Saturday 14 December 2019

Narrow Planet name plates

Narrow Planet name plates
Plates for the Glyn Valley loco rolled up today. As usual, a top quality product from Narrow Planet. Now I just need to get the kit finished.

Find Narrow Planet here

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Peco Glyn Valley tram kit

Very slowly, with much fettling this goes together. It's just a box, but it has to be a square, equal box, not a wibbly wobbly box.
There will be filler.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Hopwood Part 3 in Railway Modeller

Hopwood Railway Modeller
The third (but not quite final) part of the Hopwood trilogy in January's Railway Modeller is out this week with a detailed break-down of the depot end with the Dapol engine shed/platform canopy bash. There are a couple of other short pieces in the RM file on the buildings, but no suggestion of when they may appear.
Regulars may have noticed the lack of posting recently. It's that time of year where my life gets put on hold.

Monday 25 November 2019

Saturday Ramble - Warley

Saturday Ramble  - Warley
If you could book a prime spot in a very large hall then this would be it. In front of and facing the entrance. This was just before close on Saturday. Ridiculously busy. I talked myself hoarse, sold out of the last two month's RM and must have hypothetically shifted piles of Ratio and Wills kits, having the foresight to have a Peco catalogue to hand all weekend to reference all the kit-bashes on the layout.

A slight shift in attitude was needed to adjust to the trade stand situation and quite an education it was.
What I leant: Most modellers are over 55
Most of the interest was from returnees (30 years being the oft quoted number)
Most of them used two words in the conversation: 'confidence and fear'. This reinforces my long term belief that railway modelling is a pastime of aspiration and little progress for the many.
They are looking for help (but on the whole aren't keen on forum type help - they want real humans, not people hiding being interweb handles who will laugh at them and their imaginged stupid questions).

All this meant that Hopwood (me) was blasted with, 'can I ask a question? How did you....? Regulars here will know that everything on the layout could have been bought in a box 25' away at Cheltenham Model Centre, or one of a dozen + other traders in the room and so the scale of the issue can be understood. This is not a problem of a lack of cash, opportunity or availability and once again underlines my recent comments on basic skills being in common short supply. This is not a finescale, DCC hobby folks, despite all that we are told, by the hip press and the trade, it's Hornby and Peco Code 100 and 30 year old Lima; help is actively sought and one wonders why it needs to be. After all, what they mostly want is a nice-looking train-set to run things on, not Copenhagen Fields.

The highlight of the weekend by far. Captions are encouraged in the comment box.

Saturday Ramble  - Warley

Friday 22 November 2019

Hopwood to Warley

Hopwood at Warley
Hopwood's debut show this weekend at a small club show in the Midlands. Possibly not the most ideal conditions to test a layout in, however.

If you are attending, I'll be on Stand A18 and shuffling DMUs up and down, so do say hello. I don't think that I'll be too taxed on any complex operating moves.

Thursday 21 November 2019

A fiddle yard shelf for Hopwood

A fiddle yard shelf for Hopwood
As you may have realised, the working area on the Hopwood fiddle yard is minimal; the only way was up. Early on in the build I'd factored in a shelf. This would double the off-track storage space - under would take longer CCTs etc. parked end-on. On top would take standard length coaching stock or locos.

A simple enough addition: lengths of strip wood stuck to the uprights and an MDF shelf approximately 111/4" x 5" dropped on top. Not that there will be an enormous amount of stock used, but this does give a little more flat area if need be.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Peco wheel-cleaner repair

Peco wheel-cleaner repair
I'm putting together a mini tool box for the weekend. This is a little scary as I'm used to taking the full kit and back-up controllers. This is more your fingers-crossed, stripped-down, hold-your-nose time. But hey, only the biggest exhibition in the country so why worry, and anyway I've worked with Anthea Turner so nothing scares me anymore.

Top of the list was 'wheel cleaner'. It has to be said that my personal item is not that new - I'll take a stab at 1975 and probably cost about 40p.... for both brush and scraper. Now sold separately totalling about twenty quid. Needless to say this piece of kit has been ummm… over repaired in the past and now the wire has fallen off. Impossible to get into, so more hacking of plastic to expose as much tarnished wire as possible and the worst solder joint that you've ever seen.

Never let it be said that I throw money around.

