Saturday, 4 December 2021

Saturday ramble - model railway dreaming

 With the curtain fitted to Half Acre there are only a couple of things to add. A lamp for the further platform and a running in board. Though I'm putting this off. Should it be GWR cast letters or a WR brown enamel sign? Both are a fiddle. I managed to use up up most of the 'layout in a box' items though there are spare sides for the carriage shed should anyone need them. 

What next is the question.  I am typical in that there are three layouts: one built, one being built and plans for the next. Conversations with Mr.Hill have thrown up many of the usual suspects. These are in the main small two standard board essays in the 11' o/a length bracket.  These are biased to what we have combined in stock for motive power and are for a stater:

  • GWR terminus using the AoTC stock.
  • Late 70s/early 80s South Wales using the Rhiw stock. Through terminus. 
  • Kent/Sussex border terminus. There are a brace of older Terriers, M7s,H, P, C, Q1, 33 to hand between us, plus plenty of stock.
  • The left field would be something 1980s germanic. Exhibition wise this would  tick the managers 'different' box. Mind you there aren't the GWR BLTs around like there used to be.
This only scratches the surface of possibles and for a small outlay the same again could be be put together with different subject matter and scales. The 7mm NG for instance, Suffolk BLT or HO American.

To a certain extent all of these do the same thing in that they operate as a branch terminus. Nothing wrong with that, and means they fall into Plan A. What's Plan B? I have a hankering for something more a) operationally challenging b) something more representative of British railway reality and c) may need more than the usual one on/one off crewing. There is a Plan B.1; don't build it for an exhibition at all.

Plan C is don't build anymore layouts, just do some modelling... there is a difference.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Peco N gauge done

 ... well more or less. With a few bits of velcro stuck on I could get the curtain up. There are a couple of tiny details to add not least the pros'arch which has been replaced by the Dury's Gap item here.

This has been problematic from start to finish. There was the 'never again with N gauge' aspect followed by the material shortages and then the lack of time. What I've ended up with is an outrageously heavy layout with very little operational capacity. Not what I set out to build at all and due almost entirely to outside sources. 

The positives are that I managed to tick the contractual boxes in that it uses the supplied baseboards and as many Peco/Ratio products as I could get in. Even a few weird ones that no one uses like the engine sheds. The end game is that is is on the sheet for Warley 22, assuming that that happens, and it will be photographed by young Craig in the new year for a three part RM article. Surprisingly this has been easy to fill whereas the product-lite O gauge was less so. After all that I'll probably donate it to a good cause.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Small OO layouts?

I'm convinced that we all get a basic idea of what we want from model railways and that stays pretty much fixed for the duration. Although I'm a scale tart, that is really only the sauce and salad, the size of the plate remains the same. My excuse, should one be needed, is that I don't have a large team of helpers, a large vehicle or a large house.  This defines what and how I build things. Of course this is utter bollocks as plenty of people shoehorn large layouts into small properties, I could ask more people and I could buy/ hire a bigger vehicle; but I don't.

Yesterday I dropped things down just about as far as they can can go and I noodled around with a Futers' Fork in 6'. As he has explained in numerous articles, this works really well, especially if your main traffic flow is multiple units. In essence you are just following the prototype in that respect. Does this satisfy? Well it did. I'm not sure whether it is an age thing, or whether my hitherto non-interest in bigger rail subjects is now being forced though reading layout/prototype articles for hours every day. I sense the later. Whichever it is I now find myself still liking the essence of small layouts and their intimacy, but it's missing something. I'm not happy with just shuffling back and forth, it needs to represent something closer to reality. The cop out of easy freelancing feels almost childlike now, even if it can't be perfect I feel as though it has to look, or at least feel, slightly more serious. Whether I can do this is another matter and small and fast may reign for a while yet.


Sunday, 21 November 2021

Book links


A little housekeeping on here. I noticed that a couple of the click-through links to books were blind so fixed to a point now. The Small Scales volume above seems to be o/s with Waterstones, but is available in other places and appears to be on its second printing - I shall investigate further on that. If that is the case that means that it has shifted in excess of 1,000 copies. I'm happy with that considering, I'm not in the Parker/Nevard/Dent fame bracket.

