Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Rods on, chassis finished

With the wheel inserts in, getting the chassis working is simply a matter of fitting the bolts, and slotting on the rods. 

Lengths of plastic tube act as bearings. These replace resin parts from earlier kits that were too small, and very brittle when you tried to drill them out. I know my dad's original chassis is fitted with plastic tubes, because I brok three of the five provided doing just that!

While plastic tube might not sound that impressive, we are talking about a chassis designed for light loads. The tube stops the metal bolts wearing away the 3D printed rods, and should be able to do this for a long time. If this becomes an issue, I'll replace them with bits of brass. 

I like these chassis. They are quick and easy to assemble. OK, if you need a loco with a lot of grunt, they won't do the job, but for the sort of light loads trunding around a garden railway the model is likley to haul, it's underpinnings are fine.


Monday, February 27, 2023

Wheel inserts


A nifty feature of many Boot Lane kits is the conversion of Binnie wheels into driving wheels by using some 3D printed inserts. A pair are provided, one with and one without a hole for a crankpin. 

I'm assuming that a pair are supplied for each wheel to even out the stresses of them being forced into the wheel. They could represent balance weights, but on this loco you won't see them, so that would be a bit of a waste of time. 

Fitting is a matter of a few seconds forcing them into the wheels between the spokes. I use some parallel jawed pliers for this to ensure they go in straight, because I paid a lot of money for these tools and so I like to find excuses to use them!

No glue is required, the glass-filled nylon wheels grip them well enough, and now we are ready to fit them to the chassis.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

TT:120 station

Time for me to appear in a new publication - in a brand new (to the UK) scale. 

Yes, I'm writing for the Hornby TT:120 Club magazine. 

Now, you know I'm a practical guy, and so you might think the options in a scale primarily geared towards people who like to buy their models RTR is limited, but no. There is a growing aftermarket supporting the scale, and that's where I'm looking. 

First out of the blocks, even before Hornby themselves had said anything officially, were Peco, with a range of track and some laser-cut wooden buildings. 

My first project is their stone station building.

It's a nice little model, really giving off those "cute" vibes I used to get from my 3mm scale modelling. The kit is cleverly designed, and enjoyable to build, although there are a couple of potential pitfalls I explain in the article. 

Peco station

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Saturday Film Club: How to fix a Glasgow Subway Trains

Peter Purves heads down to what would become (when the new stock arrived) known as the "clockwork orange") to take a look behind the scenes. He pokes his head out of the side and they abandon a cameraman in the tunnel, to the fascination of the passengers.

I met Perves once, and he was really nice. Happy to chat to a couple of cub scouts helping out at a Guide Dogs for the Blind event. A marked contrast to Barbara Woodhouse on the same day...

Friday, February 24, 2023

Slate miner

Model slate miner

According to the card beside this in a book/antique shop I visited recently, this is "Quarryman with tipping truck - very accurate (used as illustration in book on slate) - £3 - made of compressed slate."

I looked at it and was inpressed with the quality of the moulding, and the modelling. These things are usuaully rubbish - see the somewhat soft castings of Airfix Pugs produced in coal for example. This one though,it's sharp, and presumably taken from a specially carved master. 

My first thought is that it would make an interesting painting project one day. That, and at three quid, I can afford to buy it for just that reason.

The figure is 100mm tall, so 6' 3" in 16mm scale. A little tall perhaps, but not out of the question. the 18mm track gauge equates to 1' 2", but I think we can call it 1', so again, suprisingly accurate. 
On the base is a label "Eden Valley Arts. Quarryman & Tub. Made with slate from Cumbrian Quarry. Tel/Fax. (01768) 899720" - I can find a couple of organisations with similar names, but nothing that suggests they are the source of this miniature, so it's origins are a mystery, as is the name of the book that used this as an illustration.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

A quick look at the Quarry Hunslet in BRM

Quarry Hunslet

The Spring 2023 issue of BRM is a little light on Phil content this time - I've been busy on a load of other projects which have eaten my time. There isn't even space for a video, although that is due to an embarasment of other excellent content. 