Saturday 16 November 2019

Saturday Ramble - Proper operation

Hopwood wasn't a project that I'd expected to build and as it was designed to meet a certain criteria (i.e. not mine) it falls short in a couple of respects. For home use the two road fiddle yard is probably adequate, however for exhibition use the expansion to three with a little track-end isolating opens it up a little, but that's just about all you could do - lifting cassettes in and out of the FY space would be the only other option and to be quite honest I'm not a fan of waving whole trains around in mid-air.

Two Hopwood operating sessions have taken place with Nigel acting as extra brain and critic. Both of these have attempted to use loco hauled stock alongside the DMUs. The reason for trying to crack this is my desire to create a more prototypical railway operation. Not the 'add the extra siding to put the mail van in' beloved of the freelance narrow gaugers. That plays against my knowledge of actual operation and of human nature. This is more a correct sense of purpose. When modellers say 'operation' what they really mean is extra places to put things to create more (and often superfluous) shunting moves. I'm tempted here to quote Cyril Freezer's comments on boring layouts, but I'll let you look that up. We are now surrounded by unit stock on the real thing which essentially act like trams - running from A-B and back again. The steam-age, and to a slight extent up to 1980s diesel- hauled operation, works a lot differently; trains being joined and separated, extra coaches added, slip coaches in earlier times, tail traffic on push-pull and autotrains etc. etc.

In my research(!) for the Southern book to your right I read whole tracts on why the SR pushed for electrification. One reason was tram competition in South London, but more than that it was to tighten up the departure times so that there was for example an 08.15 to London from all the commuter-belt towns and that there would then be a 09.15 and 10.15. Beforehand the timetables had been much more random due to...(and this is the bit we want) loco watering, joining sets of carriages, addition of extra bolstering stock and removal of the train engine to be turned/fuelled/oiled and replaced by a fresh one.

My interest in this has been heightened by viewing John Elliot's videos of his (now sold) Bradfield Gloucester Square. There's a link at the bottom and I recommend that you pour yourself something warming and watch through the entire lot. This visually demonstrates the above and this is definitely something that I'm slowly aiming for, at least in my head anyway.

Bradfield GS

Friday 15 November 2019

Lima diesels

Lima 33
Remember when this would have been a magazine cover?
A Lima 33 owned by the Excellent Cake and awaiting a refurb by self. It runs fine, that is until you run a new Bachmann loco; how far we have come since 1976 - or maybe we haven't, as it's very noticeable that bit don't fall off these items when you take them out of the packing. The newer stuff has a habit of disintegrating.

I mentioned a couple of days back that it was all quite jolly running a few Lima items up down on Hopwood and it struck me that there is a whole modelling generation for whom Lima models are the thing that they fondly remember. The steam locos were pretty dire, but the diesels were very good for their day and it's easy to forget that people like the renowned Ian Futers would happily convert them to P4. Monty Wells ran more than a few articles in RM on detailing and then, unbelievably now, latterly in MRJ; the Class 73 springs to mind.

My question is this: There are numerous guides on HD/Tri-ang et al, listing and cataloguing all the products, but considering that Lima produced British OO from the mid 1970s right through to 2004 (and beyond?) there is no collectors organisation, or books, or market in catalogues. That is, not that I've noticed, but then I've not been looking. If you know different, I think we all deserve to know. In the meantime I've got a self-chopped Class 121, the quasi-Class 117 and a CCT already running on Hopwood. Is this a new trend? Could the whole thing be run at an  exhibition  using items from the range?
Lima 1980 catalogue here
   Wiki page here

Thursday 14 November 2019

Hopwood in Railway Modeller 2

Hopwood in Railway Modeller
If you rush you could probably pick up part one in the November issue, but part two of the Hopwood build trilogy is in the December issue of Railway Modeller which is technically out tomorrow. The first section of this part is the organising of the fiddle yard and a suggestion for the now done conversion from two to three roads to open the operation up slightly. The second section covers the Wills arches which regulars here will know was quite an epic build in involving several days work and some assistance from the Excellent Cake.

The signals are a temporary fix. The earlier plan was for a junction semaphore, but the time was running away and I found a photo or two of this set up which saved the time. There is also the possibility that they may turn into colour lights at some point.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Hopwood tweaks

Hopwood model railway
As you will know, if you live north of the M25, that all of us who live south of it live in huge houses with room for the horses outside. The truth is that even with only 8'10" of Hopwood, I can't set it up fully anywhere but across the TV. Mrs F. is fairly understanding in these matters, but I don't push my luck especially this close to Halloween.