The Crecy title at the top is a mystery and has still not appeared, though the website states otherwise. I can only assume that this was designed to tie up with the third series of the Great Model Railway Challenge which of course got pulled because of Covid. In which case it's questionable if either will resurface.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Portsmouth exhibition

Shows coming thick and fast now. This week down to the seaside in Darkest Hampshire with the South Hants MRC show. Like the Uckfield bash this leans toward finescale and arriving a little early I observed the queue: 50+, balding, rucksacks, sensible coats, no children. I don't want to repeat everything I said a couple of posts back, needless to say this applied again. The only 4mm layout that had no problems when I was watching was Copper Wort (code 75 Devon-built small radius points, said with no bias). The showpiece P4 was scoring a 50%+ derailment rate. Beautiful pre-group stock, big watching -the -trains -go -by scene, but mostly bumping along the sleepers... not good. And this is not just a snapshot, I was there for most of the day.

Jerry Clifford's 2mm, stunning. Kinmundy (below) fascinating scenic effects, and Simon Challis' Cheddar got my votes for best of the day, and the 2mmFS Lighterman's Wharf is fantastic. So certainly not under-inspiring.
The food is weird. Shutters come down at 13.00 sharp and that's it. If you want a cuppa after then it's outside to Macccy D's. Why?
The scores:
Show: 7.5
Catering: 5 (would be 9 for quality)
Rucksacks: a finescaley 7
Covid prep: 1 Really packed in the morning and most in masks as a result.


Friday, 19 November 2021

Baseboard painting

 With Half Acre more or less done bar some final detaily work, it was time to paint the baseboard. There was a couple of inches of black paint left in the tin - probably just enough for this and the fiddle yard. The tall trestles were recovered from Mr. Hill and were slung up in the garage; a much better height for painting. It's not really a good time of year to get paint to dry in an outside atmosphere, but all seemed to go to plan. There's a final piece of MDF to add to the fiddle yard board and the pros-arch to make up to drop onto the uprights here. Then we're just about there.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Tolworth Showtrain

Sunday morning and into the dark zone inside the ring of death - OK turning right from Junction 8 and inside the M25... same thing. 
After some malarky with road closures and a scrambled detour, Tolworth was reached. Not much to write home there about except possibly the full-on Southern concrete art-deco station which is worth a look. The show is a familiar one and post lockdown not much has changed. Maybe the aisles were wider, maybe not. The fire doors were open and that seemed about it. Mask wearing was on the low side. 
Catering was teas only and no food,  so a visit to the caff a couple of doors down which was perfect. I'm not sure I'd be so happy if it had been pissing down though.
Always a good balanced mainstream event; not too finescaly and not aimed at families ether. Perhaps for 'the average modeller'. That would make a good magazine strapline...? OK maybe not. 
Not really any duffers in the show and definitely something for everyone, even a Chinese layout which was new to me, but which I have on good authority will be in CM in the future. My winners for the day were these two for completely different reasons. 
Regulars will know my liking for 1960s-vibe modelling and Woking club's Millford fitted the bill beautifully. Card kits to the fore, but all subtly altered. Nothing remarkable apart from the way that it had been done with a constant finish. 
The same could be said for Outwell Village. Exquisite modelling and instantly recognisable with a range of mainly kit built stock. 

The scores as is now traditional.

Show: 9

Catering: 1 (though what was there was perfectly acceptable with the cafe)

Rucksacks: 0

Covid prep :2

Hand stamping to get in and out so we all looked we'd been to a rave: 10!


Friday, 12 November 2021

Film Friday 21st century Hornby Dublo

Working on a HD layout article today and noodled round with some internet research for a history panel. This came up. It almost feels as though he's cracked the best of both worlds: the reliability of die-cast locos and 3-rail pick up, and the convenience of the DCC technology. Clever stuff.

