Thursday, March 23, 2017

News from the partwork world

A couple of interesting bits of news from the partwork world. First, DeAgostini are releasing a Build your own Thunderbird 2 mag.

The series has been running in Japan and the only report I found says it is pretty good - but then that's on a Facebook group dedicated to Space 1999 Eagles so people there love sci-fi craft from the Anderson stable. 

Completion seems to be the usual 100 issues so budget for £800+ for the full set. 

The finished model is 54cm long, 1:144 scale apparently, and includes pods 3 and 4 plus an assortment of rescue vehicles. I'm slightly surprised that part 3 includes all of Thunderbird 4. The iconic submersible could have waited until later in the series I would have thought. FAB 1 is also in the set - did this ever travel in TB2 or is this publisher licence? 

DeAgostini have also started to release complete kits - older partworks available as a full set in one go. 

If you want a Japanese D51 2-8-2 in 1:24 scale and have £799 going spare, it can be yours in one big box. A brass and steel kit, 88 cm long for less than the price of 7 Heljan 4mm scale 1361 class tanks. OK, it's a chunk of cash, but not as scary as it might be when you are looking at models in this sort of scale. 

Interesting move to sell kits this way. Presumably the plan is to mop up a few unsold models and satisfy the people who don't want to wait two years to complete a project. 

Cars, boats, planes and trains are available from the website.  Fortunately, my bank balance won't stand me adding to my unbuilt kits pile in this way. If anyone from DeAgostini is reading though, one of the cars or a train would make a great project for this blog!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Canalside concrete fence

Concrete Fence

On a stroll a couple of weeks ago, I spotted something that I'm sure I've seen many times in the past but never really appreciated - cast concrete fencing alongside a canal. 

Both posts and crosspieces are cast with embedded stones(?) in the mix. The bars are around 6 inches deep, rectangular in section but with chamfered corners. For a relatively remote spot and a very mundane job, I think they are quite elegant. No idea how old these are, but no later than 1970s. 

I'm not aware of seeing the design before (someone will doubtless find a reference, best I could do was this) but there is a lot of be said from a modelling point of view. This would be a dimple fence to scratchbuild using pre-cut lengths of plastic with a corners scrapped. Only two rails too so not much material required. 

Mind you, searching for pre-cast concrete fence, I couldn't find an exact match, but this image amused me: 

The fake wood is impressive, but you'll never get on thet horse wearing that...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Narrow gauge Wickhams on the Isle of Man

If I can't fit a standard gauge chassis under the Wickham, then I need a narrow gauge prototype. On this blog, when we say narrow gauge, thoughts turn to the Isle of Man.

Luckily, the island is stuffed full of Wickhams and my first idea was to use the 3ft gauge Ramsey Pier railway as a prototype. As you can see above, they had a Wickham for taking people back and forth along the 2241 foot length. Originally man powered (pushed by staff), in the 1937, a Planet loco joined the fleet.

1950 saw the Wickham added along with a spur of track so both trains could operate. The design is quite a bit different from my model with four rows of front (the backs flipped over for the return trip so you always face front as you can see here) facing seats. Interesting, but not much use to me unless I scratchbuild. One for another day.

The Manx Electric Railway also has at least one Wickham and this photo shows it to me much closer to the design I have on the workbench. It also has wasp stripes on the front, and these are about as fun to paint as being stung by the aforementioned insect is.

However, stock moved around the island. What would happen if the pier trolley broke down and they borrowed the MER one for a length of time? Assuming we are looking at the late 60s, then the number of passengers using the service from ships would be tiny. The main market would be people just enjoying a jaunt up and down the pier. People like me.

Then the lower capacity wouldn't be a problem, but they would probably paint the trolley in the pier livery, waving goodbye to those wasp stripes.

So, a 3ft gauge railcar it is. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fake SPUD reveals problems...

One day, I dream of having a workshop where my pillar drill can live set up and ready to go at all times. That would mean jobs like this would take a few seconds instead of quarter of an hour or more. 

