Monday, January 22, 2018

Miss-chief at speed

Model speedboat

Adding a propeller makes a huge different to my little speedboat!

Miss-chief still isn't the fastest model on the water, but she works well enough for me and is a really enjoyable sail. Even in cross-winds, the top seems to stay put and no water found its way inside. 

I'm not completely finished though. The rudder is the wrong shade of red, a brass prop has been bought to replace the plastic one, and I have some vintage design advertising logos for extra decoration. 

Watch this space.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Chiltern Model Railway show 2018


Didn't this use to be St Albans show?

Yes, it did, but then they made the move to Stevenage to a leisure centre and theatre complex. Result - instead of the horribly cramped and difficult to navigate accommodation of past years, this time we have two large, rectangular halls.

The organisers have taken the advantage of this to fill them with lots of high-quality layouts, several of which would have been too large for the old place.

Getting in a bit odd as the ticket booth is upstairs and show on the ground floor. The last vestiges of the panto were evident with Dick Whittington themed cafe names still pinned up as the show finishes its run.


Sorry to report that this was another show with a lot of chatting which I know doesn't make for an exciting report. I did take a few photos and the excellent lighting means most of them came out OK.

Highlights had to be listening to the Gauge 3 models run. Not the sound units in the electric locos, but the rumble of heavy rolling stock over track joints - absolutely perfect. You can try in smaller scales, but never really achieve that deep thunk so redolent of old train journeys. I don't miss it on a modern train, but there is something very reassuring about the sound on a slow service.

Aerial and Pickles

The show attracts layouts from abroad, including this slightly mad, but apparently prototypical one with a working cableway. Not only working, but very well modelled too. It's easy to do this as a gimmick, but much harder to do a quality job.

Sutton Wharf

If there has to be a "layout I'd like to built", it's going to be Sutton Wharf. I love the large scale and the atmospheric colouring and building finishes. Over the years, I've come to appreciate narrow gauge oddities and one day will build something along these lines myself I hope.

Tea and pasteries stand

One change to show reports for a while will be the lack of cake reviews I'm afraid. A new leaf has been turned over with some healthy eating on the agenda and for the moment that means I don't get cake. I can report the tea was lovely and the chicken in a basket perfectly fine. Not pricey either. To ben honest, the cake slooked nice, but small, so I didn't miss them too much...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Savannahlander

The Savannahlander is an Australian tourist train that takes its passengers out into the bush. Rolling stock is fantastic looking 1960s railcars with more than a hint of Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon about them.

Because this is for tourists, there has a be a safety briefing and it's entertainingly Australian, especially right at the end...

Obviously you can't see much of the train in the safety video, so here's it running.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Britfix balsa glue

Brought in with an old wooden boat kit recently, this tube of glue takes me right back to my first modelling days.

I can't remember how old I was, possibly 5 or 6, when my Dad presented me with a carrier bag full of balsa wood offcuts, a knife and some glue. Britfix glue to be precise. For that bag of bits, an entire modelling career was born.

This glue is still in mint condition. I've not opened the tube, but it's still squishy so I bet it would work.

How many others remember this range? As I recall, there was also a plastic cement with a yellow ended tube, but I can't be sure. When did Britfix disappear?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

February Garden Rail and EiM

Garden Rail is looking back tot he snowy weather just before Christmas to see how those whose layouts are affected by great big dollops of the white stuff deal with it.

Being a magazine covering a wide range of scale and gauges can be challenging. How small is too small? Martin R Wicks explains to readers how the O gauge world has changed - and I had great fun categorising this as "Smaller scales" - which to most of the readership it is. What a different world from BRM where many people aspire to O but don't have space!

There's plenty of building too including Si Harris showing how to make plastic sheet look like wood. It's one of those cross-scale techniques that I'm keen to include. After all, there needs to be something for everyone and there is a lot to appreciate in every branch of the garden hobby.

Engineering in Miniature is all about bringing new blood into the hobby. People are always moaning that the hobby is full of old folks - although to be fair, this recently happened as the person saying it swung an arm pointing at a room about half full of families with kids, so I guess sometimes it's what you want to believe.

Anyway, the National Traction Engine Club founded The Steam Apprentice Club years ago to help solve this problem and we report on their latest project - a 4in traction engine.

Solomon Johnson, Northern Association of Model Engineers Junior Engineer of the year 2016 writes the young engineers column and Dave Rowe, a name many railway modellers will remember from the 1970s and 80s, shows us how to build a simple automata to plant the seed of "making" into the grandchildren.