Monday, 8 November 2021

December Railway Modeller

 December RM out this week. Couple of notable bits aside from the England in 009. The archive is definitely worth investigating giving you some 70 years of material in the click of a mouse. Some of it has not stood the test of time particularly well... 'Sink mat to station roof' please take a bow, but there is some cracking stuff in there. The Monty Wells diesel articles were way ahead of their time and the Keith Allen pieces on converting Airfix minerals are still relevant now. Noticably more modelling going on pre 1995. The other nice thing for me is that this was my pick for the cover shot, even a bus on the bridge... I thank you. Goodnight.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Coal merchant's lorry in N gauge

One of the requirements for Half Acre was a coal lorry for the yard. I searched the ranges of Oxford et al, but nothing suitable for a middle weight trader's vehicle of around 4-8 ton. Almost at the last knockings of last weekend's Eastbourne show I spotted this cheap Chinese plasticy item, which I picked up for £2. The box on the back came off easily enough, but it was a little too leggy for what was in my head. A slice with a razor saw, a new cab sheet from 2mm Slater's planking sheet and some planks scribed into the floor brought it a little closer to what I wanted. Touching the edges in with some red paint and topping it with a part load of Ratio N gauge sacks and some grey washes turned it into a Commer/Bedford-esque post-war workaday machine.
Needless to say I get more fun out of this sort of thing than any new 200 quid Bachmann RTR loco...


Sunday, 31 October 2021

Eastbourne exhibition knock-down

 'Are you local?' Was the question from a club based not far from here. Another possible invite for the Norwegian wonder as it enters its second decade. Is it looking tired? Yes it is, and the question has been raised as to what to do about this. The original Woodlands Scenics fluff groundcover is fading and now looks old hat. The trees are looking decidedly Autumnal; not as in brown, but a bits have fallen off. Lots to think about.

The show was pretty much as expected: church hall, and a private enterprise, though I note that there wasn't the gnashing of teeth about 'profiteering' that follows a certain person that does this. There was no trade, just a reliance on second hand sales from the 2-3 club layouts that were attending. Masks were mandatory, though the usual 10% declined. Interestingly the event was not advertised in the excepted manner, avoided the model press and concentrated on local papers and radio. This gained a very 'family' audience and I gather this was completely intentional. Again this is the route taken by our much maligned DD. 

Is this the way forward? Probably. The usual 'club show in a school' is a no-no for the time being and it was notable that this was designed to fit the date slot that one of these had left with this club on the exhibitors roster. The day brought lunches, cake mid-afternoon and there was a welcome degree of pack-up insults and banter. We are ducking and diving and it's working.

Friday, 29 October 2021

Mods and off my rocker

Way back on the Unnycoombe build, well over a decade ago, there was a little blue scooter of uncertain parentage. I fact there were two. The remaining twin was in the bottom of the box marked 'N gauge bits' and I thought seeing that Half Acre is nominally set in the early 1960s it would be a good idea to work it up in a similar fashion. My good ideas often turn out to be the opposite. Painting something this small was bad enough, then I thought to replicate the 'pennant on the aerial  again'. Bad move. Trying to stick a piece of thin paper to a length of hair with super glue is one of the most fun things I've done all week.

Still there we are, the 1960s icon. And no, I'm not adding a bank of wing mirrors.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Svanda at Eastbourne Exhibition

The weekend saw a sliver of activity in sunny Crawley as Svanda was awoken from it's 18 month + slumber and kicked into life, not to mention a light dusting. The reason for this was its only show this year this coming weekend. In fact the only show for the rest of eternity as there's nothing else in the book for it.  Mr. Hill and I are not a little surprised that it is still with us it being a decade old this year. As regular readers will note, things tend not to hang around here, such is the enthusiasm to get on with the next project. There were no real problems and the quality of the mainly Roco items repay the investment. Though I'm convinced that Mr. Hill has a running stream of new Di5s as there always seems to be more than there was last time.

The venue for the old girl's outing is as below. Residents of Wiltshire would regard it as 'small beer' and in this case they may well be right. From what I gather it is a minor affair with I believe no commercial trade. I got the phonecall during the midst of lockdown and was struck by the bravery of trying to organise something from scratch in those trying days. Needless to say things were played 'safe' and it is a fairly local roster of layouts, but  has the advantage of a reasonable town pub just 50 yards outside the door and a model shop at the other end of the road.
Do come and say hello, or mumble though a mask at least.


Saturday, 23 October 2021

Building up the back corners

 I bit on the N.

