Sunday, July 31, 2022

DEMU 2022


Cake, crisps and diet coke

According to a popular web forum, there was no cake to be had at the DEMU showcase last weekend. As a seasoned cake hunter, I found some. OK, it was tucked at the end of the bar, and the process of buying it was somewhat bizantine, but once purchased, it was excellent. 

As were the layouts. I was there to carry out a couple of layout shoots, so my other photos are a bit limited. 

Clackmannan Goods

Well Park


Hinksey Yard

All the rest of the shots are either ones I was there to take for BRM, and therefore brilliant but I can't share them on the blog, or a bit rubbish. I am looking at lining up more layouts from the show for proper shoots, so there will be more to come.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Whomobile on Blue Peter

Jon Pertwee wasn't my Dr Who, that was Tom Baker, but I still appreciate Pertwee. 

The Whomobile, wasn't actually built for the TV series, Pertwee commissioned it and then the BBC liked it so much, the vehicle was written into the show. More information here.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Paging Black Cat Mine


Black Cat Mine

Another random photo - This time of the Gn15 layout "Black Cat Mine". 

A lovely model, I took a series of photographs back in 2017 for a potential magazine feature. The pics turned out OK, and we tried to contact the owner to look at writing some words. All efforts in this direction drew a blank, yes I had picked up the contact details when I took the shots, so the photos have just become something sat on my hard drive. 

A great pity, as it was an excellent model.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The one-minute model boat stand


When working on a model boat, having the thing rocking around on the workbench is a bit of a nuisance. The correct thing to do, is build a proper stand for it to sit in. 

It might be the "correct" thing to do, but I want to get this boat on the water to make sure I haven't bought a lemon, and wooden stands take time. 

Then I spotted a piece of polystyrene left over from another project. It looked about the right size, so I cut a quick channel down it with a craft knife, and there we have it. A servicable model boat stand!

Of course, clearing up the little white balls will take longer than a minute...

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Ascott under Wychwood signal box and crossing

Ascott under Wychwood Signal Box

Spotted on the way back from a photo job - this attractive signal box and crossing. Looking online, it seems the box was due to be removed, or at least taken out of service, but budgetry constraints saw this decision reversed.

Ascott under Wychwood Signal Box

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Fire up the jets


Looking inside the SAR boat, the installation of the working bits is very nice. Everything is firmly fixed down. Neat wiring too. 

I've no idea what should be in there, but the speed control is a Quicrun 860-Dual driving a pair of 560 brushed motors. Servos operate the directional nozzles, and reversing buckets. 

The intention appear to be that there is a pair of battery packs, with Deans connectors. I can only find a single suitable pack in my collection, and can't locate the connections for the charger, so I've made up a Tamya connection. Not sure what the advantage of the Deans connection offers, for me, I suspect that a common connector will make my life easier. 

Then the reciever was changed for a HobbyLink one. Again, that's a Parker standard. 

After half an hour's fiddling around moving connections on the reciever, the model worked. It's a bit odd as the reversing buckets need to be on a toggle switch, they don't work automatically when you stick the model into reverse. In fact, there's not point in sticking a jet boat in reverse - it's just sucking in air and squirting in out the bottom!

Is one battery pack enough? Will 7.2v move the boat forward fast enough? We'll have to get it on the water to find out.

Monday, July 25, 2022

HMS Gammon?


£60 from the KMBC "Bring and Buy" stand at the annual Navy Day. I wasn't looking for another model boat. In fact I was very much not looking to add to my fleet, but this one spoke to me. 

For a start, it's bright orange, and I love orange boats. And orange cars. And orange chocolate. 

It's also a jet-powered boat, and I didn't have a jet powered boat. 

Best of all, it's pretty much complete. All the drives, speed control, servos and even a reciever (Spektrum I think). Pretty much just add a battery and it's good to go. 

A post on ModelBoatMayhem reveals that it's a Graupner multi jet - kit price £225 plus the jet drives. They look like CEM Mini Jet 20's - £77 each. The more I look, the better the bargain this model looks. 

