Thursday 24 November 2022

Cheap platform lamps

In the box of life that formed the parts that were ripped off Rhiw Mk1 were the platform lamps. Not for me then the Bachmann or Wills products, which weren't yet available, but some fairly quick concoctions of my own. The problem was that over several years and the box being tossed about, there was a little bit of damage and one had vanished altogether. There was some repair work required and a new one to be made up. The brass rod used originally had also disappeared, but I found some slightly narrower steel that was close enough. Steel doesn't take solder particularly well, but some furious cleaning and a hot iron saw something that would pass sweated up.

A piece of 60 thou was removed from the scrapbox, shaped to match the originals and drilled to take the rod.

The new one was destined for the far left of the platform, so any slight difference wouldn't be obvious as it was well away from the others. It was first coated in enamel paint to prime it (there can't be many modellers who don't have a tin of ex-Spitfire duck egg to do this) and after leaving overnight the whole brace were finished and/or tidied with a coat of 63 grey and the platform numbers re-attached. Holes were drilled into the platform and the lamps stuck in with UHU. Probably less than an hour in total, and almost zero material cost.


Wednesday 23 November 2022

Building the crate

... well not exactly building. The general method of packing any layout over the last decade has been equal length boards strapped together with sheet material. In this case a piece of fairly low-grade ply that may have once graced the back of a piece of furniture and a sheet of hardboard that was certainly the rear of a picture frame. These were arranged to avoid various holes and obstacles, drilled and fitted with M6 bolts.  The next job is to trim them up a little to something approaching the right size
They are a little flimsy, though quite functional. I wouldn't trust them to tour roadies but for the single show that Rhiw 2 has in the book in March next year they will do.

Incidentally, I go through what seems like hundreds of bolts and wingnuts which were always bought from Wilcos' pick and mix counter. They seem to be moving over to high price plastic bags with four bolts in each at 1,000% upward shift. Any recommendations for a replacement supplier?


Tuesday 22 November 2022

Ashford part 2


Warning. Social commentary ahead.

The in-between-venue walk was also unplanned. The advertised shuttle bus had apparently broken down on the way out on Saturday and had been replaced by a swisher, but inadequate, 16 seat minibus…. We walked.

In hindsight this was good as the afore mentioned winter sun made for a pleasant stroll into Ashford centre past and through the site of the old loco works.  Not only that but we had local guides to explain what we were looking at.

Local history is always tied up with the now, and the recent now for Ashford has not been that great (its nickname Trashford gives a clue). I do get slightly defensive when faced with Midlanders and Northerners who routinely describe the southeast as ‘affluent’. A day in places like Ashford, Margate and most of the Medway towns would temper that opinion and recent governmental language vis-à-vis levelling up is always suffixed with ‘in the north’ and completely glosses over the deprivation in some post-industrial areas south and east of the capital. Big chunks of Kent were about shipping and coal mining (always forgotten) and show as many social problems as Mansfield or Scunthorpe. Ashford was teased: HS1 was to regenerate the area, and new infrastructure, hotels and conference places were built to welcome a business tourism from Europe, with direct trains to Paris, Brussels and beyond. Now the same governments have left the town hanging with Eurostars rushing past from the wealth of North London non-stop to Lille. Ashford is Oliver Twist watching the Bumble’s feast. The short walk showed all that in clear sunshine.

The very long engine sheds rival anything in Swindon or
Crew but are much reduced now and what is left is derelict. Possibly earmarked for TV production development they are totally collapsing and seem past anything but the bulldozer and unaffordable housing.

As we drove in earlier, the roof of this building caught my eye and was the washing house for the rags used at the works – something that would only be considered a single use item these days. Back then, worthy of a sturdy red brick structure which just screams ‘model me’. Only a few hundred yards away is the gatehouse/signing on building with its offices, belltower and clock and we were shown photos via a phone of workers streaming past it at the end of shift in more productive times. Again, a simple operation generated a highly ornate Italianate structure mirrored to the south behind housing by the company school.