The aim was to get the back corners more of less done before working on the front edge.  Some 2mm Slaters stone sheet for the hard stand areas (possibly ex Stig) though I ran out and had to use 4mm brick for the infill. This isn't apparent form the usual angles. I need to let the whole thing go off and then wave the Hoover over it to pick up all the surplus static. 

I'm quite relaxed about thieving all this from Elm Park. Or at least the general composition. Does this still exist?

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Uckfield show

The annual pilgrimage to the Uckfield exhibition. It was packed! I got knobbled by the manager as soon as I'd walked in. They'd decided to run it more or less as normal as it would be tricky to change it. I agreed. The usual spacings and room layout, so as you can see from above the usual sharp elbows to get round. The only consideration was sanitiser on the way in.  Because of this mask wearing was high. Notably a couple of the regular traders had been replaced, but no holes in the room.

Uckfield leans toward  a finescale vibe, but was missing the usual 3mm and S attendees. That aside, some top notch stuff on show. There is a problem with this. Adrian prides himself (surely not?) on getting debut appearance layouts from quite long distances and possibly because of this, or maybe the finescale thing there, was way too much fingerpoken and push-along going on, even by the time I left at ten to three. This ain't a good advert for higher echelon modelling despite it all looking stunning. As I've said repeatedly over the years on here - this is a show guys, not a club night.

Food was taken at the cafe at the front of the building, which as always was excellent and cheap. All in all it was a brave and worthwhile move considering that shows are still being cancelled due to drop outs (but do they bother to try to get replacements?).

Show: 8.5 (sort the running )
Catering: 11
Rucksacks: 0
Masks: 8
Covid preparations: virtually nil 


Thursday, 14 October 2021

Grassy banks

 I'm sort of happier now. There's green stuff.

Sooty and stained (nothing to do with Harry Corbett) brickwork and a blast of green. One of the reasons for the abandonment of the Mk1 N gauge plan was the lack, at the time, of static grass at Peco HQ. That is along with small radius points, Setrack and just about everything else that I needed. The abundance of Peco static grass on Squires stand at the weekend suggested that this is now not the case, and just in case it wasn't, I grabbed a bag of 2mm Winter Grass.

I'm working from the back, forward. This is good practice and this piece of dull retaining wall is about as exciting as it is going to get. I'm at the point where I have a layout kit with lots of built structures and just need to sort all the walling to tie it together.

Happier now.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021


 'A tedious job, but well worth the effort' he said quoting a thousand layout articles.

Putting ground cover onto a layout is usually quite fun and signals the transition between the engineering bit and the artistic bit. This particular bit is a fiddle. All well and good when it's strapped to a few feet of timber, but bouncing around the bench while you try to stick soggy bits of paper down in a line wore thin after about 30 seconds. I'm not quite sure why I did it this way around... oh yes I do it was so I could take piccys more easily.

I think everyone should build an N gauge layout.

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Saturday Ramble

Aldershot saw a couple of purchases. Aside from some static grass, a sheet of plasticard  and two tuna rolls, I bought a book. This is odd these days as being on the review team of RM I get plenty of new books to thumb through. This one had been advertised though hadn't come my way. The hand went into the pocket and out came the card.

It's standard Transport Treasury fare; a couple of shots per page with extended captions and all by Dr. Ian Allan.  Why is this unusual? Well back here I once again alluded to scale tarts, and book stands at exhibitions don't help. I've always had a casual interest in this area and while most books have one layout idea, this contains one on almost every page. The mix of smallish green diesels and grey wagons is such a draw and I do have enough bits in the cupboard to make a minor start should I choose to.

There have been conversations in the last couple of days tied to moving on with layout building. Unlike the many who fuelled the small radius point shortages during the lockdowns, I'm am fundamentally a builder of exhibition layouts and with no shows and no way of telling if there would be shows again, I did very little. Now that there is hope in the air, there are plans. And what do plans mean? Going round in circles working out what the best first move may be. The problems of the scale tart.

Before all of this is the Peco N gauge. This has been a cock-up from the word go. The first plan was dumped because of material shortages, then plan B back-burnered as the intended target point of Warley was cancelled. Now everything is back on stream and I could go with plan A, but plan B is already half built. So although it will work, I'm left with Frankenstein's monster, built with what I could get at the inception.  My direction here is to pile into it with (slightly forced) enthusiasm and get it done. 

