Monday, 30 September 2019

Handheld controller holder

Handheld controller holder
I've had a few dealings with White Rose baseboards in the last few months with regard to the Hopwood underpinings and found them (Harold) more than helpful on the phone when discussing modeller's requirements. I subsequently bumped into them at the Mansfield 009 event where in addition to the baseboards they were waving these around.

It's designed to take the newer (for me anyway) breed of DCC type handheld, but will work just as well for the more ergonomic analogue variety. The reaction will be 'I could make that myself'. Well, yes you could, but including your time cutting the bits out … for eight quid??? 

Regulars will be aware that I delight in chucking handhelds on the floor so this is probably my accessory product of the year so far. All I have to do is persuade  Nigel to put a round head screw on the back of Svanda so that I can use it for the next two upcoming shows.
Said controller holder can be found here.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Saturday Ramble - Worthing model railway exhibition

Ponts Mill Worthing model railway exhibition

Worthing model railway exhibition
There was a choice of three: Scaleforum, ERA, and Worthing. I've spoken about Scaleforum at length here before, the ERA was a favourite, but it came down to the first two involving sitting on a morning rush M25, whereas the later didn't. I find these days that I enter an exhibition as a punter with one or two different hats on, the primary one is as magazine editor if there is any narrow gauge. In this case That Dam Layout was in attendance and I couldn't remember if it has been in 009 News before - it had a long while ago, and after today, it will be again. You need to do the leg work.

Pick your show
I've said before that it's all very well going to high end shows and turning your nose up at the more local family events, but doing this you will see all the star layouts that are in MRJ et al, but you miss a few gems that are inspirational and probably pick up one or two bargains to boot like the H Class that I got from the Kernow stand for 90 quid as a show special. Yes there are a few shows that are sub-crap, but most, however lowly, are done with enthusiasm and should be supported if possible.

Worthing show is fairly set in its format. It's a family-aimed show set in a residential area secondary school and its main room is a long wide corridor. If you are an exhibitor this gives the feeling of a not too busy event - the reality is that you just don't get a feeling of busy, but the numbers are good; they're just strung out in a line. Top items for me today were the Gauge O Dock Green and (don't tell him) AWK's Ponts Mill (above). He builds these fast, really fast,  and he gets the most incredible atmosphere with a quite low-tech approach.

Usual markings as follows:
Show - 6
Catering  - a clean but limited 6
Rucksacks 3+
It's on tomorrow as well, details here.

PS I understand that the footfall was in to four figures - which sort of underlines my point. The smaller shows are the hobby now.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Building Conwy Castle in 009

Modern Narrow Gauge Diesels  
Modern narrow gauge diesels are not a large jump from building steam locos, but they do need a slightly different mindset. Even with copious photos and a good drawing I find myself constantly checking for how the final shape should look when fitting the parts. Decisions have needed to be made an I note that the Bron Hebrog version here has gone for the full door conversion. Being a whitemetal kit it needs a little more work than a modern plastic injection mould item and there are as usual slight gaps that need a little filler. On the whole though, and despite others misgivings at the delivery, it does go together with little problem. 

Changing 009 chassis
I'm taking my time as there are a few other projects running parallel not to mention getting 009 News out at the end of the week. I'm pondering the sub-footplate items - one side frame has been altered already and I working up to doing the second. This involves cutting off the axlebox sections and moving them outward from the placement that is designed to match the originally expected Ibertren Cuckoo chassis. Using the Kato 103 is not a lot better as it goes the other way, but at least it will run much better than the variable Cuckoo. All the sub footplate parts will also need to be reduced in height by about 1mm for the same reasons. The cab interior is another issue: it's large and empty, so I need to generate some ideas on that and find some good interior photos to at least put some indication of seats and controls.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Hopwood testing

Hopwood model railway layout, peco layout, DMU, wills kits

Section switches
Line testing on Hopwood today with a brace of ex-Rhiw DMUs and locos. Surprisingly there are odd bits of wiring to do and a couple of places where it needs a switch in the feed to enable a loco to be held. As much as you plan things it still needs a period of running with different combinations of stock and movements to find the places where something isn't possible due to conflicting wiring. I tend to keep a fairly light touch defaulting to 'the-whole-thing-live' where possible and using natural point closures to shut things off to save putting in section switches. Most of the time I get this right - today not quite. Shutting off a point under a DMU was the norm for a while to create a section closure. Hardly recommended practice, but did enable the move to be finished without removing the stock.

