Friday 30 January 2015

Lady pleasers and compromises 1

Two subjects have been discussed over the last few days which seem removed in one way, but are actually interlinked. The first was my question to Lord Crawley, ' What's the perfect small exhibition layout?' The second was the re-emergence of the above beastie.

The answer to the first question is varied. The angle from where I'm coming from is linked slightly professionally: how do you keep people in front of the layout? Not by chatting to them - that's cheating, that's conversation, but how do you keep them watching the layout for more than say a minute? What's the draw got to be? There are some who will shout that it's my layout and I build for me, and that's all well and good, but if you wave it in public then there has to be more to it than that.

There are really two distinct types that visit model shows and sub sects: Type 1. The modellers visiting to see a particular layout that's been in a magazine or what have you either singly or in groups. Type 2. Non or semi modelling families (i.e. no real interest or something at pure trainset level usually with one or two children in tow). There is Type 1a 'the blinker', those who will only look at layouts that match their company and their scale, and Type 2a the 'matrons not looking'.

What I'm really thinking of are slightly more the Type 2s - the casual visitors. The answer is basically: keep something on scene and moving at all times and create enough visual interest outside of that. The moving is the most important - I noted an RM reader taking a swipe at Warley recently in the letters page and he has a point; the NEC show is supposed to be the best and the best only, not the club shirt/scratch your arse and talk brigade.

How does this link to the above plan? Well yesterday it was dissected... over a four hour plus period, in a full size plan form. The result is it works perfectly. I'm quick to argue Roy Link's original article point about two bogie coaches not fitting the loop as they will. However, allied to the point I make in the above paragraph: if you are happy with the home operation/one engine in steam way of working then it works. The minute that you take it to a show it fails... big time. There is only capacity for one train at a time as while the loop will hold the train, it won't hold the engine as well. The minute the train leaves the station under the bridge after running round etc, so do the audience. Mr. Punch has left the building. Something more needs to be done.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Saturday Ramble

Firing on lots of fronts. On one hand there is the steady finishing of Morton Stanley. It's at a point where it could go out, but there is odd bits of detailing to do: I'm not happy with the station area yet, the building needs diddling with and there needs to be a little signage, benches, etc. The LH end is basically done, mainly though Nigel's sterling work with the warehouse. I'd been looking for a duck or two, just to accentuate that the shiny bit at the front was actually still water. I found a pack of suitable pieces on Duncan Models stand and although there are way too many they seemed like a bargain, and in some useful poses; all except the standing one with it's wings outstretched which would not look out of place over the door of a 1938 German government building. I've often pointed out that this game takes you to unexpected places and these had me reaching for the top shelf and British Birds you missed with your air rifle to get the colour right. The floaty one, a male mallard, took ages, the female with her arse in the air (settle down 5C...) was a bit quicker. I'm not 100% sure about this one as it looks as though someone has dropped a frozen chicken. Still it's stuck now.

I was having a bit of a downer about exhibitions, but the weekend at Southampton went very well. So much can depend on whether you are left alone to get on with it and not overly managed (just point me toward the stand space and I'll do the rest please) and whether the day long trek to the cup of tea place is friendly and flexible. This scored well on both counts. Kudos to David Barker and his team for getting it right.

Which takes me to moving forward: so far Morton Stanley is working well - better than I'd expected. I'd struggled with 7mm NG in the past, but this has a certain charm. Whether that will extend to standing behind it at an exhibition is another thing. It's first trip out is to the Sussex Downs Group's member's day in March; five o'clock on that day will be a better time to assess things. In addition to that I walked away from the weekend not wanting to bin all the 009 and burn the layout. This is unusual. Forward thinking and various discussions revived my liking of the '5 year plan' (not that it's five years any more). This would mean that the GWR 'Art of the Compromise' plan (being item four on the list) could be the next one out of the traps...

Friday 23 January 2015

Wales 5

 The last of this week of 'things that caught my eye'. A Pardarn guard's van. Note not a brake, it's just a hut on wheels as far as I can see. There a are a few of these lurking around; this in the Llanberris museum and I snapped another on the lake railway a stones throw away in a much more workaday condition.
A pretty easy scratch-build, but I thought it would be a natural for an etch kit from Narrow Planet for either 009 or probably 09.
See you at Eastleigh.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Wales 4

And so to Porthmadog on the same day. The FR were packing up for the day and I suggested dinner in Spooners. This was enthusiastically received by Mrs. F. The food is very good and there's plenty of it. The disc signal is a bit iconic for me. Although they were common enough on early Victorian railways throughout the system, the FR was probably the last to have any in working order.
 I can't remember where this was, but it screams Airfix church so I stopped a took a couple of photos. The building below was on the other side of the track: the wrong shape for a privy and the door way to small for regular use so I'm guessing a fuel store of some sort.
Tal-coed set up today ready for Southampton at the weekend... after saying that I wouldn't do any two day shows.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Wales 3

 Blaenau. This was a little weird. I'd only ever been here via the FR, not by car. We came in from the north, parked up, and looked for the town - there isn't one, unless they fold it up during the day; just housing. I found the geography of the place very confusing. It's so familiar through B/W photos and yet so much has gone from these historical views that I really couldn't get my bearings at all. We walked around and had a coffee still looking for signs of life, but the place seemed only inhabited by three mums pushing prams. I think the above view is the ex-GWR line from Bala which save for the weeds looked as though it could suddenly produce a train. below is Merddin Emrys running round in the low afternoon sun.
Well at least it wasn't raining.
 Fence for the end of Morton Stanley just resting in place - yesterday's project.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Wales 2