The construction looks pretty good too. Those handrails might be a bit skinny, but they are well made. I can see a bit of body smoothing to be carried out around the top of the superstructure, but nothing major. 

At just over 60cm long, it's as big as I want. Not a problem to move around and it will just about fit on my work area. 

One issue is that this is all I have. Any fittings and details will have to be bought in, or scratchbuilt. Fortunatly, there is a build on Mayhem. Hopefully, there isn't that much to do - it should be (famous last words) a quick project. 

What don't I like? 

The "UK Border Force" stuff on the side. For a start, it doesn't look like border force boat. Here's one: 

Border Force boat

Photographed in Ramsgate last year. It's a lot bigger than this vessel! 

Also, this is losely based on a Swedish Pilot Boat. There's a nice photo from Graupner. 

Love those colours. Plenty of orange there! 

I have a nasty feeling that the border branding tells me a bit about the builder. Regular readers of this blog may have worked out I'm a bit of a lefty. The Daily Mail would probably call me "woke" because I hate racism and misogyny. And when there is a story about asylum seekers drowning in the channel, I hate it when I see the "good" people on social media gloating over dead children. Yes, it does happen, far too often. 

"UK Border Force" has, I suspect, been added to the side in the same way some modellers love adding guns to things because they spend too much time watching old war films. It's a macho thing, and I'm not a fan. 

So, removing that vinyl lettering will be an early job on this model! I've also orderd a set of transfers from Germany.

First though, let's see if it works.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Smallspace 2022

Minion Dalek

A terric show - too much to see. Too much to buy. I bought an Airfix "Cosmic Clipper" plastic kit from the guy responsible for the airline effects in the Bond flick Casino Royale. We had a fascinating chat about the value of physical effects compared to CGI. 

I also managed to suggest it was being too nerdy when in conversation with a bookseller. Then realised where I was!

Full gallery of photos over on Flickr.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Saturday Film Club - Layout in a day

It seems a long time ago, but in fact only four weeks have passed since I built a garden railway at The National Garden Railway Show. Fortunately, my collegue, Howard Smith was on hand to record the event.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Had your chips


Sorry for the lack of a post this morning. I've been busy, so have a photo of me holding something to do with DCC from many years ago. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Binnie vs LGB


Binne and LGB tipper wagons

On the left, a Binnie Engineering 16mm scale, 45mm gauge tipper wagon built from a kit. On the right, a train of LGB ready to run tipper wagons, also 45mm gauge. 

Quite a difference in size!

I suspect the Binnie is more scale. LGB have always had the hint of the toy about them, but the Germans win in terms of ruggedness. They run very nicely too, although so do the Binnie wagons, but the bigger and heavier models have a real "mass" about them. They really rumble along nicely.

Interestingly, both sets of tipper are glued so the skip won't tip over.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Big lumps of stone


Welshpool cottages

File this one under "prototype for everything". 

From 2010, when those cars were more common, a couple of cottages in Welshpool made of the most enormous lumps of stone. Were I building a model I'd say that they were too large to handle, and yet someone (several someones presumably) managed to do just that to build a couple of terraced houses. 

I understand that you might use large lumps for grand buildings, but a backstreet cottage? What is the maximum size of stone that is handleable by a builder? 

You can see the cottage on Google Streetview.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Green Peco


Looking at the bottom of the box that a Peco 009 Snailbeach District Railway hopper arrives in, I spot this little note. 

The boys from Beer seem to be upping their environmental game recenlty. All the new TT120 range of buildings are supplied in cardboard rather than plastic packs. 

Wagons, especially onces costing £24 RRP, presumably warrant a slightly stonger pack, so we still have a plastic box. However, the card liner can still be recycled and it's suggested that we re-use the box for storage. It's certainly good for this with a nice, well-fitting lid, and square enough to be stackable if you aquire a lot of them. 

On the other hand, is there a modeller out there who wouldn't look at this box and say, "I can put little bits in that."?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Flat finish grass?

