Monday, 3 May 2021

Steam trams


Sunday, 18 April 2021

Shopping trips

 A noodle into the darkest recesses of Surrey yesterday with a trip to Kernow Models. Unlike some people I didn't come away with a Hornby operating timber depot - not sure what I'd do with one if I did. 

As with most shops now they are primarily box shifters so the required list of paint was unobtainable, but I did pick up a small top up of windows stock and some pins. This does seem slightly odd seeing as who I work for these days, but a, I was standing there and b, I try to support the retailers. My fellow shopper came away with considerably more in the shape of a new blue box choo-choo and signals. 

We need to do this now. Yes, I could have got my small haul in two minutes online and even allowing for the postage, a lot cheaper than the fuel to Guildford. That's not the point.  We have long been told to 'support your local model shop' and this is even more important right now. My spend here was a little over seven quid; not much in percentage terms for  the required daily take for a shop, but if we all go out and spend this in a local shop this week they will still be around this time next year. Don't complain if you don't and they aren't.

Monday, 5 April 2021


 Even with snow forecast for sometime today, excellent news on the rail front. Certainly the earliest in the year since it was put together, the garden railway ran over the weekend. A little trimming back was needed and some sweeping up (why do stones appear from nowhere?). A section of the underpinning had sunk slightly, so some remedial work was carried out to lift it 1/2". Part of this included building a crude passenger platform with some odds and ends. more on this later perhaps.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Exhibition returns?

 A small chink of light appeared this week. I got a short email asking about a layout for a show in sunny Eastbourne - not  town most linked to major exhibitions, though it used to have a very active club, an American NMRA chapter and no less than two model shops. 

I've been saying to anyone who would listen over the last year that shows would re-open with the very large and the light and fleet-of-foot. It seems that I was on the money. Anything that usually holds the event in schools, colleges or leisure centres is toast; for the time being anyway, there is too much tied up in cleaning and more to the point, internal lateral flow testing. You aren't going to spend cash and time testing your staff and students twice a week and then let 1,000 unwashed anoraks in to touch all the surfaces. Much easier to say no. The really big events that use exhibition centres will come on stream in the Autumn in some form. What will happen is the small events will run as soon as the basic restrictions are lifted. There are those that I know that describe this type as 'piddly', not worth the effort, and I've always disagreed. Village halls and church halls; it's where the exhibition side of the hobby has its root.

This in particular fits the brief; a church hall and partly sanctioned (or blessed?) by the church. No fees to pay to a hiring committee and no staff or students to use the rooms immediately afterwards. I foresee these small events springing up all over by the end of the summer - events to break the pressure that has built up. Events that can cancel at a minute's notice if the government shuts the country down or can change the regulations on how they're run in a similar time scale. On the phone I asked about plan B's. The reply was sensible: 'We can quickly change to whatever the government guidelines are at the time.' We should be out of masks indoors by then, but if not, that could be a way to move forward. Similarly, enforced entry numbers. Not perfect and not what what we all want, but half a loaf is better than no loaf and half a chink is better than no floodlights. This is good news.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Saturday ramble: Modeller? Or Not?

 A few days ago I found myself falling slightly into an RMweb style rant about the P class; just slightly. I try to avoid this, but it tips you into a thought pattern of why? 

A couple of years back I had a conversation over a layout about generational attitudes to modelling. When you look at this through the reverse telescope of RMweb it doesn't quite work, however, the gist is that he and I were of an age where we were more than happy taking a 1970s item and performing various cut and shut operations to get something else. I note that looking back through that bastion of perfectness MRJ, a lot of the earlier issues feature the same sort of operations. Now there seems to be an attitude of 'why can't someone produce a RTR...?' This isn't wrong, no one would find it odd if this were applied to kitchen appliances, but that surely is not what we are about. 

The dictionary definition of modeller is:   a person who makes models of people or things.

Taken to it's logical hair-shirt conclusion, that means making your own motors and filing your own wheel spokes (and describes many S gaugers). And yet many of these 'waiting for the RTR loco' types casually describe themselves as modellers; a person who make models of people or things. Err... no. 
So now I've come over all finescaly again. See how easy it is.