Will someone please offer me a show for it so I at least have a build target...

Saturday, 9 October 2021

And we're back! Aldershot show.

Although there have been a few weeks of exhibitions I haven't been able to get to them. Today it was nice to break the duck and go to the Farnham Club show in Aldershot. I think it normally clashes with Croydon so not a usual visit though we have attended with Svanda (notably not since).

It was a little weird being back in the bustle of a show which was busy (over four rooms) but not uncomfortably packed. Mask wearing was probably only 30-40% and almost absent with exhibitors. The standard was high with some big hitters in the room. There was little that I hadn't seem before and Peter Cullen's Mannin Middle was the deal breaker on travelling. What was absent was trade which was reduced to the smaller players with no box shifters; the biggest stand being Squires. This opened the rooms up considerably and left plenty of space to move around, but I assume will have hit the show's income substantially.

The year we exhibited there was a food issue but today no such problem with a fairly swift turnaround with a basic menu and card payment which I imagine will be the norm now.

The scores - not done this for a while:

Show 9

Trade 5

Catering 8

Covid preparations 10, Covid masks and distancing 4

In the brave new world, this is probably about the best you could do, and this may be the model in the future. Great to be back and enjoying the general chat, banter and piss taking that we all love.

Well done to Farnham for sorting it out and getting something moving.


Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Wagon brakes

In answer to the query in the previous post, a quick primer on wagon brakes with diagrams nicked from 
Below is what most would consider the standard (Morton) British brake system. Three basic types: double acting with a cam on the shaft to cope with the fact that the levers are both at the RH end. Independent as per wagons with bottom doors. i.e. no connecting shaft as per the Airfix mineral wagon kit. Fitted, with the addition of a vac' cylinder. 

The above is the Dean/Churchward as fitted to the Coopercraft range of kits with a short lever on each side at the same end. These were considered non standard and were sometimes replaced with Morton types during upgrades post 1930s. As always a multitude of exceptions within all this.


Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Coopercraft van

 Modelling is slower these days but a concerted effort has produced this unlikely beast for the Dury's Gap roster.

Originally part of the AoC stock it sustained a little damage and has been repurposed. First by scratching the lettering off with a fibre brush, then repainting. The brakes were replaced with Mortons from the bits box - unlikely that it would have lasted into the 1960s let alone with the original Dean/Churchward mechanism. Like a lot of the stock it remains on the branch for semi-internal traffic. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Freight 1966

 1966, when we were still great and had the sense to train up our own workforce. 

There's some great stuff here if you look beyond the Graham Chapman-esque styling. I can't place the horse tramway early on. Ideas?

Friday, 24 September 2021

Rye Harbour stone

A while ago I dropped the above photo into a post here which generated a few questions to where it was on the branch. The photo below nails the position. The spot in question is toward the upper left. 

At this point is the junction for the stone works. Most of the buildings have now gone although there is some debris. The church is still extant and will position against any modern view such as google earth. The photo was taken in 1949 and previous snuffling about threw up the information that BR(S) anxious to rid themselves of all the old pre-group wagons that had hung on during the war, now used the redundant lower end of the branch as pre-disposal storage. The seemingly endless line of wagons (possibly reaching right down to the river wharf to the right) consists of older styles.

The stone works, including what looks like a ropeway, has a line which splits South from the branch and opens up into two curving sidings, one into the buildings and one toward the barges. There may also be a kick-back headshunt track below the junction point. 

While not exactly micro layout fare, the general shape would be easy to compress and re-shape for an inglenook style layout.

Sunday, 19 September 2021


 A trip out. It's good to try somewhere new and the Bressingham gala/steam rally seemed worth a punt. Without going into reams of back-history which you can get elsewhere, in a nutshell, it was a nursery with a small railway and is now a working transport museum with a garden centre tacked on the side. It doesn't take a genius to work out that for couples of a certain age, this is a damn fine combination. 

This day all the toys were out and the air was thick with steam engine output from traction engines, steam threshing machines, miniature versions of these, three (2', 15", 10 1/4") narrow gauge lines and a short section of standard gauge. All good stuff... with one small issue.

