the time being. 

Apart from the Manx trains, I love the look of this film. I remember my Dad being involved with ameteur cine making as a child and these sort of title sequences are straight out of the 1970s. The advantage is that anyone willing to put that much effort into the titles will probably do a good job with the film, and so it proves to be.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Off to Bristol


Hello the M5 motorway, we haven't seen each other since last Sunday...

It seems that I'll be heading to the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition as you read this. I don't think I've done a show that opens on the Friday before, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes. 

The plan is that I'm present to photograph some layouts, but if you see me, please say hello.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Layout planning in The Collector


My latest piece in Spring 2022's The Collector covers a few different ways you can plan a model railway. Always a pleasent way to spend a few hours, it's branch of the hobby that can take over, with no model railway ever being built!

Inspiration came from the re-introduction of the R619 Planning Symbols. I happened to have an old set of these so didn't need to try and extract a set from Margate for the photos. 

Of course, slotting plastic pieces together isn't the whole story, but you'll have to read the mag for that. 

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: West Somerset water towers


Last week, I showed a water tower on the East Somerset Railway, and since by chance, I was at the West Somerset Railway this week, here's a shot of the water tower and crane at Bishops Lydeard station. 

I think I've shown this structure before, so here's an interesting extra shot showing how the drivers have marked the ground to ensure they line their machine up at the water crane. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Blue Simplexes


I've been too busy to make stuff for the blog for the last few weeks, so here's a random photo from the recent Statfold Barn model railway show - a pair of Simplex locos in a barn. If anyone can explain the odd high roof on the right hand one, I'd be fascinated.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Bathroom lights for model railway layouts


On a recent layout shoot, I was impressed by the lighting. The LED strips were compact, but gave the model nice even illumination. When I asked where they had come from the answer surprised me. 

Bathroom mirrors. 

Digging through the Screwfix range, I think we are talking about something like this.  

If we are, then I'm going to look closer next time I want to light up a model railway layout. They aren't stupidly expensive, but should be robust enough for exhibiting, and light enough not to need a Forth Bridge style structure. 

This is why I go to shows - ideas and inspiration.

Sunday, April 24, 2022


Sentinel front

A couple of shots taken on my new fancypants mobile phone (Samsung Galaxy A52s) of an 0-6-0 Sentinel at the East Somerset Railway. No settings, I'm still messing with those, just point and shoot.

Sentinel rear

Pointing and shooting at the Hornby model isn't so great, but again, I've not messed with the settings. It looks like there is quite a bit of control on offer, I just need to find some time to get my head around it. 

Does anyone remember when 'phones just made calls?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Maenofferen 1978

A silent treat this week - the operation of the rail system at Maenofferen Slate Quarry, Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1978, shot on 8mm cine film. 

It fascinates me that this looks like another world, but is actually within my lifetime. Does this make anyone else feel old? 

The mine itself closed in 1999, but by this time the internal railway system had been closed for over a decade.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Saturn V


Just before I headed off to visit the National Space Centre, my Dad joked that he'd like me to bring him back a Saturn V rocket for the back garden. 

So, when in the process of exiting via the gift shop, I was pleased to find this edu-sa kit. I was even more pleased to find its price was only three quid. It's one thing I really like about the Space Centre, there are souveniers for all pockets. I know young Phil would have wanted to blow a little pocket money after a visit he would have loved, and if everything was too expensive, this would have put a dampener on the day. 

For my money, Dad found himself assembling several push-out bits made of plasticised card. He tells me everything popped out of the frets easily, and apart from the tricky top part of the rocket, it all went together perfectly too. OK, he's 73 years older than the recomended building age, but he still enjoyed assembling the kit while watching TV. Building it certainly isn't rocket sceince! *

The finished model is 21cm tall and 15cm wide. A nice size for bedroom display by any budding young engineer. 

*Note: Rocket science is actually pretty easy. Rocket engineering is the hard bit I'm told.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Lights and exhibiting in BRM


As the DHAPR wagonworks layout project reaches it's conclusion, it's time for a couple of wrap-up articles and a walk around on BRM TV. 

One aspect of layout building I rarely dig into, is adding lights to a model. It's a nice idea, but often drops off the end of the list. Not this time, I've illuminated the model with three different methods, and the results look good. 

I've also taken a look at some past layouts from BRM after dark to see how other people have done this. 