Model grass

After my look at The Army Painter Matt Varnish last week, Mark asked: 

How do you reckon it would work on scenery? The newly laid static grass on my layout is a bit on the shiny side so I need to tone it down without losing the effect of standing fibres. Some reviews on Amazon comment that it came out shiny but you've achieved a nice flat finish.

To be honest, I've never had a problem with shiny grass. I tend towards Woodland Scenics stuff or Greenscene, both of which have nice, matt fibres. However, others aren't so lucky, and since I have a handy micro diorama left over from some filming, covered in static grass, I gave it a blast. 

 Results look pretty good. It's not clumped up the fibres (click on the image to enlarge it) and the result is still matt. The colours haven't changed either. 

The secret to a matt finish is to shoot light coats on from a distance of 25-30cm as it says on the can. I assume this gives the varnish time to harden slightly so you get the requisite micro texture. 25-30cm is quite a bit further then you might naturally work. I instinctivly spray at 20cm if I'm not thinking. Normally this isn't a problem. 

So, ignore the people on Amazon I say!

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Navy day 2022

Battleship 2

I'm not really into grey boats. In fact I have an aversion to a lot of military stuff being a bit of a lefty pacifist. However, I can appreciate the skill and effort that goes into building a model battleship. Anyway, it was a nice sunny day, and so a dose of fresh air at the boating pool seemed like a good idea. 

There were many cracking models on display, most of which I can tell you nothing at all about. 

Best quick march over to my album of photos on Flickr. 

One success though - for the first time I can remember, I won something in a raffle. Better still, it was something both appropriate for the location, and useful to me!

 Oh, and I bought another model boat. But, we'll look at that another day...

Friday, July 15, 2022

New pickups, level crossings and grass in August's BRM

Plenty of practical work from me in the latest issue of BRM. 

Level crossing

Asked to build a level crossing - I built two! It seemed a good idea to have a go at both the classic ex-Airfix version, and the latest from Peco. Comparing the two kits, you can see what over half-a-century of development work in the plastic kit world means. There's also a huge difference between the two models as nowadays, the scene is much more complicated as ever more stringent safety considerations take effect. 

Hornby Black 5

Asked for advice by a reader on improving the running of his latest aquisition, I offered to take a proper look if the model was posted to me. 

What arrived, was a very old Hornby Black 5, that once serviced and with a set of extra pickups added, runs silky smooth. It might not be as good a model as the very latest version, or even the one we are promised for the future, but I think a loco like this will still perform perfectly well on most people's layout. If you follow my maxim that modelling to a consistant standard instead of having one or two superior items, looks better, I think it's an excellent fit. 

BRM TV sees me using a modestly priced static grass applicator to fluff up a diorama - proving that even the cheaper tools can do a good job if used with a bit of care. 

My camera has also been out again. 

Alexandra Sidings

Alexandra Sidings ticked the "layouts Phil would like to build" when I saw it at Shepton Mallet a few weeks ago. Small space O gauge with buckets of atmosphere, it wasn't the easiest to shoot, I'm glad I use a small camera, but the results are lovely. 

Blakey Rigg

Blakey Rigg provided a rare chance to tackle some S gauge. High-quality modelling, but with an interesting industrial countryside scene. There's a lot of foreground to this model, and I think I managed to capture this. S is a scale I'd love to dabble in, but aside from having too many projects on the go, I can't do the imperial measurement thing. Fortuanatly, others can, and we can enjoy their work.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Layout in a day in the latest issue of Garden Rail


Garden Rail August

How long does it take to build a garden railway? 

Days? Weeks? Years? 5 hours. That's all the Garden Rail team had to build a working layout, complete with real plants at The National Garden Railway Show. We did it too! Read how, in our August edition.

It's very practical this month, with two brake vans (FR and RNAD), a barrel wagon, locomotive refurbishment and a beach hut on the workbench. 