Talking of new blood, this also sees my last issue of EiM. 6 months of editing both magazines at the same time has been more than a challenge so I'm handing over the chair to Andrew Charman. No rest for me though, I've several new BRM projects on the horizon, more on these later in the year.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Brick and stone

Brick and stone building

Mystery building time. All I know about this is that I took the photo while on the Ecclesbourne Railway.

The design also seems a bit of a mystery. Why brick AND stone? Was the original building stone and the brick is a development? Surely that would be almost as expensive as knocking it down and starting again? It's certainly a very neat join.

That said, the results are very attractive and this would make a nice model. Perhaps a prototype for that day when you run out of brick or stone Plastikard and the shops are shut, but you have some spare sheets of another finish...

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bonnet detailing

Fun time - the body goes together well enough so I get to move on to the detailing stage. Plastic rivets are supplied - these being Cambrian Models. Spotted in place using Revell Contacta glue, followed by a generous wash of liquid solvent, they work very well. I decided that the long panels deserved 6 rather than 4 lumps, it looks better even if the maintenance crews need to do more spannering.

No handles are supplied but a length of 2mm diameter brass wire was pulled out, bent and cut to length. Forced into pre-drilled holes, I had to use more solvent to fix as I was working at the model railway club and forgot to take any superglue. It seems to have worked.

The "cab" is more generous than I expected for the driver. I need to do some research to see what controls are required.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Getting the right angles

I've probably mentioned these before, but some of the most useful tools I own are these cast iron angles bought from Squires tools.

Assembling the Dotti kit body parts, it's important to keep them at right angles and using these lumps of metal as supports holds things in place as well as keeping in the right place. An added refinement would be to use some magnets to hold the plastic against the angle, but the speed the glue dries, this isn't really necessary.

Incidentally, for joining these parts, I'm using Precision Paints Superweld, partly because it was handy on the shelf but also 'cos it works really well. I like the sped at which a model can go together this way.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Scoutrail 2018


The first show of the year within sensible driving distance for me is Scoutrail at Kidlington. I've exhibited there many years ago and used to be a regular visitor. Circumstances have prevented me visiting for a few years but I've made up for that this year.

Over time, the show has morphed into a large scale event with relatively few smaller scale layouts. That's good news for me with my new hat on and I certainly enjoyed looking at some live steam locos trundling around. This Regner vertical boiler model particularly caught my attention as it ran exceptionally well and looked great.


Going small, how about a layout in a coffee table? I've not seen one of these for a while and as long as you love N gauge, it just shows how much action can be delivered in a small space and one that could find a home in your living room at that!

N gauge layout in a coffee table

In 4mm scale, urban MPD, Byway, caught my eye. A small layout with excellent colouring and enough detail to fill the scene but not so much it looked cluttered.

Urban water tower

My favourite was Frampton on Severn, making its exhibition debut. Proper OO with Peco track, the modelling is lovely and it's very much the sort of thing that many modellers could aspire to. The sort of model I like as if you are new to the hobby but aspire to higher standards, it's within your reach.


My point is that OO doesn't have to mean ready to plonk buildings - you can do lots of work yourself with kits and scratch building to make your model very much your own.

More photos on Flickr.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Triang TV adverts

It's been a week of product announcements from the big two UK model railway manufacturers and as usual, social media is full of people frothing with excitement and those bemoaning there not being anything for them. 

Time for a quick look back to the days when a train set was available for a fiver and Minic Motorway was a thing.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Palitoy S Gauge coaches

Palitoy S Gauge coaches

S scale has always fascinated me. A couple of years ago, I had the chance to build a wagon kit in the scale for a magazine series and this involved me carrying out a little research. 

The SSMRS history web page threw up something I hadn't know - in 1951, Palitoy sold an RTR train set. That's the same Palitoy I always associate with Action Man or Star Wars figures. 

The set consisted of a GWR Prarie, a couple of coaches and circuit of track. It was crude but at least it existed. Sadly, the set wasn't a success and it quickly vanished, to be the preserve of collectors of weird model railway stuff. 

People like me. 

I've been keeping an eye out for a set on eBay for a while but they are rare. Imagine my surprise then, when perusing the cabinets at Hereford Model Centre, I spot a couple of the coaches for £3 each. 

 They are horribly crude. Some sharp-eyed people will spot the lack of bogies under the body. Each coach is 182mm long and 45mm wide so a way off scale - they look seriously dumpy.

No matter, these are a genuine curiosity. One day I'll track down a loco to go with them. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Building a childs wooden multiplay playhouse

Recently, I offered to help assembled a TP Wooden Multiplay Playhouse for a friend's 4 year old daughter. Being told that it was a wooden garden toy that came in pieces, I couldn't resist the chance to get involved.

