Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wheels off


I love Romford wheels. Self-quartering, and thanks to the metal centres, pretty much indesructable. These are not Romfords. 

It's been a long while since I did any serious kit bulding, but the soft plastic centre suggest Sharman wheels, or possibly Gibsons. Whatever, my experience in the past is that you can't take these on and off an axle repeatedly as they lose their grip. So I wanted to do the job once, and carefully. 

That's why I'm using a wheel puller to remove them with as little strain on the soft bits as possible. They slide off easily enough, which I hope is down to me using the right tool, and not that the centres are made of blancmange. 

The front axle drops out, and I shorten it with a piercing saw. Breaking three blades doing so. No idea how, I'm usually pretty good with these things, but one blade only lasted two strokes. 

Anyway, eventually it was chopped, the end tidied up and the wheels put back on using my vice as a press to ensure they went on sqaure. Something else Romfords are good at...

At the back, the gear is firmly fixed, I i had to cut both ends. Measuring was simply putting a wheel against the frame and marking the required axle length with a fine pen. Not perfect, but good enough for this job. 

Back in place, every thing turns smoothly and they seem not to wobble when spun. The back-to-back gauge just goes in between them, so I'm not taking anything apart again to thin down bearings in the chassis. I even spotted the front axle is compensated - this seems a very well-made model, which makes me wonder how it ended up in the state I got it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Lewin loco


When my friend Earl dropped a load of collectables (Triang Giraffe car, 3-rail loco) he also brought along a part-built kit for which he extracted a small amount of cash. 

At the time, he said it was one of the early MRJ scratchbuilt models. This appealed to me as I think I bought the last set of brass castings for this project, as it's long been on my to-do list. I remember the series, even haunting WH Smith to get a mag with the latest installent of the Wantage No.5 build. 

Now, I knew this wasn't Wantage No.5, but the article included a few variations, and I assumed this was one of these. 

Yes, I can be a bit dim. 

What I actually have is an Impetus kit of Stephen Lewin's Seaham Harbour locomotive. The clue in on the home-made box, although in my defence, the label wasn't stuck to it at the time. 

Anyway, in the box is a nicely made body, and a chassis that appear to be a bit "got at". 

It's built with OO frames, but the wheels are set to EM thanks to a load of washers. The cyliner rods are attached, but not the connecting rods for the wheels. Given some power, the motor works sweetly enough. 

So, all I need to do is regauge it back to OO, and re-attach all the bits, which I've checked, are in the box.

Monday, August 29, 2022

New crane

4mm scale cranes

Last week, I recorded a first look video on some of the new(ish) Corgi Trackside range of diecast models.

While looking at the Coles Crane, a really useful reintroduction to the range, I couldn't resist lining it up with some  of my older models. 

From left to right: Langley whitemetal kit, scratchbuilt (with some Airfix bits) and finally, the Corgi model. 

OK, the diecast cries out for matt varnish and a lor of weathering, but it's a good base model to work on.

The full video can be found here:

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Model Tram show - Crich 2022


Off to Crich for the model tramways show. I had a few work things in mind so I'm afraid the photo selection is a bit limited. There were some lovely G scale Belgian trams on the Whiteleaf Tramway though. 

And I was very lucky - the rain started before the Blackpool Boat left the stop. Me and most of the passengers bailed out before it turned into a mobile swimming pool!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Saturday Film Club: Gazelle

Another facinating Anthony Dawson film about a well-known, tiny, standard gauge loco. 

Time to head off to a forum to demand a RTR model! (Seriously though, has there ever been a kit produced. It would be lovely in 7mm scale)

Friday, August 26, 2022

Railway tools

LMS Drill
More junk bought at a bargain price because I was curious. In this case, I think I might have something with a bit of value though, so maybe this counts as an investment. Whatever, they came from the Tramway Museum excess tool sale, so the money goes to a good cause.