Anyway, the trolley is supposed to be powered with a SPUD, there's space under the floor for it. I'm building it unpowered, so needed to make a replacement, or fake SPUD. A bit of wood with holes drilled through seemed to be the answer and construction took a couple of minutes. 

Axles were cut to length and wheels pressed on in the vice. They are all the same diameter, despite being obviously different makes. This won't show behind the foot boards and I don't have any spare 10.5mm wheels to have at the moment anyway.

Testing the unit under the trolley, reveals a problem:

This might be an O gauge kit, but set the wheels to sit on 32mm track and they won't fit underneath. Hmmm. More thinking required...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Old programme

Spotted at the railway club, a 1983 Coventry N gauge show programme. From the days before DTP. When text had to be typed on a typewriter and graphics hand drawn.

There's a quaint charm to the whole thing. I especially like the model driver, complete with feet stuck to a paving slab, dangling from the Deltic.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Film Club: Hungarian narrow guage

Today's video comes from a suggestion by Mark Howarth. He says,

I'm really enjoying Saturday film club. I came across this film about a year ago while looking for something else. I thought I might suggest it for possible inclusion. The method of shunting wagons along at 9:25 minutes in, is quite original.

A little digging and I discover the line runs from Pörböly to  Bárányfok via Gemenc Dunapar in Hungary. There are details, including a timetable on this website.  It's unusual to see a working industrial railway nowadays, but I assume that aside from the tourist work, the poor roads make rail more practical than it might otherwise be. There's certainly a lot of mug for the lorries and pickup to negotiate!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Replacement Wickham seats

 This isn't the greatest kit for a Wickham trolley as a few compromises have been made along the way. The most obvious being the seats. 

To my eye, they look like park benches. If I were a cynical person, I'd think that the manufacturer had casting for these in the range already and decided to use them in the trolley rather than doing the job properly. Unless anyone can prove otherwise, this looks a bit rubbish. 

So, out with some fat brass wire along with the couple of lengths of 0.7mm and during an old episode of Bergerac, I drew up a diagram on a bit of plywood and soldered up more accurate replacements. It helps that I had another trolley to measure as the copy of RM with the plan in has already gone back to the railway club. 

The job wasn't helped by me losing my stock of 100 degree solder so the brass to whitemetal joins had to be made in the traditional way by tinning the yellow metal before using low melt for the join. 

The result looks OK. Those back seat supports don't lean in as much as the photo suggests but now I've seen this, they will get another prod from a hot iron anyway. Seats will be plasticard or even thin wood as I feel a bit more thickness is required then sheet brass can provide, and of course the old seats don't fit anymore. Does anyone need a 7mm scale park bench?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Soldered Wickham body

Since the mystery Wickham kit is made of great big lumps of whitemetal, work starts with some low-melt soldering. Even for a beginner, this would be the best choice, those lumps are to big to melt without serious effort. Since there isn't much in the way of positive location aids, being able to tack bits together, have a look and then move then is a real boon.

Without instructions, assembly is guesswork, although mainly as far as the running boards go. Even I can work out the end to floor relationship!

Apart from shortening the top bars holding the canvas, everything seemed to fit OK and it's all pretty square thanks to a little fettling with the file. I haven't had to fettle a kit in this way for a while and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. When it works.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Farringdon & High Holburn Station

Farringdon Station

A trip to London last week too me to Farringdon & High Holburn station to meet up with some friends. 

The old building, as seen in the photo is interesting. You can tell the affluence of the area by the Portland stone main part - a boon for modellers as scribing the stones in plastic sheet would be easy. All the windows are square topped and surrounded by details that would cover up any errant knife work. 

Behind, we have London yellow brick. Great for setting the location but there are curved window tops to consider and I've never found a way of doing these without a laser cutter. Not properly flush anyway. 

In a nod to history, the words "Parcels Office" can still be seen. A real relic from the era when the underground wasn't just for moving people but a more normal railway system. Apparently there were freight services, including a station in use until the 1920s and the building still stands. 

Modelling the underground in these early days would make an interesting prospect as you'd be building something very different from today's "tube".

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mystery Wickham kit

Whitemetal Wickham kit

Earl King is one of the people responsible for me being involved in railway modelling. His enthusiasm pointed young Phil at the hobby so it's partly his fault. 