Since the layout was built to appear at the London Festival of Railway Modelling, I've recounded the tale of its first outing, as well as providing a few hints and tips for those who fancy doing the same. As shows return, there must be some newbies contemplating throwing thier model into the car and deposting it in front of the public - well, this old hand can provide a bit of sage advice. 

Finally, I've been out with the camera again - this time taking photos of Norman Raven's "Humphrey Road Sidings". Being very nerdy, my favourite feature is the selection of buildings with brickwork applied using computer chads. We had quite a chat about this when doing the shoot. Well, I have a box of them in store for a "one day" project...

All this and more in the May 2022 issue of BRM.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Water tower

Cranmore water tower

Stopping off on the way to Shepton Mallet a couple of weeks ago, I dropped in to the East Somerset Railway to eat my sandwiches in the car park. As I scoffed the finest food that Moreton-in-the-Marsh Coop (possibly the poshest supermarket outside Fortnum & Mason) could provide, I fell in love with the water tower. 

I can't claim to know anything about it, other than I like the design. Instinct tells me that the attractively rusted tank is older then the brick base, but that doesn't matter. 

Cranmore station was a bit of a revelation. A very attractive site, even on an out-of-season Thursday, both the cafe and gift shop were open. Obviously I tried the cafe, and can report the cake is excellent. So good, I regretted the sandwiches as the menu listed some mouth-watering Greek food that I fancied trying. Maybe another day. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Super fast flagstone painting


My current mag project has a very tight dealine, so I've been using plenty of quick'n'dirty techniques in order to get it out of the door. 

One that I was especially pleased with came about by accident - I had some laser-cut MDF flagstones to paint and having undercoated them with Johnstone's Mocha emulsion paint, dabbed the still tacky surface with Toasted Beige from the same range, applied with a sponge. 

Result - a realistic (to my eyes) finish, all achieve in a matter of seconds! It took me longer to write this post telling you about it then it took to do.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Review: M&S Thomas the Tank

Students of model railway history will know that Marks & Spencer have form on the model railway front. In 1946, Rovex were contracted by them to develop an electric train set. Christmas 1950 saw a Princess made available for lucky children who didn't mind fiddling with the unreliable roller pickups and warping plastic chassis. 

Lines Brothers, looking to exapnd their range, bought Rovex, and from this, the firm Tri-ang was born. 

With such a history, surely their latest railway venture is worth a review. 

On the workbench we have a LB&SCR E2 tank locomotive. The model is based on the second build series, featuring as it does, the extended tanks. 

Obviously, this isn't a straight build. Instead M&S have chosen to model the version made popular by Rev W Awdry and commonly known as "Thomas", though no nameplate was ever carried. Instead, we have the confusing number 1 - even though "Edward" is generally considered older and is the first locomotive to appear in the Railway Series books. 

Chosen scale appears to be 5.4mm to 1ft - slightly larger than S gauge but not an uncommon military modelling scale appearently. This is a shame as it limits the opportunities for a finescale conversion. It might be possible to cut'n'shut the model s the propotions aren't great, it's tall for its width, and if anyone manages this, I'm sure it will appear in MRJ. 

The chassis is moulded integrally with the body, although removing this shouldn't be too hard with a warm knife. 

There are some issues with the body moulding. A prominant seam line can be seen along the boiler top, and down the back of the cab. Worse, the face hasn't been attached very will is is several degrees off straight. While those aiming for a scale conversion won't worry about this, it's an issue for those planning to retain the "Thomas" design. 

Boiler fittings are poorly shaped and as for the lack of buffers. At least this saves use having to take them off for replacement! 

Raised lining takes us back to the 1960s, but could easily be scraped off as part of a repaint. PME Paint would seem suitable for this project. 

All in all, not an aspicious return to railway modelling for M&S. They are going to have to up theri game considarably if they wish to liberate the finescale pound from the purses of serious modellers.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Visiting Britain's Biggest Model Railway


Last week, I spent a few days at Shepton Mallet to see Heaton Lodge Junction, Britain's Biggest Model Railway, on display. 

Actually, I was there to see, and photograph several other model railways, but HLJ was the big draw, and the reason the show was taking place. 

Now, I have seen the layout before, but this was the first time in a room without pillars and other view blockers. I knew it was big, but the size still astounds me. Being able to get up on a balcony (by hopping over a velvet rope) made appreciating its scale even easier. 