What we do have is a quick look at Bachmann's 009 Quarry Hunslet, and the new RNAD wagons. I've given them a test, and even recorded a running video to accompany the review. 

I have been out with the camera though. First, we have Kathy Millatt's excellent Port Dinorwic. 

Port Dinorwic

Inspiration for the shoot came from the Hornby TV show. I spotted the layout in an early episode and since Kathy is just down the road from me, sent her an e-mail and arranged a hurried photo session. TBH, if I'd seen the layout at a show (or paid enough attention to her YouTube channel) I'd have asked to take some photos a bit earlier. As it is, the appearance coincides in the magazine, with Jenny Kik's layout from the same series. 

Next, we have Ben Sharich's Tamcester.


We're on a mission to ensure there is at least one N gauge layout in each issue in the future, and that's helped by finding quality models like this that will look good on the page. There is plenty of super-quality RTR out there, and now the layouts are appearing that make the best of it. Excellent news!


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Warehouse Wednesday - A simple gantry crane

Gantry Crane 1

Spotted around the corner from the big Doncaster Morrisons supermarket, this abandonded (I think) travelling gantry crane. There's no obvious clue what it used to move, but that doesn't matter, as a modelling prospect, it's got a lot going for it.

Gantry Crane 2

The structure is pretty simple and boxy. Rivets, a walkway and ladder could all be found from the usual trade suppliers. All the winch gear is hidden in a simple corrugated box. 

Access for photos was a bit limited, but hopefully you can see enough for a model, the dimensions of which can be adjusted to suit your site.

Gantry Crane 3

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Steam tram chassis

Chassis bits

In thoery, assembling the Boot Lane chassis is a screwdriver job. Acrylic sides are screwed to 3D printed spacers. Not quite idiot-proof, but if you read the instructions carefully, then hopefully not to bad a job.My Dad managed, with a tiny bit of assistance, to put the working of his Rose together, and it's the first time he's ever done this sort of thing. 

The motor fits nicely into it's cradle, and everything fits perfectly. Getting the spacer the motor bolts on to the right way up is essentail - there is a groove to accomodate the gear wheel that should be at the bottom (the chassis is upside down in this photo) or it won't fit later. 

Biggest surprice so far, how far the screws go into the spacers. Lots of turns of the big screwdriver, in fact a small powered version wouldn't be a terrible idea for this job.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Winifred the steam tram


Winifred from Boot Lane Works

My parents (and me) like the team at Boot Lane Works. After a chat at the NGRS last year, my Dad ended up with a Rose on his workbench, so it wasn't that much of a surprised that a Winifred kit arrived for me at Christmas. 

The kits are a mix of laser-cut clear (and a nightmare to photograph) acrylic parts and 3D printed bits, plus metal axles and stuff. 

Although a motor is included, batteries and control are left to the builder to supply. My plan is to use sime tiny LiPo's and a Loco Remote controller for this part. According to the instructions, there should be plenty of space. 

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the model as supplied. For a start, I don't think steam trams should be glazed. I'll be modifying my model a bit. The LGB 24500 tram looks rather nice,  so I'll be taking a few design cues from it. 

There's nothing wrong with this of course. I'm sure plenty of stock Winifreds will take to the rails, mine will (hopefully) be a little different. I'm going to paint it green with red skirts for a start...

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Sunday morning exploring



Since the Festival of British Railway Modelling doors don't open for exhibitors until 8:30, and I tend to get up early, last week, I found myself with a little spare time to do some exploring. I love this on a Sunday before a show. A period of quiet before the busy day ahead, and since I'm in a strange town, the chance to check out a few sights. 

The sight that had fascinated me most as I drove between the show and hotel, was a late VW bay window pickup sat on top of a shipping container. It's very visible on a roundabout, helped by the headlights working at night. 

Sneaking into the little industrial estate it lives on, I was able to get up close and take some photos. Working around the front, it was unnerving to see a couple of realistic dummies in the cab looking at me!