There's a flip side: I'm dripping in admiration for Chris Nevard's work and have yet to find someone who doesn't agree. However if you strip it down to bare bones, much of it is RTR stock, RTP buildings and other easily obtainable commercial items all subtly altered and refined. Modeller... or artist? Then you take the track on Brewhouse Quay and realise that there are only 1 in 500 modellers who could get close or who would even consider doing something like that. Modeller, artist or craftsman? The key here is taking the best of what is available and using it to your best advantage for the particular situation that is requiring of it, and I think he would agree; it's a time thing as much as anything. Why spend hours making something when you can buy something as good or better for a fraction of any hourly rate. Then we are into the thorny question of pastimes and professionals.

What's my point here? Well there isn't one really, only that the word modeller means different things to different people and it is remarkably easy to fall into the trap of getting tribal about others who have a different concept to you. Here's where my line is: buying RTR and running it around Peco setrack is not railway modelling, it's collecting. Change the number, add some weathering, build a few kits, make a few extra parts, is. That's where I would put it, but I'll bet if I wrote that on RMweb I'd get hate mail.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Adam Savage spaceship

 *rabbit hole warning*

I came upon this via the Phillip Reed video. Here's the rub: I didn't think that this was my thing; I'm not a sci-fi buff despite having been given tickets for a Star Wars premier. This though made me think of all the (endless) possibilities. In some ways this is the ultimate 'freelance is the easy option'.

It's engaging stuff and even if the root subject is not your thing there is some great modelmaking stuff in here.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021


 Sad and inspiring all in one go.

Monday, 22 March 2021

P class

In an effort to restore some of the missing mojo that I talked about on Saturday I thought a spot of stock upgrading for Dury's Gap was the way forward.
I'd painted a Wills P for the local model shop a few years back and had one on the purchase list, then the Hattons RTR item came out for the same money as the wheels, gears and motor. Quite honestly, it's pretty hard to beat, but was highly shiny and nothing like the finish of a late 50s P.  Once I started painting it I realised that there was even more detail than I'd first though with a layers of pipework all in place. The downside, as with all newer RTR, is that most of this is scale and will fall/knock off if you get within 500 yards. The lamp irons are a particular  problem and I may upgrade to a hole and a staple at some point. The lamp isn't so much a detail as a reinforcing tool.
I tried some photos with a tripod and lights, but for some reason this quick snap with just the room light captures the filth better.


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Saturday Ramble: New layouts

 I think I've found the answer. 

I had one of those Facebook photo reminders: 'this is what you were doing a year ago'. This focused the mind slightly as it was a picture of two packages of White Rose baseboards. Wind back a couple of days and I could have replicated the same scene by the front door. This either proves that I'm stunningly accurate with timing or exceedingly tedious and un-bending... take your pick. Self mockery aside what it proves is reason. I've been kicking a couple of 4mm scale ideas around for months with some progress, but little enthusiasm. This can probably be put down to the current social climate - what or who am I building it for? 

These annual packages of plywood are different. Over the last 10-15 years I've built a number of layouts on my own or with Mr. Hill. These have covered most of the popular subjects and a couple of the unpopular ones as well; but they all have one thing in common - they were built for exhibitions. Contrast that to the last two years and now: two layouts built in quite short order... because I had to. The target point in both cases was the November RM and Warley (more of that in a mo) but I didn't have to go through all the head scratching and angst about would this work and what did I want. Both these two layouts were utterly useless to me on a personal level: one has been sold, the other is waiting for a buyer. The point is, they got built. I wasn't trying to prove anything or do something new, they just needed to be efficient in execution.

The above photo is baseboard 1 of 2 for the new Peco in-house N gauge project; it's been started. A small brace of buildings have already been pre-built to act as spacing tools. I have to get this done for a copy deadline of August and possibly Warley should it happen. I'm not staking my life on the later as yet another local show pulled the 2021 date yesterday and of course I'm only seeing the ones to which I had outstanding commitments. The August line is however hard and fast. My answer from the top of the page then is that if I want to build a layout I have to get someone to tell me to do it and give me a finish date.

Friday, 19 March 2021

N gauge oil tanks

It's not exactly a struggle, just that my eyes go after a while. I used to read articles where hairy arsed old men said that they'd moved to 7mm scale because they couldn't see the bits anymore. I used to think this was odd as in the larger scale you still get small bits. Whizzing down from 7 to 2 I think I know what they mean. It's not that the bits are small, it's that the bit that they attach to are small as well.

I am now officially a hairy arsed old man.