Before getting started, I asked for the details I could pack a suitable toolkit. This photo duly followed:

Not too bad. I added some glue and sandpaper to the box. Looking at the reviews, these seemed positive with the fastest build time being 3 hours. This mattered as we planned to start at 2pm and the daylight deserts us around 5pm. My favourite was the "we got a box of sticks and had to pay someone to build it for us!!!" one - what exactly did they expect?

To help me, I enjoyed the assistance (or maybe I was the assistant) of the recipients grandfather, an engineer who enjoys some seriously high-quality woodwork. He also arrived with a more generous toolkit than the instructions suggested. We've both been caught out before...

Construction started well. The basic platform went togehter easily enough. There are a few things to pay attention too - the floor isn't in the middle of the uprights so you need to make sure you have everything the correct way up.

Most of the holes are drilled which is a massive help, but the screws are sometimes long - up to 16cm in several cases and my Bosch cordless screwdriver wasn't quite up to the job. Fortuantly, John's version was rather more powerful, saving loads of time, even if it didn't allow him to use his collection of Yankee screwdrivers very much.

We made a couple of mistakes along the way - the floor planks have cut-outs for the corners and so these were pushed well in leaving a lip along the edge over the main beams. This is wrong and we had to undo a little work to shove the planks over. Not a biggie.

We also (OK, I also) got a bit confused attaching the outside plank walls and managed to build one 90 degrees from where it should be. As it happens, this only required the removal of one long plank and it's replacement with a short one.

I enjoyed the build. It went together well, but you have to pay attention as you go. John insisted on being properly precise, marking wood with both pencil and square so we lined things up properly.

Build time was 2.5 hours - a world record but we don't want to boast about it. To be fair, the 2 cups of tea and 1 of diet coke were drunk as we worked so no breaks for us.

One modification we made was to fill in a hole in the side with a bit of spare plank (you can chose where the slide exists and have to shorten a plank to do this, leaving a bit of spare wood). It's not high and any landing would be on grass, but it's better to keep small children inside.

The big mystery is, why did we need spanners? There were no nuts and bolts in the pack and no indication any optional parts that would use them. (Update: The same tool list is in the swing set instructions as well and this DOES use bolts - presumably it is a standard graphic used for each set of instructions.)

If you are contemplating a build like this, get a massive cross-head screwdriver and a really powerful screwdriver. Ideally, you need 3mm drill bits about 6 inches long but we managed with normal ones - just.

The kit is well designed and all the parts numbered with little stickers that you can see on the finished building. Some de-stickering work there for Mum I think.I'm told the little one is thoroughly enjoying it though, so that counts as success.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Slingfield Mill

Weavers Wharf

If you go down to the Severn Valley Railway today, prepare for a big surprise. At least if you follow the rest of the family into town for a bit of "normal" retail therapy.

Head to "Weavers Wharf" and you will find Slingfield Mill, a restored and converted industrial building now pressed into service as a hotel and department store by Cundall (there is more on their website)

Weavers Wharf windows

It's a stunning building. Imposing, but with lots of interesting and attractive detailing. The black and yellow brick decoration is very unusual and must have been quite a thing to push through at the design stage.

Weavers Wharf chimney

Obviously the site has changed enormously over the years as you can see from this aerial photo from the Britain From the Air website

Those gas-holders are now a car park and modern shopping centre. Quite a few of the canal side buildings survive though if you need an industrial hit while drinking your mocachocapachino and contemplating adding to the designer wear in your wardrobe...

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Dotti chassis

Nothing much changes. Many years ago, I'd look at Saltford Models kits with chassis made of a simple U-shaped channel fitted with a cheapo motor and gears. The biggest change now is that the wheels are turned steel rather than whitemetal, and the modeller has to stick 3 pre-cut bits of plastic together to make the channel.

The point is, it works.

Although the model can be built to 32mm or 45mm gauges, I've gone for the former as I'd like to run this at the 16mm Assoc. steaming sessions. It also seems more like a 32mm loco than the wider 45. Building it in both gauges would be interesting...

Brass bearings are pressed into the pre-made holes using a vice first and then parts are glued together with an ABS solvent. A spray of Halfords matt black was left to dry overnight before all the parts were fitted.

I deveated from the instructions in a couple of places.

First, there are very think plastic spacers behind the wheels to stop them rubbing in the chassis sides and wearing the paint away. B to B is 1mm wider then it should be but only half of that is down to the spacers. I can't see this being a big problem, this isn't P4!

Second, the switches are bolted in place rather than glued. Since holes are provided for this, I assume it's to avoid the cost (money and time) of providing the tiny bolts. I feel this is a more engineering solution and anyway, I'd probably get glue in the switches.