More importantly, for the first time I was able to enjoy the layout in operation. Simply leaning on the barrier and watching the trains pass by, I was transported back to the 1980s and standing on a lineside. Maybe here it was a bit too good, there wasn't much of a wait for some movement, but even so, this was a slice of "the good old days" when most trains were hauled by a locomotive and there was plenty of four-wheel freight rattling its way through the countryside. 

You could do this in OO, but I feel the larger size of O gauge makes the whole concept work perfectly. Of course, this deamnds space, but as you peer into the distance to try to spot a train approaching, you see the value in such a massive undertaking. 

Sadly, at the moment, this might be the last time the layout goes out. The costs of moving it in two articulated lorries and a 7.5 tonner, mean that a lot of people are needed through the doors to make the show pay - especially in these days of high fuel prices. Let's hope the situation changes, as I'd certainly like time to go back and watch some trains with a bag of sarnie and a fizzy drink...

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Mount Hood Aerial Skiway

A bus in the sky? Another weird means of transport found on YouTube. And no, I don't want to build a model of it!

Friday, April 15, 2022

Trix Twin Wagons

3 Trix Twin wagons

My friend Earl dropped by the other evening with a box of model railway goodies for me to look at. Tucked away in the bottom were these three wagons. 

At first, I assumed they were Hornby Dublo due to the tinplate construction, but careful examination of the Bassett-Lowke liveried wagon revealed the maker was in fact Trix. 

A quick look at Ramsay's guide tells me that the Peco style couplings suggest these are post-war models, but the designs date from 1936. Manufacture of each finished around 1951 making them over 70 years old. Despite this, the paint finish is still really good, so they have been looked after. 

Values are in the region of £14 to £20 each, although since they don't have their boxes, presumably on the lower end of this.

Trix Twin 5-plank open wagon

First, we have a 5 plank wagon in Bassett-Lowke livery, which I think looks really attractive. Ramsay's doesn't list this as a post-war model, but unless the couplings have been replaced, it can't date from 1936/37 when the design first appeared.

The timber wagon has a block of wood which has been milled to look like wooden beams held together with straps. Sadly, the wheels have been replaced with more modern ones. Did the originals wear out or break? 
Trix Twin tarpaulin wagon

Finally, the tarpaulin wagon complete with its bulbous wool load. Assembling these must have been quite time consuming. Ramsay's dates this to 1948/49. 

Hopefully these will all find good homes as they are very attractive. They also show how the hobby has advanced over the years, but I bet young boys of the period were really chuffed with them.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Banksy in May's Garden Rail


We're heading stateside this month with The Durango and Colorado Southern Narrow Gauge Railroad. A visit to the USA 30 years ago inspired Richard Cable to build his line, bringing a slice of the US to the UK. 

What do you do when the famous street artist Banksy pays you a visit and leaves a model building? The Merrivale Model Village found out last year and we bring you the full, behind-the-scenes story. 

On the workbench we look at lithium batteries, Nissen huts, a stunning warehouse and consider how you might buy your first steam engine. 

 All this and a big roundup of new products from the Midlands Garden Rail show.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 6. Job done.

Hornby R279 Mock Georgian House

And there we are, with the addition of some fancy brickwork (which wasn't a great fit) under the guttering and some downpipes, the Mock Georgian House is finished. 

With a footprint of 110 by 86mm, 27.5 by 21 feet, it's a little on the small side compared to similar houses around here, but not ridiculously so. Shrinking buildings is a common trick on model railways - most resin models seem a little small compared to real life. 

Hornby R279 Mock Georgian House

I like the design a lot - it captures the look and provides a model that we don't see enough of in the hobby. I can imagine an estate full of these would look right, ig not that exciting. 

Apart from the brickwork, everything goes together really well. I like the details around the bay window, especially the supports underneath which poke through the wall making painting a breeze. 

Realistically, you could stick this together in an evening without breaking sweat. Painting the windows speratly does make sense, and ensures a tidy job.Good fun, stress-free modelling.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 5. Getting it wrong.


Recently, a friend who is house-hunting and I discussed the merits of houses that have their stars in the living room and no hall. It seems this is a common feature which keeps the price down, at the cost of higher heating bills. 

It seems that I've built the Hornby kit this way. You see, I messed up and transposed the end walls. As designed, the stairs will go up from the hall, which is behind the front door. Half way up, they will be illuminated by this window, which is just above the first floor level. 