Diesel units
The 121 and 108 drop the place into Western Region. The 108 is brand new, though it's been in the cupboard for a while so is un-detailed and weathered. The 121 is a 40 year old original Lima railcar which has had a cut and shut operation carried out to turn it into a single car unit and is briefly detailed earlier in this blog here and here . Oh what fun we had with these cheap and cheerful models - would you really be in a such hurry to take a razor saw to a Bachmann or Hejian model?

Green to blue
There was a period of thought early on today about reverting to the original official brief of green diesel period with a handful of borrowed green stock, but when it came down to it, it was realised that to do this in anyway properly, quite an amount of cash would need to be spent (although the draw of running early diesels is quite a strong one). My original idea of using the (already in stock) ex-Rhiw stock makes more sense although the sprinters are probably out due to the FY length. so the above units, a Class 25 and 37 make a comeback along with a selection of 70s/80s air braked stock i.e. a load of VDAs.

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-empty, 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 which is 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 one 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 who 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.

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.

See all the Dury's Gap posts here .

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Burgess Hill exhibition

Burgess Hill model railway exhibition
I've talked before about the change in exhibitions over the last few years, how we have moved almost fully away from the old club type show and how it is no more than a travelling circus of 'touring acts'. There are a few of the old style shows around and Burgess Hill fits this bill, though how they would like to be described as such is questionable.  The show is invited (mainly local-ish) individuals and neighbouring clubs, aimed squarely at a family audience - to coin a phrase - a local show for local people. Where these type of exhibitions score is the atmosphere, a  notably sweaty atmosphere today at late morning when it got quite packed with punters.

The structure an easy one: keep it simple, don't go for the barn type venue, keep the layouts approachable and achievable. Is this aiming low? Not at all. In some cases exhibitions try to get a raft of 'star' layouts which on the face of it should bring huge crowds, but sometimes the demographic of the area defeats this and you end up with a huge bill for accommodation and an empty hall. Result: next year the pressure is to increase ticket prices or increase the trade, ending up with a room full of competing box shifters and a spiral downwards. We've all seen local shows move to a bigger venue and then try to punch above their weight and end up losing. Smart is the manager who knows his audience and works within the boundaries of their spending power.

What I did notice was that in many cases I think it's nearly packing up time, look at my phone and realise that it's only 14.30. Yesterday this didn't happen, I was chatting to the bitter end and I think this small point speaks volumes. My only complaint as an exhibitor was the lack of free-running tea which I think is a must.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Saturday Ramble - Blogging

A few questions
I've been pondering what to do with the blog especially with its upcoming 10th birthday; yes 10 years of this rubbish coming at you. The original reasons for starting it are now lost in the mists of time and it certainly wasn't the first time I'd used the medium, coming in way before you could add photos and get comments, and yes bloggers do all sit in their dressing gowns to write.
Where it started - Unnycoombe in N gauge
Some housekeeping
In the last few days I've cleaned up the look slightly. Most of this was down to a realisation that an
increasing number of people are viewing it on their phones, so a clearer interface was needed for the smaller screen. Tidy-ups also included losing the list of post tags. These were filling up half the page and I'd cut down their inclusion on the posts in order not to increase this. The sensible move was to dispose of the whole thing. Clicking on a tag on a post will take you to similar stuff and of course there is still the search box top left. I'd changed the blog title from Wood End and Beyond a little while back as it no longer made any sense, more recently adding the fuller title, as it is now, to add more clarity and make it easier to find - the top google searches are 'model railway blog' and 'Chris Ford blog', so there seems no point in trying to fight that. I'm wondering whether to spend some time 'thinning out' the historical posts a little to make it more representative of the current thinking, or maybe not.

Pretty much where I am now - sticking stuff
The questions in my head at this 9.98 year point were what, why and how? The content is pretty much fixed in that it's mostly model railways with a bit of prototype stuff thrown in and the odd random oddball item (remember the Spitfire build?) so that's the what. The simple answer to the why is 'because I can', but more because it works - sort of. The traffic is good and still ticks along quite nicely even when I dip out for a while. I can only conclude from that, that there is a certain amount of desire to read it.