Up and running in a couple of hours, there really isn't anything to worry about with this sort of wonderfully crude engineering. That's what I love about this end of the hobby, anyone can have a go. 

First, some very thin plasticard washers

Monday, January 08, 2018

Dotti kit

Time to build something new for the garden. This IP Engineering "Dotti" 0-4-0 kit has been kicking around for months in my "pending" pile. It's a discontinued model that I bought for bargain price so I can't really do a magazine build on it, but that's good news for blog readers.

Unlike most of the IP range, the kit parts are cut from plastic sheet rather than wood. Whitemetal details are included plus bolt heads from Cambrian. Motor, wheels and gears are also in the pack. The model will be battery powered using a couple of AAA cells. Control isn't sophisticated - on/off and forward/reverse initially but in the future I'd like to have a look at this.

At present, this kit is still available from the Vale of Rheidol eBay shop.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Steaming Saturday

One of my tasks for 2018 is to get out and about visiting lots of garden railways. Late December isn't ideal for this, but luckily enough there was a 16mm Association group having a Saturday steaming session one afternoon on an indoor layout.

Turning up at the barn, the welcome was warm - both from the wood burner in the corner and members present. We enjoyed a couple of hours watching small locos chuff around the portable layout set up for the session.

I'm keen to go back again, but feel a bit out of place without a live steam loco of my own. Another objective this year is to fill this gap in my stock list. I've felt that I could do with a "pet" loco that starts of very basic and gradually is worked on to personalise it.

For the moment, battery electrics are allowed on the track between steam runs, so that's what I'll start with.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Saturday Film Club: Robot track laying

There's a shorter and more complete version here:

all of which is reminicant of the greatest train chase ever filmed.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Partwork Season: Classic Dinky Toys Collection


To be honest, I wasn't going to mention the new DeAgostini Classic Dinky Toys Collection partwork. I'd seen the attractive, in a vintage way, car and magazine combo on the newsagents shelves a few times. The £2.99 price tag had tempted me slightly but really, I wasn't going to buy the rest, TR2's aren't my bag (TR7 - yes please) and anyway, I don't need more "stuff". 

Then I read the thread over on RMweb covering the topic. There are of course suggestions that these are "fakes" and will upset collectors. 

But then there is this post from andyman7:

The Atlas/DAgostini models have been in production now for around 4 years and due to their relatively high quality and the fact that they are properly licensed and authorised they have actually held their value well - indeed many of the regular price releases are freely sold at quite a bit above their issue price. They are reproductions rather than fakes and certainly in relation to some of the rarer Dinky and French Dinky models where pristine originals command hundreds of pounds they have filled a gap.

He goes on to say he's sold spare or unwanted models from previous series for a profit on eBay. 

andyman7 isn't wrong. The model is well made, the finish is probably better than the Dinky original. On the base, it's clearly marked as a reproduction. You can't claim this is a fake - it isn't pretending to be original. 

A quick look on eBay shows many of these partwork models clearly marked as such - and on offer for many times the £2.99 price of the first issue. Later issues will be £11.99 (Issue 2 £7.99) which seems pricey for a toy car but presumably the later ones will be much rarer. 

An original Dinky TR2 can easily cost £50+, so if you want a collection without effort or significant cost, this is probably the way to do it.

Sadly, I find myself looking at the "Kodak" Bedford 10cwt van with issue 2 and thinking, "That looks nice" and issue 4 is a Beetle... 

If nothing else, this is a cheap way to get yourself a model to practise your painting on.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Didsbury Green continues in BRM and I go to Pendon

2018 hadn't quite arrived when the subscription copies of BRM landed on the doorstep. The bank holiday will allow readers to check out progress on my new micro layout "Didsbury Green".

Wiring up is this months job. I've built a control panel too, and being an unusual layout, it's not the standard box hanging on the back, but a built-in unit that provides somewhere to put the switches and a useful view-blocker for the entrance from the fiddle yard.

I've also taken a look at lighting with LEDs, perfect for a tiny model but requiring a bit of experimentation.

Over in the review corner, I take a look at Bachmann's new range of 009 wagons.

Finally, your DVD see's me going all Portillo with a trip to Pendon.

Andy York and I spent the day looking behind the scenes and chatting with the people responsible for the world-famous model.We even manage to end up in the pub!

As an aside, I do have to laugh at the keyboard warriors responding to suggestions that Pendon is the worlds best model railway with "WHEN WAS THAT VOTE HELD????".