It will logically fit across the workshop space, but there is a problem in that the forth and slightly critical trestle needs to stand where the bench is. One has to improvise. Therefore 10" of books were stacked up in its place. Some small detailing was carried out and a little Lima entertainment was enjoyed. The 33 is on loan and the railcar was a recent cheap purchase at Wycrail to be used as either a spare or to chop up - regardless of this it ran considerably better with some frantic fibre brushing of the wheels to remove the caked dirt. Sweet as a.... 30 year old Lima railcar. Despite it being the wrong combination, like the Tri-ang item before it, it still has essence of DMU to my eye.

Some board linking wiring had to be re-bodged - I may explain that later; maybe not - but I need to get it ready for a small show in the Midlands in ten days. I may or may not be setting it up and may or may not be operating it, but there is rather more lack of control than I would otherwise prefer. It does though seem to have generated three namechecks in the RM that dropped onto the mat today.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Conway Castle 009

Conway Castle 009
 A short return to the Conway Castle kit. In theory this should have taken about an hour in total - that's the theory. The fact is that with almost every part needing some sort of modification, either to have a grab handle fitted or altered to allow for the larger chassis than it was designed for. I keep putting it to one side and doing something else. This indicates that my heart isn't really in it although I'm sure when it's done it'll look OK trundling up and down on Orne (next outing March 2020). A rough impressionistic cab console has been knocked up from plastic, and I've pretty much decided to make new bufferbeams from the same rather than faff about altering the whitemetal ones.

In another place it has been noted that I haven't put up the Wycrail selfie. Well... you know when they used to put aging actresses into soft focus for close-ups? No, you're right, it doesn't improve these two either.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Saturday Ramble - The ideal micro layout?

Quite some time ago I put a post up here featuring a Julian Andrews layout which featured in an issue of Scale Model Trains in nineteen-hundred and frozen to death. Fast-forward to last week and Nigel walking home from Wycrail clutching an (old) Hornby Terrier liveried for 'Bodiam'. There was some subsequent discussion and a certain level of buyer's regret, but I mooted that if nothing else it was a very sweet running mech to have as a spare for the Dury's Gap Terriers. I then remembered this layout, but couldn't initially recall the name of it. Looking at the plan again I can see that it would be perfect - indeed JA ran the thing with what were then the new Dapol Terriers subtly doctored to represent the Colonel Stephens locomotives from the WC&PR.

It would tick the box for a local one-day exhibition and here would easily bolt onto the Dury's Gap/Morton Stanley fiddle yard board. The brief would be this:
  • Direct lift of the track plan.
  • Peco small radius Code 75 points.
  • The new-ish Malton/Peco cricket pavilion kit which is an ideal base for a small light railway building if you discard the Taximan's hut roof, or even if you don't.
  • Misc. Wills buildings from the sub £6 scenic range, but would better to build from scratch to give more character.
  • An excuse to run all the odd pre-group wagons that we all have in stock PLUS some Ratio 4 wheelers or the forthcoming items from Hattons. Bogie coaches would look out of place.
  •  If you were stupid enough to try it you could even flip the entry to the right and make it double exit using the road at the back as the second one. 
As an aside the basic shape would only be 66" x 21" in O gauge, though there are traps in that you'd quickly be into building your own pointwork to directly mimic the 4mm scale plan exactly. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem and would in fact make it more attractive as an exhibition piece for not using the RTR track sections. Using ordinary Code 100 rail for this would lighten the look with dummy spike heads from plastic strip.

The more I ponder this it's starting to look like a plan of the month. *reaches across to the red phone with the hotline to the RM office*

Friday 8 November 2019

Film Friday - Slate quarry clips

The usual slightly twee narration, but there are a couple of cracking vintage clips buried in here - look out for the quarry workers riding up the rope incline on what looks like slab wagons. H & S be damned. I've never seen this modelled even as a static. Also a few familiar faces especially for Midlands model shop customers.

Thursday 7 November 2019

5 year plans revisited

Regulars will know that I'm running an epically long tidy up of old posts on here, relabelling some and making them easier to find and cross reference. Pointless? Maybe, but it is interesting for me in that I keep finding things that I'd forgotten (and some which I'm trying to forget and which get deleted). A case in point is here ; the possibly original five year plan devised by self with often layout building  accomplice Nigel Hill and written in 2012.