The terrier with the 2 plank and LMS brake shuffled up and down on a few hundred yards of track which was nice, but seemed a bit of a waste of a useful engine. I'm guessing that this is not the usual practice on ordinary days. It was a bit of a Hunslet-fest with two running on the 2' line either individually or coupled together. What caught my eye was the interesting VB machine which I hadn't seen before, but a quick bit of googling told me that 'it was put together from various bits and pieces'.

The site is very large and open with more or less free movement; none of the 'don't touch that sonny' that you get with standard gauge lines that appear to be much more taken with over the top health and safety than the NG lines do.  The only fly was the catering. Queue up for ages then a 45 minute (yes 45) wait for a sandwich and a cup of tea to be delivered. Yes it was busy, but isn't that the point of holding these events? Isn't busy what you are aiming for? A couple of period type outside catering type vans would have added to the vibe and taken the weight off the resident staff. If the system isn't coping, change the system.

Basically pretty good, but my tip would be to take a picnic.

Friday, 10 September 2021

October Railway Modeller

As is the nature of these things and referring to the previous post, I have been disinclined to follow precedent and wack up a screen shot of the RM cover every month with a 'here's one I made earlier' comment. Essentially what I do now is subedit most of the front half (i.e. up to the Comment page). By the time it appears I've well and truly moved on and don't give it a second glance. Today in Smiths I noted that it's in a bag... always a winner with the RMweb types. Aside from what's on the cover it also includes a delightful N gauge piece called Cemaes Bay which is slightly better than the average and if I hadn't read it five times already would be the one that I'd buy it for.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Saturday Ramble

 Well. Here we are again. The problem of course is losing a hobby to a profession. While I am spending my days pushing other people's toy train stories around the screen it leaves little time for me to do the same. Or more to the point, after reading 'I cut the 2" x 1" and blew my nose' several times during the course of a day I have little inclination to do something similar. It's an upside down life though only for another month. The supposed building of a N gauge layout, while far from abandoned, continually gets put on the back-burner while I attend to something more pressing. Publication schedules being what they are, any time for this comes at the  end of a month, by which time I've completely lost the thread of what I was doing and it takes me a while to get going again. The warehouse above is a case in point; really only a weekend's work, but has taken much longer mostly because I forgot what I was doing with it. It of course is the bastard child of some corrugated sheet and a Ratio carriage shed. This project will get done, though the target point of late August appears to have silently passed me by.

Then there is the blog. Ten years of fairly regular posting though I realised that due to the above I was starting to just re-post youtube videos. Interesting though they may be, it's not what this page was about so a break has been taken. A period of flux and transition will soon appear, but who know how it will all pan out, perhaps a complete re-flip of lifestyle, but then there is always government to contend with.

Monday, 23 August 2021

The 7mm.

 New Oake page added above.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Shopping trips

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

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

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

Monday, 5 April 2021


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

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Exhibition returns?

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

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

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

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Saturday ramble: Modeller? Or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 March 2021

Adam Savage spaceship

 *rabbit hole warning*

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

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

Tuesday, 23 March 2021


 Sad and inspiring all in one go.

Monday, 22 March 2021

P class

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


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Saturday Ramble: New layouts

 I think I've found the answer. 

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

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

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

Friday, 19 March 2021

N gauge oil tanks

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

I am now officially a hairy arsed old man.

Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Airfix railway workers


I was given these. They were sitting at the back of the bench looking at me, so in a moment of wild abandon on Sunday night I painted them.

There's something vaguely organic about painting Airfix figures (yes I know these are the Dapol re-hashes) something which reaches back to pre-teen years trying to get khaki paint to stick to unwashed 8th Army soldiers with too much flesh on show. Yes there are alternatives now. The Monty's and Modleu items are crisper, but to my eye are a little on the big side, not to mention a lot more expensive. The Airfix figures which are now 50+ years old do still stand up to scrutiny and for their day are beautifully cut. The only thing that jars is their ubiquity. This is outweighed by the adaptability: The pinch bar chap bottom right is a shoe -in for a signal man, the two with the lift bars are likewise easily put to sweeping or hoeing.

While the Modleu cab figures are tempting, I can't see rejecting these for general background duties anytime soon.