As modellers we drool over such railway opulence for minor buildings and investment in industry and it plays very hard against the current thinking where Kent, and indeed the rest of the country, finds itself in 2022; basically, abandoned to fend for itself.

Monday 21 November 2022

Ashford 180

Another slightly unexpected day out. To be honest, I'd dismissed this one as there didn't seem to be any detailed information, only a jumbled web page and a list of venues... yes venues. Three. There were more than this, but after a discrete enquiry to people on the ground, things became a little clearer though I was still sceptical. Parking at the first venue and walking into town for Nos 1 & 2, I stumbled across the overriding problem: the sun. Room one was N and O gauges but set on the lighter side of the room which on a dull day would have been fine, but with winter sunshine allowed too much glare and threw the models into deep shadow, not to mention making photos awkward.

On the sun front venue two was little better, but it did include the deal breaker. The layout that makes all 009 modellers go weak at the knees, Dick Wyatt's Dovey Valley. Still looking good despite entering its sixth decade of exhibitions though this may have been its last showing, though he has said this before. Still the ultimate narrow gauge layout.

Venue three was duller and included a sizable amount of banter from the 7mm Narrow Gauge Association stand and included this delightful and curious Japanese paper layout with what looked like Kato powered Hong Kong trams running up and down on a shuttle. There was little information and no one to ask, in fact this seemed the order of the day with most layouts unattended and just a handful of stewards floating around.

Was it worth a trip? Yes and no. Dovey Valley and COD's Much Meddling yes, but a lot of the other exhibits were on the filler end of the spectrum.
The scores:
Show 6.5
Catering, a mixed 5
Parking 8
Rucksacks 0

More on the mid-venue walk later.

Monday 14 November 2022


This was all a little last minute. A good day, but a feeling of ... meh... at the end. Nothing wrong: some excellent modelling and a useful spread of traders, though somehow lacking a bit of zing. Points worth mentioning: Gas Lane, O gauge, compact and very buildable. Oldshaw, very nicely done, but a little under operated at times. Wandleford, now with straight bridge and less organ bass pedals, very intense and inventive as usual from AWK. Grindley Brook, O gauge as it should be done.

The cafe front of house was now turned into the exhibitor's lounge; teas and light stuff was served in the studio. OK, but not enough for lunch and despite rumours to the contrary, the cafe two doors down was open. I can't understand why people don't make the effort to walk 50 yards for this as we had it almost exclusively. For £7.50 you can get the full heart attack on a plate (see below, note this is the baseline serving). 

The scores:

Show 7.5

Rucksacks 1

Trade 7.5

Catering in 4 , out 10.

Parking  (on street) 5


Saturday 12 November 2022

Saturday Ramble -Age driven modelling

 One of the upsides of returning to a stateless form is that I now have a little more time to spend with my late octogenarian parents. Both are fading, but furiously independent: my mother dashing about everywhere and my father complaining that he didn't get picked for the England T20 squad. The extra time meant I went over and broke up an old garden table, put up two bird boxes and repaired a dining room chair. During the post-jobs tea and biscuits my mother stated, 'there's really too much stuff in this house'. I agreed but didn't comment further.  About 15 years ago they had flown in the face of logic and instead of heading toward a 2-bed bungalow by the sea they upsized to a rambling four-bedroom house in the sticks. My protestations of that time have now become reality and they have filled the house with a decade's worth of impulse buys. My mother bristled when I said that there would be a skip required at some point. This just reinforced my thinking.

What's all this got to do with modelling? Well, if you replace my mother's gardening tools with modelling bits you soon have many of my modelling friends' houses. I am determined not to do that, determined to shuffle off with a cupboard empty of projects that are un-done. Capital stock such as locos in boxes is one thing, but we all have tobacco tins and margarine tubs full of bits that might come in useful. This is what I'm working towards and there are one or two projects formulating in my head that will take advantage of this. The sorted out seated figures above, some of which have been in stock for possibly decades, are destined to be painted up and assigned to coaching stock - something that I rarely do. The key, I believe, is consolidation of ideas and sensible planning. We are all heading in one direction, and it makes sense to leave as little as possible in the way of all the supplementary bits and bobs that are so hard to deal with by those with the sweeping up broom.