What is noticeable now having re-read this several years on from writing it is how much actually got done, and probably more pertinent; what didn't. Svanda NSB got built and is still with us, the 0-16.5 got built in the shape of Morton Stanley and isn't, and Rhiw got built and also isn't - though this has partially risen again in the shape of Hopwood courtesy of those nice people in Devon. Later in the text the Art of Compromise gets a mention and that has also been built and disposed of. And yet the first on the list: the American, has failed to become a reality despite having 90% of the materials needed. Why I'm not sure. For some reason that all important mental coming together of picture, materials and outlying plan hasn't quite got there yet.

Notable built absences are the 'Early British' this was designed to be a pastiche 1860s layout, and some bits and bobs have been gathered though it has so far failed to get the green light. Though the SR branch is now looking possible after the half built GWR.

This updated list may well now read:
  • (Finish Pen-lan)
  • GWR branch terminus
  • SR branch terminus
  • Southern Pacific Californian HO
  •  Something Germanic as Nigel has a base stock roster
  • N gauge WR
The wildcards are another 0-16.5 - again things in stock. An O gauge light railway - easy to get into that mindset much more now than before with RTR Terriers  costing barely more than OO scale locos.

All this does underline that the basic thrust of a long term plan for buying etc does work and most of the above save the O gauge could be done at negligible cost. I just need to live long enough to do it.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

009 scenic work

One of the repeated comments that I get about this page when I'm chatting at exhibitions is that it's 'real'. I'm not sure that I really know what that means, but I take it that it's warts and all and not just pretty finished models - not that there are any pretty models here. The above is a bit of a case in point.

Some things I can just breeze through without a care in the world, some things just seem like hard work as I can't see the finished product or even how to get there. This could be a matter of compromise (the most oft used word here). I'm on a deadline so I can't do what I'd like on this and build the whole thing out of individual card slabs - there simply isn't time to do that; I've done it before on Garn and Wood End and I know just how long it takes. So it's Slaters sheet walling for speed.

 The problem is the capping. I tried a sausage of DAS, but couldn't get it dainty enough - it needs to be around 3mm deep - to slice it up while still damp into what could look like upright slabs. In the end I may have to resort to individual card pieces laid on at a time - the fat end of four feet's

I'm at the point where taking up golf suddenly looks appealing.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Wycrail model railway exhibition

The final Svanda outing this year. Wycrail in Bucks. Split over two floors it's quite a sizable show and the quality is generally high with a few reservations. We got the staircase unload, into the upstairs sports hall which wasn't as bad as expected. Now normally we are the 'different' layout in the room as there aren't too many Norwegian layouts about, but now there are two with Norge set up a few feet away. It has to be said that this is a very different approach to Svanda with DCC, catenary, mooing cows and pecking chickens so it gains ummm…. a different  audience. We did consider putting a sign up  saying 'can you spot the SWB Land Rover' but this failed to materialise.
Two enquires flooded in and as usual I got the full panoply of people's Scandinavian holiday snaps while Nigel got questions about the rock faces. Phil Parker rocked up and chatted for a while and it has to be said that I spent most of the day talking rather than operating. 

My favourite other exhibit was this. Compact and done just right. Bigger and it wouldn't have improved, smaller and it would be cramped. Although it underlined my previous comments on front operation with a too acute angle of vision making it hard to shunt.
Loser of the day was a Bristol Goods shed layout in BG 0. Stunning stock which would have been lovely to look at if you could see it. Pure prototype situations are good, but... if the stock is either in the fiddle yard or under  a large overall roof that you have to crouch down or look around the back to see inside, then it doesn't work as an exhibition piece.. OK if you were 3'6" high or had an L shaped neck I suppose, but a complete exhibition fail which was a real shame as the modelling work was superb. Stuff that good needs to be presented in its full glory.
Exhibition 9
Lunch 9 (Chilli spuds and gateaux very nice)
Rucksacks (family audience and a fairly low 3)

Friday 1 November 2019

Hopwood fiddle yard

Hopwood fiddle yard
With the fiddle yard roads now expanded and spread out somewhat there was a likelihood of stock falling off the edge. I'd meant to add a final finishing piece to the back of this board anyway, but had run out of time before the Peco shoot (this month's Railway Modeller) and as it wasn't exactly critical to this, it drifted away into the distance. With a return to said organisation later in the month it was time to sort out this and a couple of wiring extras.