First up, a No.101 drill bit, capable of making a hole 23.5mm wide. This equates to 0.9251969 of an inch, which doesn't sound that useful to me, but then I can't really work Imperial measurements once you start messing with 8th etc. 


It is a proper railway tool - embossed with and LMS stamp, I'm thinking that it has to be at least 75 years old, and probably more ancient than that. It's a good sized lump of metal anyway. 

More of a mystery is this spanner. 


I have a feeling it's a railway tool as well - something for screwing the bolts that go through rail chairs if my guess is right. 53 cm long and with jaws 4cm wide, but what's the point of the pointy end? 

There might be a BR stamp under the paint, but I'm loath to scrape it off to investigate further. 

And is this 909 or 606 stamped on the handle? And what does it mean? 

A little Friday mystery for you. I'm sure there is someone who knows the answer!

Does anyone remember Gilmour Kits?

Gilmore Kit

Yes, it's another random purchase from a scond hand stall because I don't recognise the maker. Really, I could set up a museum of this stuff. 

I've never heard of Gilmour Kits, and online can only find one reference, that being an ebay sale

There is a definite whiff of "Builder Plus" about the kit. It's printed on thick card, but not quite as thick as Superquick, and die-cut with just a few tabs to retain the parts in the sheet. Printed plastic is included for the windows. 

The brickwork isn't bad, certainly better then early Metcalfe, which is why it reminds me of "Builder Plus"

I'm thinking 1980s, but that's just a gut feeling. 

After that, I'm stumped. Can anyone else remember the maker, and what happened to them? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: An American diner in Shropshire


OK DIner

What do you do when your trip to Chirk is going better than expected, and the satnav says you'll be an hour early? 

You drop into the OK Diner at Oswestry of course. 

To be honest, it had been an early start, and I needed some coffee. Spotting a Starbucks sign, I turned in to the Oswestry Gateway park - and then spied something chrome. In the spirit of trying something new when the opportunity presents itself, I abandoned the big chain, and went for the little one. 

Inside, it looks like I think an American diner should. 

I ordered coffee and perused the menu. My intention had been just to have a drink, but then it was a long(ish) while since breakfast. However, the only cake on offer was cheesecake, and while I'm sure it would have been delicious, 10am is a bit early, even for me. 

Then I saw pancakes. Now, the one regret I have about my Australia trip years ago is that I didn't try the American pancake making machines at breakfast in either hotel I stopped in. I can't remember why, but it's always bugged me. 

I don't really get the pancake thing for breakfast, but it was time to experiment - and I can report they were delicious with the maple syrup. I tried a bit of the butter, which was OK, but a bit meh. The syrup was more fun, and I even managed to keep it off my clean shirt!

You are probably thinking this has nothing to do with railways, but you'd be wrong. There was some interesting stuff nailed to the walls. 

Excellent, and definitly a stop for a future trip. And the extra food was a good idea too. Some lovely sandwiches for lunch, but a very late finish, so no tea in the evening!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The chemicals don't work...

OK, I found some time to get back to paint removal on the Pilot Boat. Taking advice offered in response to my earlier post, the kitchen cupboard had been raided for Dettol and Mr Muscle oven cleaner. 

Starting with Dettol, I painted it on, left it for 20 minutes and the result was - nothing. 

I have a feeling that I've read you need to give the model a good bath in this stuff overnight. Even if I was willing to shell out for sufficient disinfectant to submerge such a large model, I'd have to remove all the innards so they weren't ruinned. So, no go there. 

Next, Mr Muscle oven cleaner. It foams nicely, which makes me think something is happening. On the side of the can, the instructions say to leave it for half an hour - which I do. 

Result - nothing. OK, I know this stuff is aimed at oven dirt, which will be slightly porus, but I'd hoped there would be some tiny bit of evidence that it would attack the paint, but none. 

So, my options are to go back and work with the cellulose thinners, or,

take the thing down to the boat club, and give it away. Which is what I've done. 