Friday 11 November 2022

Backward brake van

 Rhiw Mk1 caused quite a bit of discussion when it was exhibited, not least the general design which reflected what would likely have existed on a rationalised line in the mid 1980s as opposed to putting in extra sidings and what-have-you to give 'extra operation'. 

Another bit of seemingly never-ending questioning was the use (or not) of a brake van. Several knowledgeable people were asked, including ex-drivers from the South Wales area and even they couldn't give a definitive answer. The rescue was obtained by none other than Mr. Flint who got dragged into the argument when the layout was being photographed at Pecorama. He disappeared into the library and returned with a photocopy of a page from a book which outlined the reversing move that takes place on Rhiw. In a nutshell; the move would require a second man to act as lookout at what would be the leading end of the train and would flag or walkie-talkie the driver during the reverse, even with air-braked stock. 

We needed a brake van.

It took a while to find one, and although there were plenty of bauxite livered 20t vans still around during the period, I wanted a newer liveried version to pin the date. Eventually this Bachmann one was found for the princely sum of £7.75 and was snapped up. Lamps had already been fitted (at the LH end so as to be visible on exiting the layout) but it wasn't until now that the guard/second man was added using the Airfix lookout figure holding a pair of flags, painted up in jeans and donkey jacket (the orange plastic patch is there, but not visible) and stuck with a dab of UHU.

Go on, you know you want to...

Thursday 10 November 2022

The furniture factory

 This is rapidly turning into a Futers tribute layout.

A lick of paint and a couple of dabs of Poundland UHU and Mr. Hill's Wills sheet-built furniture factory takes its place at the back of Rhiw 2. Why furniture? Dunno. The pipework is warmed and bent sprue, the downpipes 1mm rod and the bargeboards from 20 thou sheet. The rest is from the afore mentioned Wills bits. What's not obvious here is the subtle stepping of the gables, falling from about 12mm this end down to a flat at the far end. Now it's up it does remined me of various Ian Futers' layouts in both 4mm and O with the gable end corrugated factory units. it will be bordered with some board fencing of which I need another pack to finish and then some suitable detritus such as drums and pallets. The sharp eyed will notice the Wizard Models speed sign which has appeared naturally by magic next to the bridge pier. 

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Saturday Ramble: Cardboard dreaming

Without a doubt and probably without exception we are both influenced by, and hanker for, a certain period of our lives, often for lifestyle or political reasons, but more often for artistic reasons. The feelgood factor when life was good and full of promise before secondary education knocked any hope or dreams out of most people. This period usually coincides with the teen years and not surprisingly, I'm no different. These years loosely run from 1973-1982: musically starting with Slade and ending in unlikely fashion with Charlie Parker and Art Blakey... not the most logical of routes it has to be said. 

I'd been modelling since about eight, but the railway bit didn't really arrive until a few years later in the mid 1970s. The Modeller was in black and white with small pictures and much more text compression and to my mind contained layouts with far more character than now. Yes, the sheer quality may now be better, and we have since gone full circle with track gauges (does anyone aspire to P4 these days?) but things were more railwaylike: less about photo backdrops and more about representing the running of trains. The plan books were full of track, unlike now where producing plans that have more than two points appears to be a hanging offence. The combination of these factors was quite dizzying to me at the time, and I've reached back more than once; recently with the AoTC which was firmly pinned to 1980s materials. 

What about the real roots though? The ones with the black and white photos, the Gem track and the Superquick buildings? Well, they do still exist;  I'm thinking particularly of Woking club's Thirdly and (though I only recently became aware of the tie up) Millford which I recently sub-edited for RM and may well be in the December issue. The key factors are 1. card and brick paper, and 2. a railwaylike attitude; a model representation of the mainline and not a two-point photoplank.

