Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Happy Birthday Blog

Hard to believe, but this blog is  a decade old today. Ten years of me wittering on about toy trains. The first post (although there is some confusion and blogger seems to have compressed this area) was about the then new N gauge cattle vans from Peco which were very timely as we needed a batch for the cattle dock traffic on Unnycombe. The post is noticeably short and can be found here.

The question now is where to go next. I've covered most things from soldering up O gauge coaches to N gauge platform trollies, buildings in card and plastic, track, weathering, lots of bog paper scenery  and just about every logical subject for a builder of small model train layouts, excepting DCC for just that same reason.

I've detailed in recent posts the tidying up and labelling process and regulars may have spotted a deluge of posts of late, partly as an experiment. Possibly more on that another day. There may be some more small changes and I'm half tempted at this juncture to move the whole thing to a new address as there are a couple of things that I'd like to do that aren't possible as it stands. The basic shape of me making stuff and moaning is unlikely to change though.

This basic blogging shape has seen me move from spare time hobbyist to almost full time writer/editor, almost by accident. Now this line has been crossed it's something that I want to grow, as the other side of my work life is naturally shrinking.

If you've been here from the start, then thanks for staying the distance. If you've just wandered in from the cold, then welcome to the madness. Here's to the next ten years wherever it may lead.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Conwy Castle 009 - the handrails

Five 79 Chivers Conway Castle kit
One thing that you notice about diesels of any design is how many handrails and grab handles there are - or you do when you start putting a kit together. It's taken two days of modelling to get all the separate rails measured up, bent from brass, holes drilled (some were marked, others not) and all the bits stuck on. This is only a tiny kit, but there are 20 separate hand rails to fit and my patience reaches a point where I have had enough.

This is the Five 79 kit (ex Chivers - well Chivers junior anyway). Not the fastest delivery in the world and Matt hinted that he wasn't happy with the quality. I think what he was getting at was that people's expectations had now risen and a whitemetal kit that needed the usual amount of fettling/filing/filling wasn't where the modern mood was. I disagree. The cutting edge is supposedly 3D printing of loco kits, and we know what a lottery that can be. Plus I don't think that there is any less work for the buyer to do. These are good basic kits and cheap enough for the novice to learn some important general skills. The problem is that the designs are 25 years+ old and are swayed toward chassis units which are not around anymore. I'd say that the range needs a shake and upgrade for the 21st century and it'll be good for the next 25 years worth of 009 modellers.
Email Matt and tell him.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Is Loctite Control any good?

A wander out to get some glue saw me pick up some Loctite Control. In theory what this does is put exactly the right amount of glue in the right place. The material being stuck as always was brass and whitemetal. Here's what I found.

Loctite Control

Does Loctite Control stick things?
Yes. No problem with the fixative aspect and Loctite Control is as good as any of the cheaper end and easily available super glues. Working on a non-porous surface means it tends to spread around and doesn't work as quickly as it would on something softer. This is most of the reason for not using an all purpose adhesive like UHU which needs at least a roughening of the material's surface to get a good bond. This took slightly longer to go off than I expected, and it flowed around a little more than I'd have ideally wanted.

Does the 'control' aspect work?
It depends how much you want. It's essentially a pump and there is a tendency for it to keep flowing. This pump method is probably OK if you are working on a reasonably large surface say a car lamp cover. For model work the 'control' aspect isn't controlled enough and I found that I reverted back to old ways a few times and dropped some onto a piece of scrap plastic and then carried it to the work with a cocktail stick.

Does it suffer with getting gummed up?
This is probably the worst part of it. I would have thought that a first principle of a strong glue is to make the cap and nozzle out of a material that it didn't bond with. Not so here. All the design cash has gone into the pump part and not into thinking about getting the cap off at usage point two. Result: the second time I used it, I had to use a pair of snipe-nosed pliers to get the cap off. OK if you've got a good toolbox to hand, not good for most people who probably haven't, meaning that it'll go straight in the bin. On an environmental level, considering the amount of plastic in the pack, this is poor.

Are the tubes of super glue better?
I usually use one of the cheaper tube versions and I think on a value and ease of usage front these are better. I don't think I've ever used a super glue from any manufacturer that doesn't dry out before the end of the tube, so providing it sticks OK, the cheaper tubes seem to be a better bet. My preference is generally a Gel version, simply because it gives you a little time to adjust things as the glue is going off, though for some reason the liquid versions give a better long term bond.

