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.