While it's an eye-catching advert for Adrian Welch Glazing, it seems a shame that a rare vehicle is sitting out in all weathers with the tin-worn doing its worst. At a rough guess, there's £10,000 of Volkswagen here, crying out for restoration!

In the same yard, there is a K6 telephone box. 


Also in need of restoration. Mainly paint and glazing admittedly, and they can probably handle that. 

Behind the yard is a huge cemetry - Hyde Park Cemetry to be precise. 

A4 Bench

With a better than normal memorial bench - very appropriate for a train-themed weekend!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Saturday Film Club: Doncaster show

Three days spent at the Festival of British Railway Modelling last weekend, and I didn't manage to bag much in the way of photos for this blog. Worse, my video camera stayed in its bag the whole time. 

In my defense, I did manage six layout shoots and an awful lot of chatting.

Anyway, don't worry. Laurie has provided an hour of quality footage so you can enjoy the show without the crowds (it was very crowded on Saturday morning) or having to listen to me waffling on about things. 

If this isn't enough for you, one of my jobs was to take the Yorkshire Post photographer around. You can see the excellent results here. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Can I repair my conscience?


There was a clock on my wall that I've owned for around 30 years. In that time, I've replaced the quartz mechanism once, and the battery box on this mech as well. Finally, it's given up the ghost again. The parts have been sat around on the computer desk for months, waiting for me to order a new mechanism from Hobbies. 

Trouble was, the Hobbies order never happened. I was intending to add the bits to a larger order, but never got around to it. Eventually, a couple of weeks ago, I just entered "quartz mechanism" into ebay and ordered one. It arrived in a week.

Fitting was a bit fiddly, the original hands had suffered from many years of sunlight and required patching with Plastikard and ABS glue. The holes didn't quite match the new shafts, but some bodgery with the centres of the new hands solved that. I even gain a second hand. 

Half an hour messing around, and the clock is back in place. Hooray!


But, I feel a bit guilty. I can't remember where the parts came from, but it wasn't a proper shop. I just grabbed them some random person online. Someone who probably doesn't have the overheads a shop would. The price alone tells me that...

I've always done my best to support shops, especially model shops. When I see people on forums saying we don't need model shops, because everything can be ordered direct from China, it anoys me. For a start, those people presumably don't mind if their job is exported, and second, it means they never feel the need for consumables like paint and glue. The sort of stuff you want when you want it, not in three weeks time. 

So, the clock works, but I feel guilty.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

A little, angry man


Angry man
Needing some figures to populate the coaches my Dad is building, I selected Modeltown as the cheapest option. Since you aren't going to be able to look closely at them, cost wins over quality. Mind you, they aren't bad, and at under a fiver each, good value for money in the resin figure stakes (don't mention super-cheap people found on Chinese ebay, these fit my railway and are made in the UK). 

Most are generic, but this little chap (5605) looks familar. Painting a suitably orange skin wasn't easy, after all, I want my model to look like a realistic human. 

Anyway, he's all set to ride on the bigly railroad now...

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Warehouse Wednesday: Compton Garage

Compton garage

Spotted in Long Compton, Compton Garage looks like a bit of a time warp. That frontage hasn't changed much since those old petrol pumps out front were in operation, and on the side we have some cracking garage detritus - very modelable. 

The business is still operating too - they have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

1/4 scale VW engine - the video

Here we go, the 1/4 scale VW engine in all it's full working glory. 

Press the button on the base, and the model turns over for 40 second, while making some very unconvincing noises. 

Trill as you can just about see the pistons moving! Be awed by the light-up spark plugs! 

Actually, I love this. It's been a great fun project with not much I would change for the future. Maybe some screws that look more "enginey" like hex-heads. Perhaps a bit more painting. But basically, this has been great fun, went together well and I am pleased with the result.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Finished flat four engine

1/4 scale VW engine

And with that. the VW engine is complete. Mounted on its base containing the batteries, the model can be made to work at the touch of a button. It looks great, I'm glad that I painted a few of the parts, it lifts the result a lot compared to the pure plastic version on the box, and makes it very much my model.