Of course, there was loads of news from the NGRS, and we're bringing you the pick of the new products announced at the show.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: Workshops with crane


Spotted last week on a visit to the Stapleford Miniature Railway  - this attractive corner workshop group. They are in use as far as I can tell, but nicely weathered and looked great in the 8:30am sunshine. 

Nice crane - and enginer hoist perhaps? It's seen better days, but is the sort of mechanical "junk" that looks good, even if it would be a lot of work to build. Just out of shot is a Reliant Robin being repaired too. 

I'm sure there is inspiration for a layout corner here. Nothing shouty, or exciting, but very real.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Army Painter - Matt Varnish


One shiny diecast 4mm scale VW Beetle body. 

A couple of coats of The Army Painter Matt Varnish later. 

Suddenly, we have a matt Beetle. 

There's not much more then that to say really. The stuff might be a tenner for a 400ml aerosol can, but it does the job very nicely indeed. Easily as good as the now unavailable Testors Dullcote. 

Out of curiosity, I grabbed a nice cream tub lid out of the recycling bag, masked a bit of the naked plastic and sprayed the rest. The photo doesn't quite show how good the matt effect it, but it certainly works. Something to consider for self-coloured plastic kits in the future perhaps.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Mobile telephones will never catch on...


Catching up with my reading, I see that in August 1960's issue of Coach and Bus magazine, they report on some new technology. 

Telephoning from coaches

Never at a loss for finding new ways of winning passengers to its huge network of express routes across the USA, the National Trailways bus system has introduced a mobile telephone service. 

Call it a gimmick if you like, but the service has attracted wide publicity since it was inaugurated on July 22 by the under-secretary of commerce for transportation, Joh J Allen. 

Will it have applications here? 

I doubt it. Radio telephony for operational control using closed circuits might be a standard fitment, but not for public use. 

My reason for this view? The luke-warm response to the fascility now available in Lancashire to vehicle users. There is not enough privacy for British men and women and it costs too much.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Busfest at Gaydon 2022

West Midlands lineup

Down came the rain!

Seriously. Despite a forcast that suggested cloudy, but dry, weather, those of us who headed to the motor museum at Gaydon to look at buses got wet. Basically, cloudy became light rain with bursts of heavy stuff. It was 'orrible. 

Having toured the indoor sales stands and picked up some bargain train paperwork, I made it outside to see the promised 80 buses.

1968 Bristol - OAX 9F

What actually happend, was I hid under a gazebo, nipping out briefly to buy an ice cream. It is summer after all. My jacket was showerproof, but I wish I'd worn a much more appropriate (in all ways) anorak. 

Eventually, I dug my beanie hat out of my bag and decided to just get wet. Racing around I photographed plenty of public transport, and decided this was enough. 

A pity, as with slightly better weather, it was a terrific event. All the buses were offering 15 minute rides, and the keen enthusiasts were trying as many of them as possible. I believe there was also a shuttle to Leamington station, and the locals would head back to Wythall museum later in the day if you had parked there and wanted a really good run. 

I remain amazed how many of the these vehicles are in private hands. Where do you keep them? How do you find the bits for a restoration? I'm just glad people do. 

See the full set of soggy photos over on Flickr.

Saturday, July 09, 2022

Saturday Film Club: The Douglas Horse Trams

With the return of the Douglas Horse trams getting close, let's look back to the years before the tracks were dug up, and the service ran the full length of the prom.

Friday, July 08, 2022

They are talking pictures of my Willi!


Willi and cake

It was the offer of cake that did it. 

Andy Christie was opening his garden up as part of the national Open Gardens scheme, and it has a 45mm gauge railway. A last minute decision to turn up, I messaged him the day before and was not only welcomed, but promised suitable refreshments. 

Willi was test fired in the morning and behaved himself on a rolling road, so I hoped to turn up and not shame myself with my lack of steam know-how. 

The line currently consists of a horse-shoe out-and back with impressive viaduct and a couple of bridges. It will eventually become a complete circuit, with an impressive length run for a back garden in Bournville. Loops in the station, and one end of the line can hold four bogie coaches. 