A simple enough job. I'd calculated that the minimum height over the board top to stop a DMU tipping off was an inch or so giving an overall height of 5.5" x 900mm long (I can hear the pedants gnashing their teeth). Don't forget that the boards are White Rose metric sizes not the standard CF 45 or 43". I had some of the pva left over from White Rose which is better than the usual wood glues that I use, so a layer of this and a few pins fixed the new piece to the back of the board. A couple of coats of exterior black paint and I'm done.

The boards are very heavy. People laugh when I say that I use MDF and start shouting about weight. If this is the alternative then I'll stick with my method. These 900 x 400mm boards are 9mm ply and when the two main ones are paired up to carry they are almost un-liftable. Comparing this to the Svanda boards in similar combination which are longer and slightly wider, this doesn't make me want to rush toward plywood. Beautifully made yes, lightweight no.

Thursday 31 October 2019

Svanda at Wycrail

Skd 224 on Svanda HO scale model railway
This morning some upgrading of things on Hopwood for it's debut later next month - mostly on the woodworking front. Then across the county line post lunch for a check on Svanda which has its final showing this year at Wycrail on Saturday - we're hoping for an empty-road drive as people get up and watch the rugby before they hit the motorway. Aside for a lost wing nut, all went reasonably well and we decamped to the fixed Southern branch line in another room - running, but scenically unfinished. Wycrail is an unknown quantity either as a punter or exhibitor , but the reputation is good. All I know is that there are stairs to get up.

Wycrail website here

Monday 28 October 2019


I went to ExpoNG very much with my Editor's hat on (no, not the red topper). For me it was much the same as recent years in that I spend the whole time talking, cajoling people into writing articles and not much viewing. The standard is high and it was described as a 'pilgrimage' by one. Whether you want to see anything or not, if you are a narrow gauge modeller based in the South, you go. It's very much a shopping show with a chance to see the makers of small ranges that tend to be mail order only and to visit the 009 Society s/h sales stand
As is traditional here the scores are:
Exhibition 9
Catering  - the usual leisure centre 4, though there were no queues even at lunchtime. People have learnt to bring a packed lunch.
Rucksacks 4
Probably for the first time ever, I bought nothing, only leaving with a couple of books gifted from Stig to add to the GWR shelf. More on this later.

Thursday 24 October 2019

Hopwood operation

Hopwood model railway layout
 All day. That's all day. Operationally tearing Hopwood to bits. The main point of the exercise was to see how it worked with what stock. The ex-Rhiw (see here) blue livery set was the default position. The new, improved fat-shape fiddle yard was the main player - it's tight, so some stuff fitted and some only in a certain order i.e. the Cl 150 would only work out of road 3 as in road 2 the longer wheelbase meant it reduced the foul point and clouted the Cl 108  parked in road 3. Flipped around and it worked. We are talking fag paper clearances here - Sprinters... no chance.

 A green set of stock was tried, but there are massive gaps in the stud. The wildcard was an idea to use BR(S) pull-push sets (essentially DMU working style) this sort of worked on the layout proper until the obvious dawned that the locos wouldn't fit in FY roads 2 and 3. Doh! It did look nice though.

So after about 6+ hours of trying every piece of 16.5mm gauge stock in the house on it, it all came back to blue with a base stud of 150, 108, 121, 37, 25, with a Lima 40 as a spare which surprisingly fitted the headshunt… just. A brace of VDA vans and some MDV opens for a trip freight and CCT/NPV for parcels stock.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Walling for Pen-lan 009

Pen-lan 009 layout

Alternating between layouts at the moment and back to Pen-lan today for some cardboard chopping. In an ideal world I'd be laying card or plastic slabs like this . However, time is the enemy and there are deadlines to attack, so I fished out some Slaters sheet that I'd had for a long time, did a little painting of same, and cut it into two inch strips.

A base was made using packing card creating a curvy wall line along the rear of the board and the plastic sheet was stuck to it with a dab or two of UHU. All basic stuff and cost me zero to do. OK the wall is a bit on the flat side, but... The joins will be covered with some pipes or greenery.What happens now is that it starts to get a shape and looks like a layout very quickly.

Tomorrow some line testing with the new and improved Hopwood fiddle yard.

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Re-jigging the Hopwood fiddle yard

Hopwood OO gauge model railway storage yard
I spent an hour or so on Saturday trying to alter the FY on Hopwood. It didn't go well to start with.