The how is tied to the what in some ways, but there is a sub-section of the what - lets call it 'what 1.1' - and this is linked to not only the passage of time, but how life has developed: in 2009 the N gauge layout Unnycoombe was under development (and not returned to as yet) I was working at other things and considerably richer as well. These days it's less affluent and the shape is a) more local and b) more swayed toward writing and modelling with a gentle increase in doing this for others, something that I wouldn't have envisaged ten years ago. In other words, like everybody else, my life has changed and this blog changes with it.

A new direction?
The how is a grey area. Looking at the blog as a viewer I see that I'm trying to find an updated direction for it now; it's become more than a scribbling of what I'm doing and yet in many ways it is nothing more. Does it need to become more tutorial? Is it pure entertainment? Or is it essentially now an internet interface for what is work now: writing and modelling on a commercial basis? The entertainment part is paramount - if it's not entertaining then it becomes redundant, but then a very qualified pro modeller/photographer said recently 'I read your blog as I get ideas of how to do something differently'. I'll admit that I did have to squeeze that out of him, because I wanted to know why as part of this understanding of why and what. Is it pure light entertainment? Is it tutorial? A combination of the two? Or am I in denial that it is nothing more than an blatant marketing of me? If it is that, then why not? As I learnt a long, long time ago - if you don't blow your own trumpet, you'll wait a long time for some other bugger to do it for you.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Servicing a Bachmann Class 03

The Bachmann /Mainline 204HP Class 03 has been around since the 1980s and has dropped in and out of the catalogue ever since; there must be thousands of them out there. It was pretty cutting edge technology at the time featuring a heavy split-frame chassis giving a running quality that was way in advance of any contemporary model diesel shunter. They're a pretty rugged beast and need little maintenance.  This particular example is one of the early Bachmann production and was bought second hand; the jackshaft drive has been lost along the way, but this doesn't notice to much being hidden behind the rear steps. The running was getting slightly rough, so time to give it a clean and lube.

The loco is disassembled by first removing the chrome outer screws which release the couplings and body, followed by the black centre screws which release the plastic keeper plate.

Bachmann Class 03
 Cleaning and greasing
The wheelset can then be lifted out as one. The U shaped axle bearings should be cleaned out with a dry tissue to clean out any grease and swarf. Then a tiny amount of plastic-friendly grease should be smeared onto the plastic gear wheels in the centre.

One of the great advantages of the split-frame block design is that at this point you can drop the entire thing onto a length of track, gently turn on the power and the motor will (or should) turn freely and spread the newly applied grease over the gear teeth. Remove any excess with the tissue.

Bachmann Class 03
The axle bearings should now have a tiny drop of oil such as electrolube added at the foot of each 'U'. This really should be an absolute minimum and should not be allowed to spread anywhere else.

Bachmann Class 03
 The Wheelsets
Here the wheelsets themselves were in a bit of a state with several years worth of accumulated grease, dust and muck caked around the back of the wheels. This needs to be cleaned off, but be wary of using any spirit-based cleaning fluid in case it attacks the nylon axle muffs. Here I just used a dry tissue again. The wheel treads were also cleaned at the point.
Bachmann Class 03
 The wheelsets can now be refitted and a tiny amount of grease added to the axle gear. The nylon axle muffs will split over time. This is ongoing problem with many Bachmann products and it's worth searching out a few spares. In this case the rear axle was just starting to split, but not the point where it needed replacement.

Bachmann Class 03
Clean the inside of the plastic keeper-plate and re-fit. Before the body goes back on, give the loco a slow run up and down on a length of track to spread the grease on the gear and to check that there are no sticking points. If all is well add the body and couplings.

Most of the Mainline and Bachmann locomotives contemporary with this will use a similar assembly and can be treated in the same manner.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

How to replace the switch on a KPC controller

I'm always dropping handhelds - this time was terminal. Luckily a spare unit was to hand. The switch for the feedback on/off had shattered cutting all the power so logically it was an easy fix. It sat on the back of the bench for quite a while, but with the first show of the season looming I thought it best to take a deep breath and get on with it.
The switch is one of the standard small DPDT sliders which I keep in stock for 9mm point control.

 I quickly spotted a problem in that unless I deconstructed the entire unit there wasn't a lot of spare wire to play with. Five poles of the switch are used, so as this was a new game I drew a sketch of the back of the switch to remind me of the wire positions.
The wires were unsoldered from the smashed switch and cleaned up as best that I could - not easy with less than 25mm to play with. A new switch had the poles tinned and I set about very carefully re-soldering the wires with the whole unit clamped gently in the bench vice. When all were attached I plugged the unit into the back of a Gaugemaster cased controller and it worked first time.