DHR B Class

With Andy's friend Richard supplying an DHR B class along with Andy's couple of chuffers, we had more than enough locos to keep things moving. I was the poor relation compared to the other machines, but Willi performed very well and fascinated people with it's whirling cylinder and flywheel. 

The line loops around some very tall plants and you can't see your train without hopping over a bridge, but this didn't matter as he runs so smoothly, I could just let him get on with it. You get used to catching glimpses of your loco as it goes on it's little adventure. The well-laid track helps, since I wasn't worried about derailments. Mind you, radio control would have allowed me to shelter from the showers which seemed to accompany my runs!


Visitors, and there were around 200 of them during the day. They helped me locate the loco as I could follow the gaze of thier mobile phones filming progress. Everyone really enjoyed themselves - and I feel sorry for the other garden owners, as "the one with the railway" will surely be the talk of the event. 

A terrific day out, I stayed far longer then planned, and wished I'd taken a bit of Garden Rail memorabilia to hand out. I don't think there were many converts, but we did find some railway enthusiasts, and plenty more who knew railway enthusiasts!


Thanks very much to Andy and family for inviting me along. As soon as we have a date for next year, I'll put it in the calendar.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Heavy metal


200g weights
When in Brussels, I decided to check out a flea-market near(ish) Midi station. It's the sort of thing that travel TV shows do, and marks you out as less tourist, more traveller. At least in my head. 

Arriving at the market, and speaking only English, I decided that I was going to buy something. It didn't really matter what, this would be a souvenier of me stepping out of my comfort zone. 

I didn't fancy owning a H&M Duette, or some battered HO Marklin items, the only train stuff I spotted, but a set of small weights looked good. I use weights a lot for modelling, and so these would be a regular reminder of my trip (better than a minitaure Manneken Pis, which is pretty much what the souvenier shops offer) and actually useful. 

Waving them at the trader, he opened with 20 Euro, and I countered with 10. That's a bit pricey for little lumps of cast iron, but I was on holiday, and not speaking the lingo, aren't in a position to argue too much. 10 was fine anyway, they are really nice little things, and you pay easily as much for urinating babies...

However, it seems that these weren't the only weights I had bought. 

Yellow weights

Oh no, the trader isisted I take these as well for the money. They weigh 940, 913, 381 and 375g. Basically, I'd bought just over 3kg. Which I had to carry around for the rest of the day. Thank goodness I have a rucksack. 

Once I'd lugged my load back to the station, it was fortunate that my plans included an hour and a half's trainspotting. I could sit on a grit bin and take the weight off my shoulders. Another good thing is that Eurostar don't weigh your luggage, although what the security people thought of them when the bag was x-rayed is a mystery!

Back home, I'm sure these will be useful tools, and I'm glad I bought them. It's certainly added some memories to the trip!

Has anyone else bought modelling stuff on holiday?

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Webinar tonight

What are you doing at 7pm tonight? 

Would you like to learn a load of the basic techniques useful for building a model railway? 

 Do you have a fiver to spare? 

Yes? - Well the good news is that I'm repeating the live video tutorial from 2021, but this time, at a time more appropriate for those who have jobs they can't knock off in the middle of the afternoon.

In an hour, I'll build a short layout, OK, a foot-long photoplank as seen above, live, and chat to those attending as I go. If the session goes as well as 2021s did, it should be good fun. There were certainly a load of questions at the end!

Follow this link to book your place.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Waste not, want not

VW Van toy

From the same event that brought me yesterdays starter switch, a radio control toy VW van. I quite like the shape. Not quite right at the front, but not bad for a toy. I only paid a few quid for it. 

Of course, I get it back home, put some batteries in, the lights come on, but nothing moves. Booo. 

A quick look inside and I spot a couple of loose wires. The both appear to come from the same place, I so I resolder them. No good, so one is replaced. Still no good. A bit of poking doesn't show any obvious dry joints. 