To produce a hull that I'd be happy painting, the removal of the old stuff will have to be meticulous. Hours of pushing thinners around followed by scraping the slurry off. I'm not into that at the moment. This was supposed to be a quick and fun project, not an endless, smelly slog. 

Maybe someone else with be keener, or less fussy about the state of the hull. Either way, they are welcome to try. I know I'm 70 quid or so into the model with the purchase price and a couple of cans of thinner, but it's time to cut my losses.

I pondered removing the gubbins and fitting it to another model, but those jet drives are fibreglassed in place so they aren't coming out without damage. If I want a jet drive boat, I'll head over to Banggood and pick some up there. Maybe. 

Perhaps if the model had raced around the pond when I tested it, I'd have been keener to carry on. As it is, that was another problem to solve with more money to be thrown at it. I'd also been looking at those nicely made handrails and wondering if I could live with them being too spindly. A coat of hi-build primer might have cured that. Perhaps. 

Before you ask, selling it would just be a pain. Model boaters never want to spend any money, and I doubt I'd have raised a tenner if I'd stuck the boat in a future club auction. Better to get rid and not have this project hanging over me. 

Anyway, I hope I see this on the water one day. It's potentially a nice boat. As it is, it's a lesson that I really don't need any more model boats. There are plenty of kits in the stash that I can just start bulding rather than undoing previous work. Several of those were supposed to be quick projects too...

Monday, August 22, 2022

Van repair


Packing up at the National Garden Railway Show went pretty well - except for the Garden Rail van, which took a nose dive from my arms as I was putting it away. Being a 3D printed model, it didn't bounce on the concrete floor, instead, the superglue joins gave way, reducing it to a kit of parts again. 

Since then, it's been living in a box in the office, but as I needed the box for something else, it was time for some repairs. 

The biggest problem was that the wheels on one side had become detached, and the 3D parts broken. Superglue on it's own isn't strong enough for this job, the joints needed reinforcement with bits of brass wire inserted into drilled holes. I don't think they are perfectly lined up, but look good enough to me, and better than expected. 

After this it was just a case of reglueing the joints with Zap brushable superglue. Some clips held the roof in place while it dried, and did the same for the fenders/running boards. I know the stuff is supposed to be instant, but on the day I did this, it was misbehaving. 

And now I have a van suitable for delivering copies again. It's still fragile - I should really make a box for it, but then it's also a lovely item in the background on Zoom calls!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Well, I think this Allegro looks fantastic

Allegro Equipe

I do! Why can't we have graphics like this on more cars. OK, I know that Allegro's are generally reguarded as less than perfect, but there is a stong fan-base, and they can't be more trouble than an Aston Martin Lagonda, notorious for non-working controls. Also uglier and far more expensive. 

This beauty was spotted as I wandered around the annual Warwick Classic car show. Obviously I was playing fantasy garage, and spotted a real contender.

I really should have hung around longer and asked the owner if I could try it for size. As a Sinclair kid at school, the C5 appeals to me just for the badge. It's also properly odd. If I had space in the garage for one...

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Saturday Film Club: The Toolmakers Art

Toolmaking used to be the foundation for much manufacturing work, and this American film extols the virtues of taking it up as a career. Made in 1975, it's at an interesting point in time when techology was beginning to make an impact with plenty of electronic measuring devices appearing. There's some wonderful 70s office interiors too!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Learning a new skill, with a feltwork chicken


Feltwork chicken
I make a lot of stuff. This won't come as a surprise to readers of this blog, but it's important. I love making things, and when I fall out of love with doing so, I know there is a problem. And part of this love is enjoying learning new making skills. 

At this year's Leamington "Art on the Park" festival, I was determined to book onto one of the courses on offer during the day. As it happens, one of the first stalls I found was run by Furzie Felt - and they were offering boiled egg cosie making using felt. The little chickens looked fun, and I've never messed around with felt before. Truth is, I wasn't really sure what it is. I booked on to the first session, while most people are wandering around looking at art to buy, and at 10:30 was one of three having a go. 