Put the sides in the wrong place, and those stairs are in the living room. Not ideal, but not out of the question either. I seem to recall as a child, one of my friends houses being re-built to include this feature, and I thought it very avant-garde at the time, this open-plan look. 

I'll admit when I realised this, there was some thought about running some solvent into the corners to disassemble the model - but I decided that I'd ruin the paintwork. Also, that it would be a pain and not the fun sticking a kit together experience I was after. Besides, if I don't tell anyone, they probably won't notice.

However, I might have messed up a little, not this bad. 

Described in the auction as: Hornby OO gauge plastic mock Georgian house with detached garage. Garage door opens and closes. This has been glued together quite nicely.

Quite nicely, apart from fitting the back wall upside down then!

Monday, April 11, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 4. Roof and floors.


To my mind, a model building benefits from fitting floors (not flaws, I'll talk about that tomorrow) and walls, so viewers can't look through the windows and see out the other side when they aren't supposed to. Worse, sometimes you can look through the top windows and see through the bottom ones!

A floor is supplied with the kit, but I've bodged the walls out of Daler board card. Black colouring is from a fat permenant marker as I couldn't be bothered to use paint. It all looks the same once the roof is on anyway. 

Painting the roof follows the instructions in St Martyn's book, The Art of Weathering - always a useful resource for ideas and well laid out for dipping in and out of. 

Bacially, a coat of tarmac followed by a small number of tiles picked out in a tarmac/lead mix. Finish up with a dry brush of tramac/pale grey mix. He then goes on to wash with dirt, but for this model I think that's a step too far. If I find it a home on a layout, my mind might change, but it's easier to add the wash than take it away.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Saturday Film Club: An animated trip along the Marine Drive tramway

There have been many lines lost on the Isle of Man, one of which is the Douglas Southern Electric Tramway running from the capital to Port Soderick. Clinging to the cliffs, and often spanning gorges on bridges, it must have been one of the more spectactular rides, which you can now experience in this simulation. 

If anyone has a mahoosive pile of cash going begging, I'm sure it could be re-instated and an original tramcar repatriated from Crich.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Is this the worst jigsaw in the world?


Fishing on Torquay Harbour jigsaw

"Fishing in Torquay Harbour" is a 200 piece jigsaw I picked up a few years ago on the Isle of Man. According to the label, I paid £3 for it.

Why? Because I think it might be the worst image ever on the jigsaw. Who thought that the wasp-stripped back of a crane dominating the image would be a good idea? Or that the kid should be in shadow of a boat sat on the quayside? 

Anyway, I've finally made it up and am pleased to say it is not only complete but includes a random extra piece. Now, shall I frame it and hang the result on the wall? Hmmmm.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 3. Windows.


Looking closely at the box photo, I think this kit is supposed to have wondow sills - but they are noticeabley missing from the parts in the box. 

But if you look at the stock window on the left, it seems odd. No problem, some Microstrip painted up (Humbrol 147) and glued in place improves things. I didn't have anything bang on the right thickness, but it's close enough for this build. A couple of thick coats of paint seems to hide the worst of the problems, at least from normal viewing distances. 

The glazing includes extra bars, and these are really effective IMHO. Better still, it's designed sufficiently oversize that I was able to blob on the glue (Deluxe glue'n'glaze) around the edge, put the window in place and not risk seeing the adhesive, even after wiggling it around to ensure the bars are horizontal. 

Finally, loads of printed curtain material is cut into strips and fitted with the same glue. There's plenty left over, so I will tuck that away in the transfers draw for future use. I love having useful leftovers.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 2. Painting bricks.


Dry brush painting

I'm not sure why I chose to dry-brush the bricks on this model rather than using pencil crayons. I think it might produce a more consitent colour appropriate for a new build property, or maybe just for variety. 

Work starts with a thin coat of Humbrol 121 for the mortar colour left overnight to harden. I didn't aim for a perfect covering as I hope the variety of shades in the base will produce some variance in the final brick colours. It's a bit like the "pre-shading" techniques military modellers use. 

This has worked well. Combined with a less then perfect brick colour, there are variations, yet I've only used two colours, or three if we count the brick colour plastic. I'm sure there are more sophisticated methods, but 85% or the result for 20% of the effort sounds like a good trade-off to me. 