Anyway, loads of good stuff in the February issue of BRM.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Warehouse Wednesday: Hellingly Hospital Railway weighbridge hut

When I built my model of The Hellingly Hospital Railway, one of the great frustrations was the lack of information on the weighbridge hut. I appears in the corner of a single image in the first edition of Peter Hardings book and Peter was able to let me see the original image which reveals a bit more. Apart from that, nothing.

I've asked dozens of people who knew the line and uncovered no further details. That is, until I browsed the Britain From Above website, typed "Hellingly" into the search and found these two images.

You can clearly see the hut tucked behind a set of garages. Zooming in (I can't post those images to the blog, you'll have to go and look yourself, registration is free) it looks like, I didn't do a bad job with my model although I didn't put the end window in. Maybe I'll build another version one day...

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Filling the calendar up

The new years sees me trying to get a handle on all the events I need to try to attend, and there are quite a lot of them in the next 12 months!

The problem is that so much happens at weekends and this results in lots of clashes. I think it's time we re-organised the week to include "Week Middles" a couple of time a month. These would be like weekends except that they would be on Wednesday,

An extra day off twice a month would allow 1-day events to find new spaces in the calendar. People would have lots of new places to go but as these only take a day, they won't travel as far so the local economy will improve. Everyone benefits.

We'll even become more productive - at the moment UK workers output is lower then French workers, and they very sensibly spend most of their time on holiday or at lunch.

Most importantly, people would be happier and modellers might get through their piles of projects a little bit faster!

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 - Review of the year

12 years of blogging and there hasn't been a let up in model making activities for me.

While 2016 was notable for me giving up editing MREmag, this year has seen a reversal of fortunes with the editor's chars for Garden Rail and Engineering in Miniature magazine coming my way. With all the BRM work, that's made for a slightly over-stuffed programme.

Taking these on was a leap of faith for both myself and Warners - I've not edited a newsstand magazine before but they trusted me to do a good job and I don't think I've let them down. There isn't an issue I'm unhappy with and looking back, several I'm really proud of. Much of this is due to working with excellent designers who have done a terrific job in making both publications look fantastic.

Things continue to evolve and I know there are several exciting projects on the horizon for 2018 so watch this space.

I'm not just writing either. Obviously there is the video work, but they've also trusted me to go out and bag a few layouts at shows.

I've also slipped a few other publications in while freelancing - History Magazine was a first. Even though I wrote with a model railway theme, it's interesting to get out of the sector.  My column in the Hornby Collectors Club magazine carries on too - which reminds me, I better ask the editor what he wants next.

On the workbench, there seem to have been a lot of Wickham railcars this year. N, OO and O gauge models including a narrow gauge one built from a rather tired old white metal kit.


For BRM, there was a diorama complete with working O gauge railcar. 

Talking of dioramas, possibly my proudest achievement this year has been kicking off the BRM Cake Box challenge in October. 

Filming the Titfield Thunderbolt
To be honest, we'd expected that over a year we might get 20 models being built - but within a week there were 17 threads running on RMweb and now over 70. Add to that the models that aren't being written up on the forum and the chances are we are looking at over 100. People, it seems, will build models, they just need to be inspired. If I'm contributed to this in any way, I'm really, really pleased.

 If you asked which project I'm most pleased with over the year, the answer is surprisingly the Metcalf Models card footbridge revamp. It wasn't the most complicated, nor expensive, but the results really blew me away. Such a difference so easily and a model that could grace any layout.

All this has limited my own modelling quite a bit. I certainly haven't been as productive as I'd like to have been. A 2CV kit provided light relief, but was really a stick it together job. 

More complicated was the On30 railbus built from a second-hand kit.

On30 Railbus front

As you saw yesterday, my vintage speedboat just scrapped into this year as well.

All of which means that the list of uncompleted projects from this time last year hasn't changed much:
  • 7mm scale Garratts STILL haven't been out of their boxes
  • I found the 3mm scale Class 25 the other day and it hasn't bothered to build itself.
  • O gauge "Flying Banana" railcar, still summoning up the courage to re-start that. 
  • 4mm GWR steam railcar, I know it's one people would like to see finished. Me too.
  • The Cravens DMU is probably the first candidate on this list to re-start as it should be fairly simple. 
And my Beetle still sits forlornly in the garage stopping it filling up with junk. 

All this is weird. I've been very, very busy this year but looking back through the postings, I don't seem to have produced that much. 

Talking of postings:
  • 365 posts - one a day. I'm chuffed with that.
  • An average of 423 visitors a day. Up on last year. OK, I'm not Zoella, but that's OK.
  • 214000 page views. Again, up on last year
So, 2018. More projects. More travel. More magazine stuff. More personal projects too I hope.

Thanks for reading, and commenting. It's always great to know there is someone out there.