The materials are pretty basic - a moulded felt bottom (involving a washing machine, wooden egg and pair of tights apparently) and some small skeins of wool. 

Work starts my making the head. Basically, you roll some wool up and stab it repeatedly with a special  barbed needle. This tangles the wool up, giving it a structure. Eventually, you have a ball, which is them fixed to the bottom with more stabbing and a few more whisps of wool. It's fascinating, no glue or stiching is involved. 

The comb is cut out of sheet felt, but fixed with more stabbing and poking. The beak is rolled from more lose wool, and it's at this point you really realise how effective the stabbing method is in turning loose wool into something more solid. 

The whole process took around an hour and I'm really pleased with the result. OK, I'm a long way from producing the same level of sculpture as our tutor, but then she's been felting for over a decade. What I really enjoyed was learning how the material behaved. Like most making skill, the trick is understanding this, and then you can move on to working out what to do with it. 

So, a fun time and a new skill learned for a measily tenner. Best of all, there's enough material for a second cossie, so I better get stabbing!


Update: Second chicken made. The wite doesn't work quite as well as the brown for the eyes, but it went together well and I'm starting to pick up the techniques. Not sure they will be useful for model railway or boat work though!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

C-17 Globemaster III Transporter


Meng Globemaster
My Dad has been suffering the same loss of modelling mojo recently that I and a lot of others have. In an effort to help, I treated him to a Meng caricature plastic kit for the C-17 Globemaster III transporter. 

I love these cartoon-like Meng kits having built HMS Hood and Santa Tank in the past. 

No glue is required for assembly - my Dad was impressed with the way all the parts pushed together, but found you needed three hands to juggle the fuselage halves and glazing. Apart from that, it was an easy, and pleasent build. 

Unlike the real plane, the model isn't massive - 13.5cm long and wide. 

Painting duties were passed to me, and I left the self-coloured plastic body along, just highlighting the tyres with Revell No.9 and the ait intakes with Humbrol No.69. 

Both transfers and stickers are provided, the later being my choice as they are very thin. I'm not sure I'd have done much better with waterslide transfers, so those go in the transfer box for future use. 


It seems to have worked, there are a couple of Dad projects to post since this kit was finished. Result!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Guest Blog: Train Trax

Ian Miller


My name is Ian Miller. Phil has kindly allowed me to tell you a bit of a story about me, KATO and Train Trax.


At the end of 2021 I was fed up with my old IT systems job and decided it was time for a change. The prospect of an approaching 40th birthday made me think that life would be more fun if it could involve more trains, and more independence.


I have been a dabbling modeller in OO gauge for quite a while, with a quite conventional, unfinished, British outline freelance loft layout. In addition I'd been buying, cleaning up and selling models online to help fund the hobby. I found this almost as rewarding as running trains.


I had some ideas about how I could make this a full-time occupation, but in the end an accidental discovery led me along the journey to acquire the Train Trax website ( in January. Train Trax exclusively sells KATO products in Ngauge. Keith, the previous owner who had run it for 14 years, had decided to take a long overdue retirement.


So I collected a very full van load of N gauge stock from Surrey. Included was a mass of Kato Unitrack, Japanese trains of all types, North American locos, wagons, buildings and all the accessories. On arrival at my brand new HQ in York I had to make sense of it all - I had dealt with very little N gauge or KATO stock previously!


I was first drawn to the trains which I was familiar with in real life: the Class 800 in LNER and GWR liveries, the Eurostar and TGV. My first impression was how intricate and good value they were. Once I'd had a good play with those I then explored the rest of the range of trains. They always find that they work straight out of the box - pop them on some Unitrack and off they go with no fuss.


Unitrack was probably the biggest revelation to me. It just clicks together and is ready to go. Fantastic Japanese precision engineering. There's no need for fettling of joints or soldering, and it can be re-configured repeatedly. The aesthetics of it might not suit the finescale purist, but for me reliable running beats that, and it's still perfectly possible to ballast and weather it to blend it into a scenic layout. I wish I'd known about it before I'd laid my own track, as I could have avoided a lot of hard work and frustration!