The Loctite Control isn't efficient in usage or in packaging. For small part work it's not controlled enough and unless you use the whole bottle in one sitting then it's likely to be straight in the bin in 24 hours.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Great Model Railway Challenge

The great model railway challenge
I was chatting to a few friends a few days ago and the Great Model Railway Challenge was brought up  - it might as well have been a discussion on Brexit, so opposing were the responses.  I'm on record as saying fairly publicly around 18 months ago when they were punting around for the Series 1 teams that I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. My thoughts pre-broadcast was that it would be a set-up to ridicule. This didn't really come to pass though there were a couple of 'ouch'' moment in this regard. On this point specifically one thing has to be  taken into consideration: People are different. I notice this when I switch from an entertainment work setting where women especially are picked for size and attractiveness and people can speak clearly and 'to an audience'. Counter that when walking into any other work environment and you get a selection of the above. i.e. a mix of ordinary people: age, speech issues, grey hair, glasses and beer guts (me). It's not that railway modellers look any different to anyone else, but that they just don't look like hand-picked TV beautiful people and that's what we are used to seeing.

Is the show about modelling? Nearly. Most modellers would say it's not about the time it's a 'pastime' and this has no boundaries. TV forces that to an extreme as everything is about the time and it has to have entertainment value for the  non-modelling viewer. The themes tend to push the railway into the background and that's where most of the anti brigade GMRC sit on it - they may be right.

Does it work? Well I came away from series one entertained and with a feeling that this was good for the hobby as a whole - there was a noticeable number spike at exhibitions in the months following the show. More people coming in makes for cheaper and more numerous products and more successful exhibitions so there are lots of positive knock-ons. I notice that Hornby have suddenly woken up and tossed an ad' into the break in this series, whereas Peco were much quicker to realise the commercial advantage. The jury is still out for series two, and I doubt that it will run much past this with the current format. Getting railway modelling in front of a sedentary TV audience and in prime time can only be a good thing no matter about the beer guts.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Southern wagon coupling repair

Most of what I've done this week has been small repairs on Dury's Gap stock. Here a case in point. On opening the box I discovered that both couplings had mysteriously  dropped off this SR wagon, as had one door retainer. Why, in a closed box?

The couplings are the obvious tension locks. Post Art of Compromise I've started to standardise on slim Bachmann hooks at one end, and one of the slightly wider versions at the other - either Dapol, Bachmann or some recently discovered 'pack A' examples from the Replica stand at shows; which are dirt cheap as well. The single end-ing means they don't lock on curves, the wider female means the hook has plenty of space to slide around and doesn't ping the wagon off the track on a reverse curve. Singling make them easier to uncouple and the hooks don't tangle. On Rhiw I used ramps, but since then I tend to hand uncouple with a 'plate on a stick'.

This wagon was a conversion I did for the Southern book, a Ratio LMS 3 plank to an Ashford-built Southern example that's unlikely to get done by either the kit boys or the RTR market. Full details in that volume here:  Southern Region book

Friday, 13 September 2019

Ffestiniog Railway Conway Castle 009 kit

A ha, some modelling at last. After about a week of doing very little but model railways, but not actually doing any modelling, I cleared the top of the workbench and pulled over a plastic box of whitemetal bits which hopefully will morph into Conway Castle - or something like it anyway. It's about 25% done in that several of the larger lumps are already together and the footplate has been altered to take a Kato tram chassis instead of the Ibertren Cuckoo that it is intended for.

I'd not built a whitemetal kit for a couple of years and as we'd all cut our teeth on the Chivers kit range it seemed like a good place to start, seeing that this is for the next book and therefore nominally for the novice. The kits (now renamed Five 79 models) are available in dribs and drabs from Matt Chivers  and are essentially the same as the original range.

Today I spent an interesting hour trying to get the 'extra' handrails on top of the bonnet, or more to the point trying to get eight holes lined up and equal on a compound curved lump of slippery metal. I nearly made it. The rails themselves are point control wire of about half a mil diameter and are fixed with super glue - always a joy to use. There's another six to go on the sides of the bonnet plus the four around the cab doors. Most people would probably leave them off, but for me the grabs and handrails give those all important shadows on what is a fairly boxy structure.

sales (at)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Rhiw and the great tidy

Rhiw model railway layout

In recent months a couple of people have contacted me to ask for details of Rhiw the 1980s Welsh essay. I was puzzled as almost the entire year's build is documented here. It's also the layout page button with the highest traffic, which is not surprising as it's just about the most mainstream thing on here. Fast forward to the current streamlining and tidying of the blog and I realised what the problem was - it's all very badly labelled.