The issue was this: the plan presented to me was for a 'home' layout with a two road FY and a 'space' for a controller (top right in the photo). This area would be open to the front. That threw up some basic problems
a) if the layout was to be used and shown beyond the build deadline (there was some discussion about where it would finally end up) then it would need to be exhibitable in some form.
b) if this was the case then a decision would need to be taken as to front/back operation. My preference is rear-op as this looks a lot more professional and theatrical. This meant that the 'space' could be closed off to the front and used for stock storage as it's just big enough for a coach length.

With that decided the layout was built. However, the two road arrangement might be fine for  home use, but was a little minimal for anything like a slick operation at an exhibition. Considering that the traffic is mainly units the FY could be opened up a little. Not super slick, but an improvement.

The length is short - too short; and the original idea of 3' boards would have been better. Dropping to 900mm squeezes it to impossible. I tried a small radius point to split the lower road. This ain't quite enough and the crossover is about 5mm too close. A rummage in the box found a small Y and some more plain track. The few mm saving in length and wider split solved it. The result is with the upper road now split electrically with a break in one rail and a switch, and the doubling of the lower road, the yard can now take two heritage two car DMUs and two single cars, or one and a loco as shown. The total hold for the whole layout using DC is now nine items. No less than you could, or would need to use with DCC.

Monday 21 October 2019

Poole model railway exhibition

NSB Di5 on Svanda
 To Poole. Which we found after a short search. I'd never been before either as an exhibitor or a punter. Fairly traditional club show aimed at a general family audience, with a mix of styles from 2mm FS to a Paul Lunn trainset plan with multiple Metcalfe kits and very tight radii in 3'x4' - guess which was my favourite out of these two? Only 3mm was missing from the roster.

Svanda (with new LED lightling) behaved well as usual with only an odd back-feed fault on the points in the FY which disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Above is yet another Di5 that's un-weathered produced from Nigel's Mary Poppins handbag. I thought I'd done them all, but they keep appearing. As suggested by a couple of people, Svanda now has a page here .

We were set up next to Matthew Keen's exquisitely finished Garreg Wen 009 layout (below) which shows everyone else's modelling up. Don't you just hate clever kids? There was a range of box -shifters, but with a lot of things that had disappeared from the market - there was a whole box of P-P fitted M7s @ £75 each, one of which found its way into Nigel's boot on the way home. Well it seemed rude not to.

The catering was a bit basic, but there was a river of tea and the team were friendly and helpful.We may return next year.

Garreg Wen 009

Saturday 19 October 2019

Uckfield model railway exhibition

Despite it being unplanned and expecting to be in a different county, I popped into the Uckfield show. The usual very high standard of layouts and the usual almost uncomfortable attendance levels. A couple of things caught my eye. The first was Daconby Town, a 3mm finescale layout which was pure 1960s in period and modelling vibe. Not quite in the Murco brickpaper way, but more in attitude. I did ponder that it may have been improved by being 12mm gauge though I suspect that's exactly what the builder was trying hard to get away from.

Uckfield model railway exhibition
 Confusing was the double Peter North's. One of his sold-on Rock Island layouts in one room and his new 4mm Southern art deco syle piece in another. A very different approach.
Uckfield model railway exhibition
 Lastly the final show for David Taylor's Charmouth. Always a favourite and probably the best one-man 7mmNG layout in existence. It's fate as yet undecided.
Charmouth Uckfield model railway exhibition

Friday 18 October 2019

Industrial steam locomotive

This popped up on FB. If you are looking for an excuse to purchase one of the plethora of small industrials on the market in 7mm or 4mm scales, then this might be the push you need. It would be hard to find anything more atmospheric. Some Wills stone sheet suitably sanded flat and some Woodlands scenic 'cinder' ballast would get you in the game along with some basket liner/carpet underlay and some short static grass. I think the loco is a Barclay and similar to the model produced by Hattons, but any of the current 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s would fit.

Although the actual clips are short they are worth viewing carefully for the very tiny details. I suppose I'm thinking along the lines of a 4mm scale micro and these little touches such as the sacking-wrapped point lever would lift a layout out of the hum-drum.

Thursday 17 October 2019


Hornby trainset
Possibly on the back of the Tri-ang post of a couple of days ago here . This was spotted at the Worthing show. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm always drawn to this type of layout. Not the HD 3-rail type, but the expanded and improved trainset idea. This may go back to me drooling over the 'Simply for Pleasure' layout that was mounted at Pecorama here when I was about 10. This is a bit bigger, but has the same elements in its build. As you can tell, things are belting round at a fair old lick, but that's not the attraction. I think it's the hole in the middle. Peter Bossom's Thunder Hill has the same hole and stuff doesn't belt round on that - it's much more thoughtful and intellectual (if you listen carefully you can hear Pete laughing). Maybe one day I shall build such a beast and I will have (no pun) come full circle.