Second instalment of Welsh bits. Seeing as we were only around the corner a visit to the Conway Valley museum seemed in order... oh dear. The shop at the front was very good; lots of bits to rummage through and stuff that I've not seen anywhere else. You pay a small entrance fee for the museum at the back and walk through a door which was all a little shades of Mr. Benn. Hmmm...not what I'd hoped for, and a bit, well, small beer. I mean I wasn't expecting the Flying Scotsman, but it all seemed a bit tatty. And there was worse. There was an N gauge layout centre-stage. Most of it didn't work, didn't look as though it could work, and the whole thing was covered in a thick coat of dust. There was worse still. Anyone who grew up with 1970's model mags will remember photos of Jack Nelson's dioramas (above). Several of these are on show. You would expect with the word 'museum' for that to translate into 'care'. Unfortunately not. Peeling brickpaper, overturned vehicles, broken lamposts, all very sad. All they need is a little TLC and a bit of glue on the end of a cocktail stick and a good dust. I mentioned to Mrs. F. that I'd be happy so spend a week or two sorting them out if someone provided the accommodation. The effort would be so small. But would anyone care?
The roof of the kitchen from the B&B window. Just to point out that slates ain't square and ain't even.

I've had a couple of emails about the comment system here - it's changed slightly. You have to click 'I am not a robot' and the fuzzy number photo will pop up. Then continue as before.

Monday 19 January 2015

Wales 1

 Although there is a fair bit of modelling going on I though a little prototype things would not go amiss through this week. What this actually means is that I've sorted through some photos from the long weekend in N. Wales last Autumn. So here is the first of a few things that caught my eye.
I'd never been to Llangollen before and we stopped for a tea break late afternoon. One of the cafes in town would have done, but we tend to support the railways whenever possible so a wander over the bridge and the station tea room it was. While Mrs F. got her phone out and checked in with parents and children I took a few information shots on the empty platform. This short underslung arm is wonderful, but throws up a question: why is it there? It is positioned almost at the end of the platform, the first shot faces the buffers and release point. So is it just to clear the loco to run around? And if so, why is this not a manual/flag movement considering the proximity of the box 10' away?

Sunday 18 January 2015

Mix and match

In order to give myself a little break from all the 7mm stuff that's been happening recently my hand fell on a 4mm kit... well sort of. There is a small box which lurks in the dark corners - a bug box in fact, as that what it contains. Quite a while ago Stig gave me a the box which held several un-built and started Parkside F&B coaches. It has so far produced about three which run on Tal-coed. In addition to that Parksides often have sides for sale on their stand for a couple of quid. Several of these have been bought and tossed into the box. This then is one set of sides, the wrong ends and some bits of seating from one of the kits and a bit of plasticard. A leisurely hour cleans up the parts, makes a couple of new bits and welds the whole lot together. What more could you want?

Friday 16 January 2015

Thursday 15 January 2015

Morton Stanley

Although it's been quiet here things are moving on apace on Morton Stanley. The point where there is no bits of bare baseboard has been reached and we both agreed yesterday that it's looking quite good. The buildings to the left are now fitted and bedded in. the warehouse has a bit of weight to it being built from 80 thou plastic and cassette boxes so as well as the glue a couple of pilot holes were drilled through the baseboard and the floor and a couple of 1/2 inch wood screws wound in to add a degree of belt and braces.

Thursday 8 January 2015


Yesterday was the day when things got tested. The almost built water tower was trial fitted and then taken away by Nigel to finish. All the stock was run around the layout in various combinations and a few likely operative moves tried out. Once the track had been cleaned and a bit of snagging undergrowth had been trimmed back all went fairly smoothly. There was one major fail: the Gnomy tram conversion that I built in the 1990s is simply too un-grunty to manage the heavy Tri-ang based wagons with it's Tenshodo drive. On its own it's fine. Adding more weight would not be a problem, but I'm not sure that the unit would take too kindly to it. It's therefore be put on the reserve list.
There's still a fair way to go before March, but nothing impossible.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Scratch, scratch

A concentrated hour or two with a scriber got the whole area done. The largest commercially available granite setts come out at 7mm by 3mm in 7mm scale, and there are a few rows of these, but they looked a bit small for some reason. So I quickly elected to take a more loose approach and go for a more random slab effect. If I'd wanted neat it would have been easier to go for one of the plastic sheet options.
The wash of grey paint was a smart move as it made it a whole lot easier to see what I was doing as the red of the Das bled through the scribe marks. The buildings are just plonked on for the moment to check clearances and to make sure I've got the setts/slabs right. A buffer post needs to go in and then the painting.

Friday 2 January 2015


The Das'd area now sanded as flat as I can get it. I thought a base coat of grey might be a good idea, just to kill the red before the great scribing begins.

Thursday 1 January 2015


The whole are to the left needed to be covered in Das. I'd consulted the Oracle to ask what would be the best way of doing it. I'd done a small are on Edge with some left overs from Nigel's storeroom, but this was a larger proposition. The answer to my question was that as long as I stuck with the branded stuff all would be fine. So during a trip to Wales a while ago I picked up a large pack in a discount art shop in Llandudno, between working our way around Mr Robinson's coffee shop recommendations.
The Das was simply ripped of the block and thumbed into the surface after it had been given a coat of PVA which should help bond it all together. There is no difference marked on the packets other than colours (red or white) but this is definitely more clay-like than the white that I used before which has more of a papery weave feel about it.
From this point the track was in-filled and a Lima coach bogie with deep flanges run up and down followed by a Tri-ang wagon with wide ones. In theory there will be no powered vehicles down the far end of the siding so I could be sloppy with it, but ...