Anyway, a few days ago, he drops in. Having seen my pieces in BRM, in his pocket is a mystery 7mm scale Wickham trolley kit. It's obviously a very early multi-media model but there are no makers marks or other details to identify the manufacturer.

Whitemetal Wickham kit floor

The floor is nicely moulded and complete with some interesting "junk" detail. Underneath there is a rectangular indentation to accommodate a SPUD for motorisation. That places it late 1980s at the earliest.
So, can anyone suggest a manufacturer? I'm going to build the model anyway but it would be nice to know.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dust and muck

I can't stand seeing people messing around with the wrong tools for the job, especially when the right tools are easily available.

Which is why I confiscated the rotating brush head from our Henry vacuum clears from my dad as he prodded and poked at it with a large screwdriver. It might have been the right tool for undoing the screws holding the two halves of the casing together, but not for de-fluffing the inside.

Carefully stripping down the mechanism was great fun. The fan blades which drive the brushes were removed using a vice and large hammer gently applied. Fine pliers pulled out rubber mounts and gradually extracted all the muck from inside.

Eventually it all went back together. Sadly, to no great effect. The cover over the drive belt has worn through in two decades of use and jams the unit so it looks like time to go and buy a new one. Still, taking things apart is fun!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Normal service will be resumed...

Tomorrow. Probably.

New PC has arrived and I'm busy sorting it out so all the stuff I use is where I want it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Film Club: Radio control cake!

You may have noticed that I'm partial to a bit of cake. And a bit of radio control modelling.

What do you get if, like this Hong Kong bakery, you combine the two? Radio control cake!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sci-fi and Fantasy modeller magazine to close

A sad announcement this week - the next issue of Sci-fi and Fantasy modeller magazine will be the last.

For those not familiar with the publication, it's very high quality quarterly publication for model makers interested in TV and film science fiction projects. There's a lot of studio model refurbishment alongside build articles on kits produced by people like Round 2.

I've bought a few copies over the years from the Birmingham branch of Ian Allan bookshop. Apart from the IPMS show, it's the only place I ever saw copies.

And I suspect this is part of the problem. You had to be keen to get your hands on a copy. Yes you can buy on-line but as the worn carpet by the railway section of my local WH Smith attests, people like to look at the product first.

This is something they highlighted in the e-mail announcing the demise. Turning casual readers into subscriptions didn't happen in sufficient numbers.

A big part of the problem was the price - £14.95 per issue. The UK model railway press will give you three issues for this money and we know British modellers prize quantity over quality. Shame, as this was something SFFM didn't have to worry about. Each issue is beautifully presented on A4 size high quality paper with full colour photos on every page. The cover is a much heavier paper, it's like holding a Wild Swan book, albeit with a matt finish cover, in your hands. You would happily have the entire set on a bookshelf.

Advertising was very limited indeed. There aren't many people worldwide producing kits for this market and I guess that the general trade wasn't interested. Mind you, when you see how some modellers howl at the presence of any adverts in a magazine (presumably they only watch the BBC on TV) then at least this will have led to a quieter life for the editor. 

The market for a dedicated sci-fi mag is going to be limited and combined with the price, they won't get it into WH Smith so the maximum number of people can take a look.

Some of the more practical articles could be "interesting" too. One covering building a replica of the Hawk spacecraft from Space 1999 mentioned that the modeller happened to have the studio original to hand and took a mould from this for his project. That's not something anyone else can do (he didn't make the casting available for sale) so interesting as the article was, it wasn't something you could follow. Mind you, I always felt this was more of a "coffee table" publication that you'd read for the pleasure of reading rather than finding huge amounts of practical advice. We can't all restore a studio model of the starship Enterprise but then we will still enjoy reading about it and looking at the photos. For many of use, that model was part of our TV watching youth!

All this doesn't detract from the great shame that with a world-wide market, a specialist magazine can't attract enough readers to be economic. Closing a magazine is hard on those who have put a huge amount of effort in to publishing it.  Let's hope they get to move on to something else.