Wednesday 16 October 2019

009 track wiring

Pen-lan. Small 009 layout
Tops of the rails scrubbed and polished and time for a quick check. Bzzzzzzt! Hmmmm small short. Well big short really as proportionally this is pretty simple. The controller was moved and the board flipped over, the problem was quickly traced to a point and a wandering wire on the switch. A modicum of bending sorted it out and all was well. Only I could short out a two-wire feed inglenook.
Some initial scenery profiles are in at the near end. It looks huge here, but it's only 3'7" x 10".

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Tri-ang Tuesday

I was tipped off today about this channel. Yeah OK, so he's a collector - or is he? There's a fine line between collecting, and running the stuff that you've accumulated. This guy obviously enjoys seeing the stuff run and the  range of accessories is quite impressive.
The Tria-ng/Hornby green 31 was where I came in; none of your O gauge tinplate and HD three rail, but proper plastic toy trains.
You can shut your eyes, breathe in and almost smell those warm XO4's.
When I'm old, this what I want to do.

Monday 14 October 2019

Painting 009 track

The current damp atmosphere is not ideal for painting. Into the dry, but not un-humid garage for some track spraying. Two coats: first some Halfords 'camouflage brown' from sideways angles, followed by some grey primer misted on from above. This a technique nicked from Mr. Nevard and one which I have now enthusiastically adopted; what would have taken me a couple of hours by hand with a pot of Humbrol now takes five minutes.

I got momentarily confused by the wiring, but suddenly realised that if I were to feed from Orne I'd need to run a line up to the far end where the main feed is, plus an independent feed for any independent use. It's the simplest things that trip you sometimes. This is essentially an elongated inglenook so only needs a feed from the left hand end, but hypothetically the power comes (or may come) from a separate layout on the right.

Sunday 13 October 2019

Svanda at Poole model railway exhibition

Svanda HO scale norwigian model railway

The penultimate showing for Svanda this year at the Poole MRS exhibition next SUNDAY - turn up on Saturday and you'll be on your own. It's quite surprising to me that this small slice of the NSB is still generating enough interest to go out once or twice a year especially now that it's had a total outward refurb. 

At it's first outing six years and one week ago here at Croydon (can't see that happening again) I don't think we'd have imagined that it would have a) lasted with us and b) still have a steady trickle of invites. And yet out of all the layouts built before or since it's the one that I actually enjoy operating the most. As always when there are new plans for other things, I soon wave the Svanda shape as being the ideal for operation in a sub 8' space.
Yes it's probably time that it had its own page here...

Saturday 12 October 2019

Saturday Ramble - comfort zones

laying 009 track accross baseboards
Taking a short break from getting the track down on what may be called Pen-lan. I really need to get it all down by the end of the weekend, which shouldn't be too much of a push as...

It crossed my mind that the way I work now is within small sets of comfort zones. I can't imagine that other people are any different. The above shows some just laid pinned copper-clad at the edge of the board designed to minimise damage at the rail ends. Simple enough stuff and I've done this for years and years. Is there a better way though? Am I in a rut? The next job when I step away from the keyboard is wiring the first point (slide switch, wire in tube, three wires etc.) Again I've been doing this for almost thirty years without deviation. I've used solenoids once and never returned, but now there are newer versions of these, smartswitches, relays and so on. Should I invest more cash and move with the times? Or just stay with what I know works cheaply and well for me?

These comfort zone issues are all around me and mostly go back to income, or lack of it. I can turn out a pretty good layout, but it's all budget ideas a lot of which have stayed with me since my teens. Where some people will spend what I consider to be huge amounts on scenic stuff, I'll happily stick to card and things out of skips, simply because that's what I've always done and for no other reason. Should I invest in DDC, smartswitches, ready to plonk buildings, and so on? Will that make my layouts better?

Sometimes it's good to question what you do even if it leads nowhere.