Here's the question: would it be possibly to get this atmosphere now, from scratch using these period kits, many of which are still available? I got close with Hopwood (below) but this was almost entirely made from Wills and Ratio products, i.e. post 1980s plastic and suffered from being a little squashed to fit the Peco stand at Warley. Doing it again would be easy enough as would letting it breathe a little space-wise. Could I get the atmosphere right though?

If you've enjoyed this ramble, show the love.

Tuesday 8 November 2022

Invisible walling

 The last piece of walling for Rhiw 2 takes shape. This has now been painted and installed. The whole thing felt a bit pointless as unless you have a funny shaped neck or you are standing in the rearward operating position, it isn't really visible. Perhaps that's not the point; it needs to be there to finish the structure and although I tend to sit on the fence in these, matters, I don't want to stand behind the layout looking at a load of half-cocked scenery. The structure root is the same as the stuff at the rear of the layout and uses the larger scraps of Wills course stone that I had left over from the O gauge project and a little filler, with a capping from strips of 40 thou: 4mm wide and lightly scribed using the Wills wall capping as a spacing guide. I seem to go through acres of the stone sheet, and it must be the most versatile product in the range,

The rear of the structure/spacing pieces are packing card; the stuff that I used to get wrapping the Ed's copies of 009 News which is very good quality and may well be the grade that the printer uses for hardback cover bases. The return wall at the right is largely superfluous, but at this stage I wasn't sure how much of it would be visible. Again, it's scrap material so zero cost.

 The use of card of late for these walling areas has got me thinking about a fully-cardboard finished layout, of the sort that graced the 70s magazines that I grew up with. The thinking is in place and more on the possible execution of the idea later.

Show the love and chip in for a cup of something steaming.

Sunday 6 November 2022

The best bookshop

 Last Monday was a tidy up day for me at Peco Towers and I was on book review duty. I pondered out loud as to where all these books end up; and believe me they do mount up remarkably quickly. 'Come with me' said young Craig and led me down gas-lit corridors and damp stairwells, beating through the cobwebs, to a dark place that is uninhabited by humans, deep in the bowels of the East Devon geology. 

There, all correctly filed, were 40+ years of review books in countless alleyways of shelves creaking with the weight of information and paper. If an article on a line or locomotive is planned, the required info will be here, not to mention the cross-referencing ability required for positive dating. It's simply the best bookshop you could ever walk into... except you can't.

Thursday 3 November 2022

Wills lozenge tiles

 The dinky French wayside station building all done... after six months. Not that it took that long, just that I kept leapfrogging with other projects. In an effort to tie up the loose ends, it was one of a pair of things that needed sorting ASAP. The main reason for it was to try the Wills Lozenge tiles of which only one sheet was used. Just for jolly I compared these to some pure HO scale roof parts form a Joueff kit. To my surprise they are all but identical and so look to be correct for HO and don't suffer from the slightly overscale problems of some of the earlier original Wills sheet range. Worth noting if you are working in Euro-HO as opposed to 4mm. Though to be honest they will work adequately for the larger scale without too much bother.

The reason for the ASAP tie ups? Your trusty scribe is now as of this Monday off the payroll at Peco and back to the rollercoaster of freelancing. Though it has been said repeatedly, Peco is a little like Hotel California.

Thursday 27 October 2022

Jolly nice bumps

 One of the features of Rhiw Mk 1 was the lifted down line. This was often remarked upon, and the usual comment was that it wasn't done very frequently and if it was, it was just plain ballast. It was decided to do this again and go the whole hog and do the entire length of the layout. The effect, and it is extremely subtle, is to create the bumps left when sleepers are removed and the undulations of the ballast around them remains. Modelling is simple, though not the most exciting thing to do and is just 32mm lengths of thin card laid where the track would have been at roughly 3.5mm intervals. The whole lot is then covered with a ballast mix creating an almost imperceptible ridged effect.