This has been a really enjoyable kit to build, and has helped give me a bit of my modelling mojo back. With a bit of luck, this will hang around for a while. I've already started on the next project...

I'll post a video of the model working tomorrow with a bit of luck.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Larger Scale Trade Show, Swindon 2023


You know how it is, head off to a fashion outlet store, and suddenly you find yourself in a model railway exhibition!

Well, that's (sort of) what happened last weekend. The Association of Larger Scale Modellers held a trade show in Steam, the redeveloped Swindon works. 

I had gone along with my Garden Rail tweed on, to chat to the trade and scout out potential news for the magazine. There was certainly a lot of chatting done. Plenty of people seemed to know who I am, helped by a name badge of course!

Because it's a trade show, there's not much to show on here, but you'll want to see some cake. Lunch catering was a bit limited, although there is a seperate cafe, I went for a slice of Swiss Roll and a very nice cup of tea. 

One of the few trains running was on the Fawley Hill G3 test track. If you needed toy train action, Hornby could oblige in the main museum. 

Press the big, green button and the trains move!

Parking is 5 hours for £2, a bargain, but stay too long and the price rises to £12, so I headed off within my alloted time. This didn't allow time to tour the museum, something I must rectify one day. And maybe head to the fashion stores too.

Did you buy anything? Yes. But that will be revealed later this year...

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Saturday Film Club: Condor

An interesting history of the British Raiwlays "Condor" container service. However, I wonder about the use of all the historical footage. Yes, the maker takes a lot of time to credit the owners, although one diagram listed as Railway Hub should be Rapido, but does this consititue "Fair Use" copyright?After all, the whole video is made up of film that doesn't belong to the maker. There's a huge amount of work gone into the production, but I'd love someone to tell me it's all OK. 

Friday, February 10, 2023

Off to Doncaster


Yes, it's time to head north to Doncaster for the Festival of British Railway Modelling. 

I'll be hanging around the BRM stand all weekend, happy to chat about modelmaking. Please come and say hello, I don't want to be lonely!

Part of my work will be carrying out layout and product shoots - I'm the official photographer it seems - but most of these will be out of hours as I don't like stopping a layout for picture taking. 

The layout and trade list looks really good. We've a mix of models you'll have seen in the magazine, plus a few that will be appearing in the future. 

Check the website for details, and I'll see you there!

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Two very different layouts in March's Garden Rail


Garden Rail Magazine - March 2023

We've a bumper issue this month, with not one, but two feature layouts, and they couldn't be more different.

First, there is Pen-Y-Bont, Steve Howard's amazing indoor garden railway that's a slice of Wales, but with real plants as the backdrop. You'll be amazed at the realism and atmosphere created, and the ingenuity of the design.

Next, there is Loft City Central, a huge Playmobil layout normally found in owner Brendon Baker's attic. It's bright, busy and one to delight kids of all ages.

Both will be appearing at the Midlands Garden Rail show – the guide for which can be found in our pages.

On the workbench we have a PW railcar, platform footbridge, bolster wagons and loads, turning a German classic into a British locomotive and perhaps the most realistic platelayers hut in the larger scales.

Not forgetting all the latest Product News and a review of Roundhouse Engineering's Roundhouse Darjeeling C Class Pacific.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Warehouse Wednesday: Cotswold Corner

Stopping off in Chipping Norton for some lunch on the way back from a photo shoot last week, I couldn't resist a quick look around Gill & Co. a traditional hardware shop. A proper "Four Candles" sort of place that smells of wood and glue and seeds and lots of good stuff. 

Emerging with some Revell paint (how are Revell so good at getting their paint into these places, the one in Bourne stocks it too?) and a roll of (hopefully) good masking tape, I find this wonderful corner behind the high street. 

Three types of brick (or is the wall nearest the camera stone?) and some wooden walls - scruffy, but full of character. Close study, by someone who knows their stuff, would be able to work out how the building has evolved over a long period of time. Ironically, this sort of evolution would now be prevented by planning and conservation laws, but I love it!