The previous owner of Train Trax recommended that I join the N Gauge Society, and I'm glad that I did. I found the local area group a friendly bunch, and by co-incidence found that they were experimenting with T-TRAK - a modular layout standard that relies on Kato Unitrack. One thing led to another, and now I'm retailing the laser-cut module kits that the group has designed.


Seeing the variety of stock that the group runs - UK, European, Japanese and North American has reminded me that one of the best things about the world of railways is the variety of different ways of doing things around the world. From very little previous interest, I now find myself researching the history of different North American loco liveries on behalf of my customers!


It's been a fun journey with Train Trax so far, but not without its challenges. Along the way I've learnt about global logistics and search engine optimisation. I now find myself running a small business in an incredibly difficult economic climate, so support from all the loyal customers that have continued to buy while the business was transferred is particularly valued. What next for Train Trax? KATO continue to have an interest in the UK market, via partners Gaugemaster and PECO, and are releasing new products every month, so there's plenty of excitement still to come.


If you want to follow the latest updates from Train Trax, follow me on Facebook and/or sign up for fortnightly emails.

Ian Miller

Train Trax

Phil: I've not been paid for this blog post, but I'm happy to host it as a way of helping out people in the hobby. It appearing here in no way counts as an edorsement of the company. For all I know he's operating a Victorian sweatshop with small children being forced to do all the work. I doubt it, but I'll admit I haven't checked. I do like Unitrack though - used it in the past and it's great stuff.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Less paint, but still too much

Here we are, the pilot boat after another couple of hour attention from the cellulose thinner. Most of the paint has gone, but there is still some lodged around the base of the handrails - an a thin, eneven coat pretty much everywhere on the surface. 

This looks better than it really is. Spraying over this lot will produce a rubbish result. 

So, I've been digging around under the kitchen sink and have some Dettol and two types of over cleaner. In the garage, I'm sure there is some IPA alcohol too - I'm going to give them a go and will report back.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Grant Shapps revenge?


Picket line diorama
Over on World of Railways, I've written a step-by-step discription showing how I built a topical diarama - a picket line of striking rail workers

I'll admit I'm very pleased with the way this little model came out. Apart from the 3D printed figures (ModelU), it's all pretty basic materials, including a lot of emulsion paint. 

Anyway, the model has been living in my office photo booth, a safe space I thought. That is until I extraced a little photo plank on the self above it. This caused anther little scene to plumet onto the picket line, and the results are not pretty. 

The resin figures didn't fair well, shaettering, then spreading their remains all over the place. I can't find two of the bodies for a start. 

I'll have to rescue the two intact people. They can live in the model people pot until I can find another use for them. 

But, why did this happen? Is it the ghost of Transpot Secretary Grant Shapps hurling dioramas around the room? It must have been a pretty accurate hit...

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Time to admit defeat?


The news that Rob Waller has decided to close Boston Largs Works comes as a bit of a shock, but his logic is sound. 

I have the feeling that an artisan, analogue, labour-intensive technology like casting is one that is living on borrowed time.

The trend has been clear in our hobby for a decade or more towards CAD and now 3D printing.

I can't disagree. Looking at the 3D prints my friend Chris Mead has produced for a fellow club members Class 69 conversion, I know that no matter how much time and effort I put into making alternatives, there's no way I could match them. I've seen the finished model, and partly thanks to a superb paint job, you can't tell it's not a modern, injection moulded RTR item. 

I'll admit I've resisted 3D printing for a long while. Yes, I own an additive printer, and the topic has fascinated me for a long while, but I'm a traditional modeller.I like making things with my hands. 

The future though, is largely making stuff on a screen, and seeing it emerge from some resin goop. 

Now, I appreicate the skill involved in all of this. There's a huge learning curve required to grasp 3D CAD. Then you have to work out how best to turn that file into a physical model - it's not as simple as just pointing it in the direction of the printer. 