More details on the Sci-fi and Fantasy modeller website.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

An Introduction to 7mm Narrow Gauge Modelling

Thrust into my hand at the weekend, the latest publication from The 7mm Narrow Gauge Association - An Introduction to 7mm Narrow Gauge Modelling.

It's a free 12 page A4, full colour, magazine that reprints three articles by Howard ES Clarke.

The first introduces the scale - a good idea as many new modellers find narrow gauge nomenclature confusing. To us old hands, it simple - O scale models running on 16.5mm guage chassis to represent narrow gauge prototypes - but when I talk about this sort of thing to people at shows, it's a mystery to them.

This is a shame as O16.5 modelling has a lot going for it. You have all the advantages of the larger scale but can make use of RTR chassis often picked up for small change because of a damaged body. It's the perfect scale for those who fancy dabbling in scratchbuilding or just messing around and doing model-making.

The second and third articles cover wagons and coaches in the scale. It's all very general but then that's what you need in a taster publication like this. Someone in the 7mmNGA has worked out that you don't sign up any members if they don't understand who you are, and has been willing to put their money where their mouth is and publish this guide.

Rather than me run through the whole thing, thanks to the wonders of the web, you can download the booklet from the association website for free. 

And if you want to know more, head over to

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Ropewalk


A trip down to the Portsmouthdockyard to see the Mary Rose among other things. One building sadly not available to tourists is the ropewalk. It's firmly in the fenced off area protected by people with guns. 

Most people won't have a use for such a building on their models, except that is, for my friend Chris who has built the frontage on his model "Overlord". He chickened out of the full structure as it is very long indeed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Pliers rack

Part of the preparation for the Doncaster show was to really clean up my modelling board. Not just put a bit of stuff away then sweep the big bits of swarf into a bin, properly take everything off the board and clean up the deepest corners of the rubbish and muck that has been festering there for years.

It was pretty horrible.

Back home, I'm determined to improve. When working, I chuck offcuts into a pot for quick transfer to the bin. Tools will be stored properly and not just amass in a pile under my right hand.

To help, I picked up this rather nice laser cut rack for pliers form Poppy's Woodtech for a fiver. 10cm long and with the top of the support 9cm from the deck, it's perfect for small pliers but too small for Xuron cutters with their longer handles. Assembly is a matter of seconds as the parts locate very securely. No glue required, but I did need to gently tap them with a hammer.

OK, I could make something shaped like an inverted T with a couple MDF offcuts but I like the 3-point support rather than the solid sheet base I'd have produced. And it was only a fiver at a show that didn't see much buying action.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Book Review: Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik

Publisher: Viking

ISBN: 978-0670920549

A5 Softback

272 pages


Most of my work involved messing around with various materials so when I spotted a book claiming to explain in layman's terms, how these work then it was worth borrowing from the local library.

I'd not consciously heard of the author but looking at the book flyleaf, I found he set up The Institute of Making, an organisation I had heard of one of the my more talented friends has also been involved with it in the past.

Anyway, the book takes the reader through some pretty heavy science but in a light and understandable way. We find out why metals get harder when you bash or bend them but soften if they are heated up.

There's some nice stuff about why glass is clear, or at least why things other than glass (such as aluminium Star Trek fans) aren't too. I think I understand it and if I need to be sure, a second read would do it. Arguably, this sort of book needs to be read twice - once to enjoy the ride and again to fix some of the details in your head.

One fascinating chapter covers a material I'd never heard of - Aerogel. It's difficult to explain (read the Wikipedia page for a start) but basically, you take the structure of a jelly and remove the liquid that makes it jelly. The result is something that looks like blue smoke but has many amazing properties. Protecting flowers from the heat of a Bunsen burner is just a party trick, but an interesting one showing it to be a superb insulator.

If you are the sort of person who enjoys finding out how things work, this is recommended reading. I learnt quite a lot, some of which will actually be useful in the future, especially if someone tries to sell me a magical electric blade sharpener!

Buy Stuff Matters from Amazon

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Watercolour of the week: Lifford Lane Kings Norton

No, not a new feature on the blog, it's just that I spotted this lovely image by Frank Taylor Lockwood on the  Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website and thought I'd share it with you.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Saturday Film Club: Hellingly on film

Hat tip to Jonathan Clay for this one via Unseen Steam. 