(Click on the image for a larger version)

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Nearly finished, and I'm exhausted


We're nearly at the end of the VW engine build, and it's time for some of the larger bits in the box to be fitted - the exhaust system. 

It's interesting that the pipes emerging from the cylinder heads into the silencer, are very thin. Under the rocker covers on later VW engines are a set of heat exchangers. The pipe is finned and an outer jacket contains the air that will be blown into the cabin. Obviously, those fins take ages to warm up, and then warm the air supposedly providing heat. Worse, if the finner pipes develop a leak, you'll be blowing exhaust fumes into the cabin.

It's a clever system when it all works perfectly, but I haven't owned a VW where it was any more than useless. There wasn't much warming air in the cavernous space of my Type 2, and I don't recall the Beetle being much better. Mind you, it helps if everything is buttoned up properly and using original VW heat exchangers, any air gaps let the precious heat escape. The fins on the pattern version tend to be a bit rubbish too, reducing the effectiveness of the whole system. 

The main pipes are two-part items screwed together. I've sprayed it all with primer as that's the colour these things are normally supplied in, even if the paint quickly burns off and is replaced with rust. 

One good thing about building a kit is the speed of assembly. I've replaced several VW exhausts, and without fail, each one takes 6 hours work. Mostly trying to get pattern pipes to line up, a trick that required brute force and bad language!

Monday, February 06, 2023

Getting dizzy


My first thought when looking at the distributor, was that it doesn't look like any VW dizzy I've ever seen.Had the kitmakers designed it for ease of manufacture, rather than prototype fidelity? 

Nope. Doing a little digging online, I found photos of early VW engines with a Bosch unit that looks very like the one in the kit. It appears the change to the more common version with the HT leads emerging from the jell-mold shaped top took place sometime in the late 50s, the same time the fuel pump moved to the centre of the engine. This stuff is complicated, and strictly for the VW nerds!

On the model, the unit does it's proper job. Driven by a gear, it distributes electricity to each of the spark plugs (which definitly don't look like the real things) so they flash at the appropriate time as the engine turns over. Power comes, not from the coil, but from a lead plugged into the base. It would be nice if this was routed through the plastic coil, but hey-ho. 

I have, so far, resisted the temptation to unscrew the top from the dizzy to find out what's going on in there. I'd guess the inards won't be that different from the real thing, but since it's supplied ready to use, the designers don't want us poking around in there. That probably won't stop me eventually, but let's get it working first.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Steam at Black Bridge

Duchess at Black Bridge, Whitnash in the 1980s

Yesterday, we wondered why trainspotting isn't cool, and now I look back to the 1980s when I was spotting this train!

The location is Black Bridge in Whitnash - favourite spot to watch the occasional steam special from. The fencing wasn't what it is now, and I'm sure I'm in a line of spotters who were waiting for the train. At least we kept well, back from the track, but shouldn't have been standing where we were.

I used to wander down here occasionally when at school, the rear gate being about 2 minutes walk away. I've always liked watching trains go by and this is an excellent spot as you can see them for some distance. 

More recently, I've been known to take a stoll down there. The joys of a mobile phone and Realtime Trains means at least I'm not waiting in hope any more!

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Saturday Film Club: Why isn't trainspotting cool?

An interesting video from Lawrie's Mechanical Marvels. Why has trainspotting evolved from something most boys enjoyed, to an activity that makes you a social pariah?

Lawrie argues that it's down to the dullness of the modern railway, and I can certainly see something in this. When all trains were fronted by a locomotive, there was certainly more glamour, but is that enough?  

I wonder if there is an element of people not being as interested in the mechanical side. Once, we celebrated engineering achievement, now, as much of the HS2 coverage shows, the only thing we do is moan about it. Now, kids want to be "influencers", in the 1980s, they wanted to be Yuppies. People don't aspire to do anything hands-on and practical. 

What do you think?