Friday 11 October 2019

Baseboard for a 009 layout

009 layout baseboard
Board for the new 009 layout basically finished and time for a little 3D planning to make sure that stuff still fits. There will be a cut-out dropped section at the front and logically I should have done this during the build. As there are a lot of buildings near the front I elected to get the final positions of these clear before I started cutting this edge. I need to get this project completed fairly swiftly so narrow gauge simplicity is the key. No Great Western branch track plans here.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Railway Modeller

Railway Modeller magazine

Out today in your local Smiths. The first part of the Hopwood saga, not to mention some grinning pictures of self.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Festiniog Victorian Weekend

Ffestiniog Double Farlie gravity train up
I'm not a fan of repeated 'holiday' break destinations, but this is the forth year in a row that we've attended this event. I should point out that it is Mrs F. that drives the booking of it, and not me. It's up to the limit running by the preserved line with all the useable steam power brought into play. This does mean that any small problem causes delay and there was a running coal issue throughout the weekend causing some slipping of times. This actually doesn't matter in the slightest as the atmosphere surrounding the event is overwhelming with people decked in period costume and there being a general continual shifting between bar area, platforms and trains in an almost random manner. You just hop on what ever train is running and bundle into coaches the best you can. It's very much enthusiasts and not the usual family groups so nobody cares much - or not that we noticed anyway.

Mrs F spent most of the time in the bar filming and photographing to shift straight onto Facebook and will happily sit at the lineside waiting for the next up freight to point the camera at, with me shuffling my feet and wanting to move on. One or two of these may appear here later.

Saturday 5 October 2019

Spooner's Boat on the Ffestiniog Railway

Spooner's Boat Ffestiniog
Spooner's Boat. Yes it does run. Yes it is in service. Yes it does get used. Gravity worked downhill and then (hopefully) sail driven across The Cob at Porthmadog.

Thursday 3 October 2019

American railroad stock on Svanda

Svanda Norwegian model railway
'Bring the American rolling stock'
What was supposed to be a day of sorting the wheels out on Svanda turned into a series of what ifs. The American stock from Einsford Mill which all dates back to 1994 was trundled round the Norwegian layout with no problems apart form a close encounter with the goods platform. It was noted that it would take only a change to a couple of the buildings to shift the location to the US North Eastern backwoods, but then further HO stock was produced and the trials repeated and the same conclusion moved to SW Germany. What a wonderful scale/gauge combination HO is. Interchangeable continents at the click of the fingers.

We've been here before of course -  the series of layouts planed around a single overarching theme, but it always breaks down as there is always a missing part to the picture: an item of stock which would be prohibitively expensive, a lack of a certain traffic or a physical problem such as siding length. No harm in kicking the ideas around though. Sometimes something sticks.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

009 layout

009 scale model railway layout plan
The next project.
It needs to be done in fairly short order so simple is the name of the game. A narrow 10" board about 44" long to match up with Orne, purely for operational fun and to use the FY on the end if needed. A straight-through station slightly inspired by Penrhyn on the FR with an added engine shed (because I had one). Inspired only, as if I had time and it wasn't so narrow, it could include the row of cottages at the back. Sadly in the this instance there is a timetable to adhere to and the shelf mounted root precludes this. I'll save the cottages for another day.

Operationally dull on it's own - or is it? With a FY on each end it becomes an anorexic Tal-coed and that went down well with the public and worked well operationally. Shunting with 009, and especially small Welsh 009 is not to be taken lightly. Rather better is sticking to the prototype and running conveyer type trains through a scene, as opposed to the much derided '009 shaped like a Great Western branch terminus' type plan.

This will essentially be another demonstration build for publication, so safe and predictable is the name of the game: Peco track, slide switches, MDF board and the buildings pictured two of which have appeared in RM in recent months and the engine shed which was built for the NG book to your right. We shall see how things progress.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Hornby H class

Hornby H class
Hornby H classs
I've had my eye on one of these for a while. There was a problem, then they vanished, now they are back on sale.
It took me a while to get used to the quality of new RTR when I came back to a little OO modelling a couple of years back. Like most I now take this super-fine finish and detail for granted. The above is posed on Dury's Gap straight out of the box, but there are of course extra bits to add and even without these, it's frighteningly good. One detail that I noticed, and the photos of the real thing confirm, is that the rear buffers are larger than the front. I can't remember coming across this before. More to the point I don't know why this is the case. Something to do with pull-push working? Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could enlighten me.

It will of course need some weathering. The Brooksbank photo below shows this particular engine in a pretty filthy condition - which is tricky to replicate well.

All this means that with the C, the P and now an H, I now have the nucleus of a small Eastern section layout. It will be a while coming, probably two or three projects into the future, but it is a little closer now. I have idea brewing.

Hornby H class

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.