No, I'm not saying 3D printing is skill-free, it's just a whole different set of skills. 

I hope that for the time being I can see 3D printing as an extra tool in the toolbox of any modeller. It will probably replace a lot of those whitemetal lumps we used to use, and quite a few of the etched ones too. 

But, is this me standing against the tide? Is the day when we give up the craft knife, razor saw and files on the horizon? In my more pessimistic moments, I think it is. 

We are living in "interesting" times. The economy is about to take a kicking. In politics, the bullies are winning, supported by people with naked self-interest. And my escape from this, noodling around with bit of plastic, is always going to produce poorer results than the latest computer made stuff. Which also hits the work I do - who wants to read about making stuff when they prefer to just go and buy it? All modelmaking hobbies being reduced to credit-card waving and owning stuff. 

Someone will point out that photography hasn't killed portrait painting, so there might be space for impressionistic modelling beside the perfect stuff, but I'm not sure how well the parallel holds up. Increasingly, the model railway world belongs to those screaming for perfect models, who then keep them in a box for fear of reducing their resale value, and because actucally building a layout isn't what they are in to. 

Someone tell me I'm wrong.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Saturday Film Club: A 25 foot long Eagle

I've mentioned in the past that my favourite space ship ever is the Eagle Transporter from Space 1999. One day, I'll get around to building the Airfix kit. Finding space for that in the cabinet will be touch, but how about a 25 foot long version? 

Amazing work.  And stong enough to walk on.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Lorry and wagons loads, plus driving an A4 in the latest BRM

BRM time again (it does come around quickly!), and in September I've been busy. 

Loaded lorries

On the workbench, I take a couple of 4mm scale lorries and build a selection of loads for them. It's one of those fun little projects that shouldn't be too taxing, but makes the layout come alive. 

Better still, if you are nervous of getting your hands dirty, this is the perfect starter project. Costs are minimal, and it's impossible to really damage anything. Even if you do, we are talking a diecast lorry here, not a many hundred pound loco. 

Talking of many hundred pound locos, both in cost, and weight, I learn to drive an A4. 

5 inch gauge A4 steam locomotive

OK, it's not a full-size one, but this 5 inch gauge model works just like the real thing and is capable of hauling real passengers too. On BRM TV, I'm taken through all the contols and even get to play fireman!

While we're looking at video, having loaded lorries, I use similar techniques to do the same with rail wagons. 

Phil in the studio

Railway companies didn't like thier wagons running empty, so neither should modellers. Sorting this out is quick and easy. 

Talking of wagons, I've had a look at Peco's Snailbeach hoppers.

Peco 009 Snailbeach hopper


Finally, my camera has been out again, this time pointing at "Hook Basin". 

Hook Basin

An unusual large scale layout that might be considered a bit unusual for BRM, it's a terrific model and very much my kind of thing. Scratchbuilt locos and rolling stock runnin RTR chassis, this has the potential to be both budget, and utterly absorbing modelling. I hope it inspires a few people to have a go, if you have imagination and a modicum of skill, you can produce a real eye-catching and crowd-pleasing layout.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

A stunning slice of Switzerland in September's Garden Rail


Inspired by Switzerland's RhB railway, Pavel Ponížil has created a stunning model behind his home in the Czech Republic. Everything is built the hard way, one stone block at a time, and the resulting layout might be the best one ever featured in Garden Rail. 

Over on the workbench, we create a modular layout for those who can't accommodate a permanent line, turn a Playmobil wagon into a radio control inspection wagon, build a 3D printed loco, shunters truck, and fit new valve gear to a Roundhouse Bertie.

Finally, a garden railway needs plants, so we look at trees for the railway modeller.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Warehouse Wednesday: GWR yard crane


Yard crane

Spotted at Fawley Hill last weekend, a GWR yard crane. I recognise it from a recent issue of MRJ, but can't be sure if it's the 6-ton version built in the article. Can anyone identify it?