Friday, February 03, 2023



steam locos

Meetings don't always need to take place in meeting rooms. Keen to pin down some news for Garden Rail, I headed a couple of miles away to a local garden railway steam-up, on a Thursday afternoon. In my defence, I'd pulled a muscle in my back and sitting at the computer wasn't comfortable. 

Anyway, there was plenty to see, such as an old friends' Talyllyn Railway train. Initially hauled by No.2, he then hooked up No.1, which suprisingly (to me) struggled a bit on the curves with the coaches. 

Alongside it is a Riverdale Locomotives "Irene" which is coal fired. It looked stunning and ran really well. Coal firing is very fashionable, and the model certainly had the right smell, an important part of the steam loco experience. Watching it trot around at a very sensible pace with it's train was cracking. Riverdale are a new name to me, so the trip was also useful for research.

Merlin Mayflower

I'd brought my Merlin Mayflower along. The line disapears behind some hedges at one point and I was nervous about letting the manually conttolled Peckett loose. The loco performed perfectly - but reminded me I really need to replace the buffer beams with something that doesn't involve LGB couplers, so I can haul a train. There's plenty of power on offer, and I want to give the model a workout. 


Also on show is this lovely Roundhouse Bulldog. I've not seen a painted and weathered example before as far as I know, and the model does look rather special with a less than toy-like paint job. 

Finally, a bit of fun with a battery-electric Trotters van. I don't know where the body came from, but I rather fancy doing a similar conversion myself!

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Pumping fuel


VW fuel pump
Now this is a bit different. Because this is an early engine, the fuel pump is mounted on the side. Later versions, such as the one in my '73 Beetle, are on the top of the case, on the right of the distributor as you look through the back hatch. 

I know this, because many years ago, I planned to tour Kent in my bug. Heading down a quiet, and sunny M40, suddenly I had no power. Coasting to the hard shoulder, I pulled up, walked to an emergency phone (no mobiles in theose days) and than waited for the RAC to arrive. I still see the tree at that spot when I head south to this day. 

Once the van arrived, the diagnosis was lack of fuel, and looking at the pump, the pivot in the base was sticking out. Inside, there is a rocker operated by a rod coming out of the engine to bear on one end. The other is connected to the diaphram inside the pump, and that's the bit that moved fuel around. 

Back home, I quickly pushed the pivot into place and all was well. But I decided againast continuing the trip. 

This was wise, as the same thing happend on the way back from work a few weeks later. Better prepeared, I nipped around the back of the car, shoved the pivot back in and all was well. Which is what I told the very attractive blonde woman who pulled up in a red Beetle to see if all was well. What a time to do a quick fix - she was gone again in a flash, when  long chat as I diagnosed the problem would have been very pleasent...

Eventually, I worked out that there should be a circlip on each end of the pivot. Once replaced, the problem never occured again. 

The model version is a two-part plastic moulding that snaps together and then pushes into the crank case. I painted it silver (it looks better in real life) and the Bakealite spacer, a rust colour which looks about right.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Blowing hot air


If there's one technical thing people know about the VW Beetle, it's that the engine is air cooled. In practice, this means that air is blown through an oil cooler hidden in the fan shroud, and over the fins on th side of the cylinders. 

Th fan is attached to the dynamo, or alternator, depending on the year of the engine, and driven by the fan belt. That makes the belt a very vital bit of kit, and if the charging light comes on on the dash, the clever driver knows to pull over and check all is well. Failure to do so will see the engine temperature rise rapidly, and a valve on the number 3 cyclinder, which gets a little less air than the rest, exit via the side of the crank case. 

On the model, the fan and dynamo (This is an early engine) look just like the real things. You even have a voltage regulator sat on top, held in place by tight fitting plastic, not screws. 

All this sits on top of a stand with a oil filler on the side. All this has been painted as there's nothing to see and I think the contrast between black and silver bits looks rather nice. For some reason, the silver, a Humbrol metalcote colour, seems to dry incredibly fast. Over a coat of primer, I was easily able to put the required couple of coats on the parts in an evening.