Toward the end of the build the name was changed to Rhiw from the original idea, but what I'd done, and then continued to do, was to label with the first name. At the time it didn't seem important, after all the page button at the top was the main entry point for it. This was wrong. The internet works in a certain way and there is no point having the information available if you make it hard to find. Therefore I'm going through the entire lot, thinning some things and making sure that all the stuff that I want to leave on here is now fully labelled. If you click on the 'Rhiw' tag at the bottom of this post you should get the entire build - in reverse order naturally. Or alternatively you can stick Rhiw into the search box at the top. This is the first layout to get the treatment and I'll gradually work through the others, though this I think may be the biggest.

I note that it's not exactly a nice logical blow-by-blow build, more a set of thought processes with accompanying photos. The nature of this or any blog is a tipping out of the brain more than an article type of structure which is all neat and tidy. It's this neat and tidy aspect which I'm hoping to improve.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Plans for Hopwood

Hopwood model railway layout
Development wise, Hopwood is paused. There are a few things to do yet: sort the FY out to something more useable, add detaily bits like clutter around the buildings, fix the lamp that I damaged last week etc, etc. As the saying goes, a layout is never finished, though I usually know when to stop - there is an optimum 80/20 point in most layout builds unless you are going for the full finescale bit and this is a looooong way from that. There are three shows in the book for next year and another pending following an invite over the weekend. There is also the possibility that it may sneak out in the near future to an undisclosed venue in Surrey - I'm waiting on that one.  I have a feeling that I could be surprised by this particular project and I'm not ashamed to say that I was a little dubious about it mainly vis-à-vis the operation.

Finding that optimum ratio between a small sized plan and functionality is one that can be hard to crack and I think that to get it to where I'm happier will take some thought. Home layouts are fine, but as soon as you take it out to a show there has to be entertainment value in that there needs to be movement 90% of the time. Less than that and people wander off.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Making money at exhibitions

On Saturday I had that conversation again and found myself defending the 'evil Mr D, the profiteering exhibition manager'. I don't want to defend him, he's quite capable of doing that himself. I have a feeling, since I understand that he's entered politics, that the exhibitions he organises may be on the wane anyway. However defend I did and almost repeated verbatim what I wrote here back in March.

This is getting silly now as although I wasn't aware of the reported discussions on RMweb, I do have  history of exhibiting for the gentleman and therefore feel that I have more weight than possibly most who are spouting online. I've found him a) charming, b) slightly disorganised, but c) entirely honourable in that I got the expenses that I asked for at 4pm on the day. Which is more than I can say for one or two other supposedly upstanding exhibition managers who I now avoid.

It's possibly time to re-think how we hold exhibitions and not be afraid of breaking away from the 'club show' model which has been in place since the 1950s. Interestingly a very good friend of mine has been holding an annual exhibition for over twenty years ostensibly without a standard club, only a few like minded souls to assist him and I don't ever think I've ever heard him being referred to as a profiteer. Similarly at the other end of the scale, a group of clubs working with an umbrella committee used to organise a large, highly successful show in the south, the surplus of which was well into four figures shared amongst the clubs giving them a sizable payday and essentially bankrolled these clubs for the year. This was also acceptable and not described as profiteering.

The question is, is there anything wrong with making money from what is basically a day or two of entertainment for the public put on by what are in effect a group of talented craftsmen? In the original post I likened it to the traditional entertainment model and I see no reason why this should not sit along side the regular club show shape. Is there anything wrong with organising say a tour show/exhibition that ran in say six venues around the country as a package - one organiser, a dozen layouts plus local trade stands.? This would be for profit, unashamedly so and no different from the usual music tour shape. Would it work? No. Because all the clubs would jump up and down, metaphorically piss on the lampposts and complain about profiteering if it came near their patch....

...and so we return to the nice cosy amateur world of the 1950s model railway club show set in the 21st century and nothing changes.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Dury's Gap - the movie

A few quick clips of Dury's Gap with the Hornby Terrier in charge. Now sans music.