When dry-brushing, the advice it to wipe the paint off the brush on a rag or bit of kitched towel. I don't do this, I wipe it off on the corner of my modelling board. And have been doing for many, many years. 

This mound of paint and glue used to facinate a previous BRM editor who I suspect had dreams of removing it from the board and cutting through it to reveal all the layers. Maybe I'll do that one day myself, but it would seem a shame to ruin the mound. I'm thinking the result would be a rather dreary version of Fordite

Using the mound, I can pick up more paint from where I've worked it off the brush, so I'm sure it's more economic this way. It works for me anyway.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

R279 Mock Georgian House - Part 1. What's in the box?


R279 Mock Georgian House kit
Regular readers will know I'm a fan of the Hornby Town & Country range of plastic kits produced in the 1990s, so when I chanced upon a pile of R279 Mock Georgian House, I snapped a couple up for a "stick it together for fun" session. Well, it makes a change from 3-wheel Japanese trucks

In the box, the plastic mouldings are all very nice and crisp. Self-coloured too, if you like that sort of thing. Windows are pretty good and will be augmented with printed glazing. 

The prototype is one of those identikit dwellings that proliferated in the later years of the last century. Nowadays, I notice a greater variety of designs on new estates, but I'm sure I've seen plenty like this. The designer did a good job. 

And who was that designer? Well, the Pola branding on this part tells us it wasn't someone from Margate. The range was bought in, but none the worse for it, and handily, you can still buy them fromn Gaugemaster.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Cable reel repair


This cable reel has been part of my exhibition kit for decades - but no more. 

For Ally Pally, electrical gubbins had to be PAT tested. And it failed. 

Once opened up (there are two screws under the plack cover around the sockets) the reason is plain to see. The cable insulation had broken awaywhere it enters the centre of the drum. 

The rest of the cable looks fine. Scuffs, but no more broken outer insulation. While the reel needs to retire from exhibition use (I bought a replacement) I don't see why I shouldn't fix this one. 

Each cable was cut where it is crimped to the brass(?) bars, and many inches taken off the end. By comparing the cables, I could cut the insualtion back to match the original. 

It's important that each wire is the correct length or it won't fit back in the drum. 

After this, the connections were uncrimped by forcing a small screwdriver along the wire then finishing the unbending of the connection with pliers. The freshly tinned wires were then crimped back in, and given a touch of solder for good measure. 

Reassembly is the reverse of the above. It pays to take photos as you go. The plugs were very tight in the sockets until I realised that I'd put the brass(?) bars behind the metal U-shapes, not inside them as they should be, That changed, it's all good to go. 

Jobs like this give me imense satisfaction. If I hadn't fixed the reel, it would go to landfill. Instead it can live again. But, is this a good idea? I don't think I'm being foolhardy, but if you aren't careful, it would be possible to produce something dangerous. 

Good or bad idea?

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Stratford and District MRC show 2022


Thank you, the excellent UK Model Shop Directory. Through their free newsletter (if you aren't signed up, you should be) I found out that Stratford & District MRC were putting on a show a few miles from my home. It was on a Sunday, I was free, so I trundled along. 

One-day little shows used to be my favourite ones to do as an exhibitor. No stress, just turn up, play trains and go home. Lots of chat but if things weren't going well, it didn't seem to matter as much as at a larger event where I'll always tend to set myself a high bar. 

Anyway, the show was at Tiddington bowls club and I arrived after lunch to find it as busy as you might expect. Around the room were a series of club and members layouts. In the centre a table full of second-hand items. 

Sadly, no cake. Booo. 

One of the reasons I like little shows is because it's where you find layouts that have hardly been seen. New to me was the club layout Chippenham Junction. It's N gauge, as were most of the layouts actually, and is showing a great deal of promise. I liked the viaduct end which has plenty of different ground levels - just like real life. Buildings are scratchbuilt and with a bit of weathering to tone the newness down, I can see me wanting to take a more professional view in the future. 

Another layout I liked is this little OO display. If I had to pick a model I'd like to build, it would be this one with the much-modified Metcalf models and a distincly industrial feel. Sadly, there were running issues. but that doesn't detract from the look. 

While there wasn't anything imediatly featurable in a mag, every layout was the product of someone's love and attention. This is the grass roots of the hobby - something a lot of people seem to forget. Everyone seemed to be having fun, and so in my book, they were doing the hobby right.