 All there was to do was to use the long bolts to fix the switch to the inside of the case and re-fit the back. Ten weeks procrastinating and ten minutes to do.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Dury's Gap at Burgess Hill Exhibition

Dury's Gap model railway layout
Dury's Gap
For only its second showing my Rye Harbour inspired 4mm scale micro Dury's Gap heads to the Burgess Hill exhibition this weekend. The Rye link is quite tenuous as the small amount of buildings on the layout are from other places as far apart as Newhaven West Quay, Orford in Suffolk and the Selsey Tramway. The feel is a slightly windswept sandy shoreline with a run down tramway carrying coal inward and shellfish out powered by small locomotives from Kent and Sussex MPDs. In other words it's a small four point shunting layout in 3'7" x 12".

Rye Harbour
The Rye Harbour branch was a similar beast though much more sprawling, serving the beach area and a small stone works, eventually closing in the mid 1960s. More on this area on COD's blog to your right.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

More green issues

Hopwood model railway layout
...but not those green issues.

To go green or blue.
On the recent rainy trip to Devon one thing jumped out me during the day. The basic brief was blue/green period. However in order to bolster my limited ex-Rhiw blue stock items, more was drawn from the RM review cupboard, and most of this was either pre-TOPS or green. I can't quite put my finger on it, but the layout seemed to come alive more with the green stock of 105 and 108 DMUs and bauxite vans than it did with any blue stock. Therefore I have a quandary: do I stay with the limited amount of blue stock for the shows booked next year, or do I splash out what would be a considerable amount of cash on  a brace of green DMUs and associated (and here's the real question) some Eastern Region diesel power. For to be perfectly honest, despite the SR concrete items dotted about, this is where it suddenly looked 'whole'. This I can't explain as it was designed to be 'anytown/anywhere' and deliberately vague in position, but there was a sudden 'click' moment as the scene suddenly worked better.

Monday, 2 September 2019


It's a bit of a ground zero day today. Hopwood still has a detailing phase to go through, but that can hold for a while, and I needed to get 009 News done over the weekend - just the contents and check over to do now.

A breath taken and back to the publishing empire; well getting the next book done anyway which has been on hold for a period of time. So back to the typing and the Welsh narrow gauge. This is technically book five; four has yet to be revealed, and it's suddenly quite exciting with a rush of new narrow gauge 009 stock and locomotives planned in the upcoming months from Peco and Kato. Obviously these will naturally fall just beyond my publishing schedule, but it does show that there is a definite interest, and 009 seems to be the buzz at the moment with not unsubstantial amounts of money being invested in new tooling. Does this indicate that the 4mm manufacturers feel that they have cooked the standard gauge market and that 'smaller' prototypes that can hover around £100 are the big sellers?

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Saturday Ramble - green issues

Here's funny thing. How much do we like plastic? As humans the thrust is negative, we are now coming around to the fact that wrapping things in plastic and then chucking it in the sea is a bad idea - well everyone except the Americans. As modellers though, the pattern is the opposite - in the last twenty or thirty years we have increased the use of plastic ten fold as year on year more and more minor items are made in styrene and as we speak the upward technology is 3D print; plastic again. In other words it is almost impossible to be a modeller without using upward of 70% plastic on the layout.

I wrote an editorial for 009 News last month on just this issue and have received a small postbag from people who are still using waste card and wood for a lot of their modelling work. However they are mightily in the majority. I also shared a video on FB a few days ago which is on Phil's blog to your right featuring a railway built  almost entirely from card. This is quirky in the extreme and although is a fun approach, it isn't what most of us would aspire to, being that most of us seek to create something which is more representative of the real thing, which this frankly isn't.

What then is the answer to all this? Do we blindly continue as normal and accept all the plastic goodies with relish, or do we step back a little and consider if we can or need to change something. I've stated here several times that I'm not a Metcalfe kit lover (though they can be improved). Superquick are a tad better to my eyes, but card buildings are not for everyone. Though I'm still sure that let's say 'the beginner' could build a new simple layout from scratch using just these materials and a minimal amount of plastic. I wonder if this could be a future project for me or someone else to try and how effective it would be compared to the plastic heavy version? I'll chalk that one up as a possible  - on my blackboard, not my wipe clean plastic whiteboard, naturally.