Saturday, 21 September 2019

Saturday Ramble - how to make things yourself

Making things yourself, the great quest of our time
On the back of the last post I pondered for a moment and fell into the doom and gloom trap of thinking that we aren't modellers anymore. Or that there aren't modellers anymore. This is a little glass-half-full, but here is the growing evidence. Firstly I'm not talking about the old hands with a full workshop and a lathe, but the generation of newcomers of any age who are turning up online and asking logical but at the same time dumb questions. They are not dumb to them, but some older hands bite and then it becomes a them and us situation. I'm not complaining about the questions per se, more about the reasons why those questions are being asked.

With reference to the last post here : if for instance there is a kit in your possession and the chassis is now not available, why run around asking for that chassis, which is rare, and if you can get one is probably worn out anyway? The answer is make a new footplate part or adapt the existing on to fit an alternative readily available chassis. I'm talking mainly of 009 here but it applies to other situations as well. My worry is that in previous times there would have been no need to ask the question in the first place. People would have been trained to make and adapt by the previous generation. Now they are not. Skip two throw -away generations and we have people would do not consider fixing things.

What about the older newcomer though? That argument doesn't fit - it's a confidence issue.

Can we change this?
Here's a left field idea. Instead of inviting say ten layouts to a show (usual billing in RM etc) invite seven and invite the other three layout builders as 'tutors'. Not the standard demo stand, but as fully expense paid exhibitors. Maybe this already goes on and I'm just not aware of it, but a major shift would be to let punters sit next to, and not across from, the demonstrator. It would pull people in and pass on some basic skills. I'm not talking 'how to EM a RTR loco' but something more base-line. Marking out plasticard or card, tool selection, building card kits, fitting fishplates, really low end stuff. Why? Because that's the level where the questions are, not the slightly higher conversions and super-weathering-with-an-airbrush. We need to give people the confidence not just to buy RTR stuff and build a train set, but how to mark-out, cut, file, solder, and bodge around a problem as well.

Friday, 20 September 2019

009 Conway Castle footplate fitting

Fitting a chassis to the Five 79 Conway Castle kit.

Fitting a chassis to the footplate
Even though strictly speaking this isn't actually an ancient kit, time marches on. The main problem with this sort of project, and one that crops up repeatedly on forums and F/B groups, is that most, if not all of the whitemetal locomotive kits for 009, are designed to fit around an N gauge chassis that either no longer exists or is hard to obtain - we have to adapt.

In this case, like a lot of the old Chivers range, the chassis of choice was the once cheap and plentiful Ibertren Cuckoo 0-4-0. These do crop up occasionally at high prices that do not reflect either the quality or reliability of the product. The upgrade was usually the Fleishmann 0-4-0, but even these have now disappeared. For the Conway Castle kit there is a little bit of a saviour in the form of the soon to be reintroduced Kato 103 tram chassis. The Cuckoo's wheelbase was too short making the loco look tippy-toes, conversely this is a little too long but actually notices less. There is oodles of space under the body - the main problem is the footplate.

Altering the footplate
The job here is to make the small hole down one end bigger and longer and then narrower at one end. Filing this out is easy enough, but is best done with the part clamped in a vice to avoid breaking it. The front part can be re-shaped to create a hook to hold one end of the Kato while the other end is a two-part exercise. 1) add plastic sheet filed to shape to take the raised end of the chassis and 2) the later to have an off-set hole drilled and the former a slightly smaller hole in the same place allowing a 12BA bolt to be passed through one and threaded into the later. This is a pure Tri-ang Jinty approach to chassis fitting and is terrible engineering, but provided you don't want to take the chassis out every ten minutes it works well.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Svanda - the Norwegian layout

NSB Di5 locomotive hauls a short freight oyt of Svanda
Photo:Peco studio
2019 exhibitions
There are but two remaining exhibition appearances this year, both for the Norwegian layout Svanda. The first is in Poole in October, the second at Wycrail in November. Svanda doesn't get a page here as it isn't mine, but owned by my good friend Nigel Hill - although I did have a hand in building some of it and I'm usually wingman when it goes out - I get the questions about Norway and Nigel gets the questions about the scenic work, so no one gets the right answers.

Both the Poole and Wycrail shows are new to me and you always wonder on what basis the exhibition managers book a niche interest Norwegian model railway; you question if it's just a tick-box move to have at least one non-British item. Although saying that, there is never a shortage of people who will come up and talk about travelling on the line that influenced its building, so maybe I've got that dramatically wrong.

Details of the Poole exhibition here .
Details of Wycrail here .

The Norwegian Flam  railway

Modelling Norwegian railways
The drive behind the layout was Mr. Hill's repeated visits to the country - returning with another 'bargain' locomotive or other item.... but still no layout. An amount of arm-twisting and offers of help meant that a small 11' long exhibition layout was eventually constructed, and surprisingly, probably because I don't own it, it's been kept rather than sold after a few showings. What's happened is that it's grown on me; despite having little interest in Scandinavian railways or the countries themselves, I find it a joy to operate - which is unusual for me. Due to the timespan of the purchases some of the wheel standards are very much of the Lima cheesecutter variety, so Code 100 track has been used, though is not shown off to its best at the above end-on low angle. An updated version would no doubt use a Code 75 and the stock would be re-wheeled where possible.

Put the dates in your diary and come and say hello.
For all the previous Svanda posts click here

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

The labelling issue
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.

The forgotten name
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.

For all the Rhiw posts click here .

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.