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Starting in Scale OO


A couple of posts back I mentioned referencing a long-owned book. I've had it so long that I got the title wrong. More on that in a mo. The publication date is 1965 and this edition is marked  as 1968 though I'm guessing two things: 1) it's a new cover to take in decimalisation and 2) I bought it in 1974 or thereabouts. Even then it was very dated: the photos are mostly from the Cyril Freezer catalogue and represent 1950s modelling more than the 70s. However taking that into consideration, there were (and are) one or two inspiring shots included and much of the text is good solid stuff, though obviously long pre-DCC. The title reflects how we vocalise the scales and gauges now. The Gay Joe Guild while retaining the title must have long given up in favour of O gauge and so it was here – Starting in Scale OO has long morphed into OO gauge; probably even before I bought my copy.

The golddust is the set of  standards on the inside cover and this gets looked at often including in the last couple of days vis-a-vis walling. It has of course been superseded most recently by Peco's big A4 bookazine style guide which is packed with a lot more in the way of track plans and constructional bits; not to mention a picture of David Malton (surely worth the cover price alone). However, despite having a copy of this I can't remember grabbing it to find something out, as good as it is. The price of £7 is probably comparable to the 25p of the older book and is half an inch thicker. Charm and inspiration? Can't touch it.
Starting in Scale OO  is still around secondhand and if only for the standards table and the 4" nails holding the signal box up (thanks to Mr. Hill for pointing that out) it's worth getting a copy.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Painting the wall.


The first section all done.The paint was applied pretty dry using one of those cheap nasty flat Chinese brushes; the ones you get in The Works @ £1.99 for six. A few stones are picked out in orange, then the trick is to work the colours in opposing diagonals so that the paint doesn't get into the joints, but just sticks to the stone's surface. The dirt in the form of German Grey is then applied in upward strokes working more underneath the capping. I can't remember where I picked this up – possibly Mr. Rice again. The water runs are green, overlaid with some pale grey. Five colours in all 62, 29, 67, 64 and 78 if you are working in Humbrol. Probably Elf Excrement, Dragon Spit and Ground Dwarf bones if you prefer  Games Workshop tones.

Just another three feet to go...

Go on, you know it's worth it.

Monday 24 October 2022

Wills walling


Probably the most useful of the Wills sheets; well in this neck of the woods anyway. There was a little left over from the O gauge layout (and there's the useful right there) but with a little shy of three feet to do, I had to splash out on another couple of packs. Not a quick job and hardly a fascinating one either, especially the endless capping. Each panel is built up at the rear with a carcass of cardboard to space it away from the backscene and to create the required 10 deg. batter as laid out in the table at the back of Starting in OO gauge. A copy of which is never far away. Now the equally long job of painting it all.

Share the love and chip in for an Americano.

Friday 21 October 2022

More French


Done bar the painting. Slightly out of my usual geographical sphere, but why not? The Wills lozenge tile sheets, for which this is a demo of/for, appear to be thinner than the previous products, though checking these against a slate sheet proves otherwise. This suggests that the thickness is being reduced across the range, thus throwing out the usual complaint against them. Everything except the roof is fundamentally left-overs and scrap bits, so zero cost. I don't actually have a use for this, but it is a pretty generic western Europe style, so it'll get used somewhere.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Something French

With 'issues of a technical nature' floating around me, it was time to return to the French building. All slightly vague but inspired by some photos in the July '92 copy of CM (the rustling sound you can hear is those with archives looking for this magazine).

The reasoning behind this was to try the new Wills lozenge tiles. The size needed to be small, as to not to over do it, with a simple pitched roof. This was started a while back then other stuff popped up and it got put on the back burner.

The walls are Wills render and the window is a cut down unit from the Peco N gauge engine shed leftovers. The quoins are cut and wrapped 10 thou plastic. The dimensions are taken from the unhelpful 3/4 views and some HO scale scrap drawings of the door and window. The door is a puzzle and seems to be remarkably tall for HO, however I have persevered. The finished carcass looks to be a little short in length, but as I said...inspired.