A very short clip showing the Hellingly Hospital Railway loco working a railtour in the 1950s. Only the second bit of film I've ever seen and the other is on a DVD full of buses. If I could find my copy, I'd point you at that one too but no luck. Never mind, just watch this a few times.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Garratt repair


A quick and interesting job has come my way - a minor repair to a Garratt. 

The return crank on one corner had come unsoldered from its pin.  Drilling through the old solder, cleaning everything up and then re-soldering with a hot iron and some flux fixed things. After 3 goes anyway. 

Once repaired, the locomotive runs sweet as a nut. I think it's built from the Backwoods Miniatures etched kit and apart from a few knocks to the paintwork, looks really nice. I'll admit that giving this one back to its owner will be hard as I'd really like one of these big Garratts for my own collection. Whether I'd be up to building all those tiny waggly bits is open to question...

Thursday, March 02, 2017

BRM stuff this month

After a quiet BRM issue for Phil stuff last month, there's quite a lot of me in the Spring 2017 issue:


Yes, while we recruit a new editor, I get to write the introductory page with some comments about the price of exhibition tickets that will have people spitting their tea out.

Wickham shed diorama


Ever wondered where Wickham trolleys lived with not being used by St Trinians schoolgirls as chase vehicles? I've been digging around and made a scene in 7mm scale that could be built in any scale. Of course, it looks a bit empty, but we'll look at that next month...

Build a narrow gauge loco
009 loco

Some time ago, I was looking for a suitable WW1 body for a Roco diesel. I've found one and it's an easy to build kit made with etched and 3D printed parts. Don't wait for Bachmann to provide you with something to pull that 009 rolling stock, make your own motive power.

Detail a platform

70s platform furniture

The 70s wasn't renowned for taste but now the platform furniture from that era seems as dated as Great Western benches and milk churns. For Stamford East, I've built some suitably dated clutter.

Model a local hotel

Park cottage

It's not often a kit for a local prototype turns up on my workbench but this German laser-cut kit is for a hotel 5 miles away from me.

Building a smokey chimney

One of the fun features on Ruston Quays is the chimney with real, and very smelly, smoke. Making one isn't quite as simple as you might think, but using an anglicised foreign kit and a smoke unit, I can stink out a show as well as an enthusiast who hasn't washed for a month.

Heljan 1366 review
Heljan 1366s

They don't often let me lose with new locomotives but even if they are Great Western, small locos found in docks are my thing so I've been digging out the prototype info and looking at the Heljan model. I've always wanted to build one of these, but do I need to any more?

Over on the DVD, I'm building an N gauge Wickham trolley.

And since the feature layout is my local club's P4 model Clarendon, we filmed the whole lot there complete with a tour of the clubrooms. I expect to be greeted at shows with, "Hello Phil. Hello Phil's dad..."

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Warehouse Wednesday: Gasometers

New Southgate gas holder

Things that have disappeared from our town landscape - gasometers.We used to have two at the bottom end of Leamington, I remember them from my childhood. Now the site is under housing, although not until the top metre of contaminated solid was removed as I recall. 

For kidz who don't remember these things, in the middle of the ring were three segments of the giant plunger affair which stored gas. The more gas, the higher the plunger went up until it reached the top. It's a clever arrangement and for a certain era - iconic. The move to natural gas and introduction of a national pipe network rendered them obsolete, but moves are afoot to list those that remain.

I was reminded of this when looking at the view from Ally Pally a few weeks ago. Then on the run back, there was another holder frame for my passenger to photograph. All very interesting. 

Distant gas holder

Modelling these from scratch would be a bit of a nightmare, but in the era of laser cutting, technology have come to our aid with kits such as this Modelux OO version.

For traditionasts, Bilteezi made a cardboard kit, although it doesn't look right to me. More like an oil storage depot. 

Hornby used to sell a respectable ready to use version. You can still track these down on eBay.

I'm sure someone has made an etched brass version too, but can't find details at the moment.