So, it looks like money wasted. Oh well, no crying over spit milk. 

Instead, I'll get a couple of useful on/off slide switches, several LEDs and a motor and gearbox that could well power a garden railway loco. The front steering unit looks interesting too and I'm wondering if it could be used to operate an animation on a model railway. At the very least, the motor will be worth saving. 

Even though I'm disapointed not to be cruising around the floor with this (yes, I'm a big kid) I reckon I can salvage enough bits to just about cover my loss. I just need to file them where I can find them again as required. That's the difference between salvage, and hoarding. 

Mind you, put some rail wheels on and I could have a 32mm gauge DB Inspection railcar....

Monday, July 04, 2022

I'm a bus starter. Twisted bus starter


Bus starter button
Apparently, this is the starter button from a Leyland bus. I don't know which one, but the seller assured me that this was the case. Since I was so surprised at the price - a fiver - I didn't argue. Well, that and it was chucking it down with rain and my jacket was at the limit of its waterproofness. 

I suspect the rain helped me bag this item, most peopel were sheltering inside. That, and there wasn't a price on it on the stand and I'd expected a price of £20 or more, four times the value to me. To be honest, I only asked out of curiosity.

What do I want a bus starter for? Do I plan to restore a bus? 

No. But I fancy it for a future project. As a simple on-off push switch, I'm sure it can be incorporated into something in the future. That, and I love switches of all sorts. 

Of course, I couldn't resist poking at the insides. 

Switch components

The components are simple, and robust. A heafty copper contact links the two contacts in the baseplate when you press the button. The amount of metal suggests that these can handle more current than I'm likely to throw at it. 

Tha sprung action is lovely. The sort of lovely you only find on old, chunky and over-engineered electrical items. Never mind all these fidget spinners and stuff da kidz play with, I'll sit and push this abesent mindedly while on video calls for work. Satisfying.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Mini-Europe. The political model village


 Model villages are usually cosy affairs. Pretty little buildings, often with amusing shop names, and frequently set firmly in the same era as Agatha Christie dramas. The modelling will be slighly cartoonish, but that's what people enjoy. 

Not so Mini-Europe

For a start, the model-making is superb. Crisp building details, including hard to reproduce statuary. 

France - Arc De Triomphe

Amazingly, this stuff lives outside all year round. You can tell, because one building is missing, and another has recently been repaired due to the effects of a storm. 

Rather than a single scene, Mini-Europe brings together iconic structures from all corners of Europe. We have the Houses of Parliament, Eiffel Tower, Brussels Grand Square, Pont Adolphe and many, many more. You really can get a taste for the entire continent in a couple of hours - the time it takes to wend your way through it all. 

Kids will love all this as most countries have buttons to press. Much of the time this fires up the appropriate national anthem, but sometimes it kicks off an animation such as an archery competition, digger, train or even a volcano erruption. 

There's a clever scene with a theif carrying the Mona Lisa and a Policeman chasing him - which are operated by pads you run on. The fast you run, the faster your character moves. It's really clever. 

Austria - Melk Abbey

However, all this wonderful modelling will not please everyone. You see, Mini-Europe extolls the virtues of the European Union. The guidebook, which is available in several languages, including English, makes a better case for the EU than the entire "Remain" campaign managed a few years ago. 

Brexit does warrant a mention - there are pro and anti demos beside parliament, and the paths around the UK buildings have dotted border lines on them. 

Worse still, instead of being forced through the gift shop (which isn't very good) you exit through a display about Europe. Nigel Farage would be turning in his grave. 

All this is done very well. It's important to remember that most people on the continent have a very different view of the EU to the average Brit. We are mentioned in a "sorry you've left, please come back" way, instead of the agressive way our newspapers refer to Europe. It's quite sweet really. 

I really enjoued Mini-Europe, and it makes an excellent addition to a day spent at the Atomium next door. Finding out more about the model making is on my list for a future Garden Rail feature, it really is impressive, and worth investigating. 

Check out the rest of my photos on Flickr.