Tuesday 18 October 2022

Uckfield exhibition


Despite the danger of repeating the report from last year's bash, t'was a good show. In essence it is designed and planned to be a mini finescale show; not in that there is a lot of P4 or S7, but more of the sheer quality. With maybe one exception, you could pick any one of the exhibits and at any other event it would be your pick of the day. Here, you were spoilt. Good friends of David Bickerton's, the Gravetts were in attendance and were probably getting on a little better than the photo appears to show, with the new mini Pempoul. Tim Ticknell was reluctant with something 'built for specialist NG shows'. OK, but perfect anyway.

A favourite is Hembourne, which you can see much more of in other web places, is possibly the AotC done to its ultimate, though the LBSCR layout above seemed to have a major operating flaw in that it was front op', 3-links and all uncoupling carried out behind the fragile station building. Beautiful, but looked awkward.

Uckfield is undoubtedly the best show in the area, though don't tell Adrian that. The finescale element meant that the rucksack count was high and irritating; a packed show and bulky bags don't mix. Parking is a doddle. Put it in your diary for next year.

More pics on Mr. Campbell's blog to your right.

Show 9.5

Catering 8

Rucksacks (generally following the finescale/sandwiches link) 7

Parking 10

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Saturday Ramble: Hornby TT :120

 Well, there's a funny thing. As I sit on the chair that I do I've been slightly ahead of the curve of both the Peco and Hornby announcements. This has given me a chance to ponder it for a while. My first reaction on the Peco entry a while back was 'OK, where's the loco?' Wagons buildings and track are one thing, but without some power, a trainset you do not have. There is the Gaugemaster Euro-Class 66 lurking in the shadows of the website. Is this available? If so, no one is talking about it. Then we have the disconnect between the two announcements and you quickly get into conspiracy theories. Finally, there is the latest announcement from Heljan saying that they are pulling out of the idea as Hornby have stolen their thunder and duplicated. Well, we've been here before with Terriers et al, as we have had the website-only purchase game.

Industry shenanigans aside, is it viable idea? If you look at the longer term picture then it probably is. N gauge is often seen as a bit too small and this is a wee bit up at 1:120 (2.54mm-1') as opposed to 1:148 (2 1/16th mm -1'). That doesn't seem like much in linear terms, but is quite a visual jump. Then there is the 3mm angle with its root in Tri-ang TT and a healthy half a century old support society. The folk there that I know are robustly pissed off and feel completely slighted. I tend to agree, but there are two bits of thinking which will have affected the decision not to go 3mm/ 1:100.

Firstly there is the, unseen by most British eyes, large Germanic/Euro market (what, we are still talking to Europeans?! Green pens at the ready). Here, the tradition is 1:120 on 12mm track and it can't be beyond most people to see that there is a commercial eye on this. Linked to this vis-a-vis 3mm is the question of the triple possibilities of gauge: The die-hards using 12mm, the two people using 13.5mm and the newer and growing rapidly finescale breed on 14.2mm. If the companies pick one it'll piss all the others off. Better to be even-handed and piss them all off. The upshot is that the 12mm boys have just been handed a range of super-detailed off-the-shelf track. And don't tell me that they're not going to buy it.

My conclusion is that it'll all settle down and in five years it will have taken off or sunk without trace. It's going to be black and white and probably dependant on whether Hornby decide that it is worth carrying on with. If not, we'll have Tri-ang TT Mk2. If the range can grow and form into some sort of logical lump which at the moment it doesn't, looking like a completely random selection of non-compatable items, then it'll work. We shall see.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

What did Iain Rice ever do for me?


Well quite a bit really.

Unlike many others on the net in the last few days I'm not going to regale you with all the deep conversations I had with Iain, and there's good reason for that... there weren't any. Sure I espied him from time to time at some of the finescale type shows, but that was it. The influence (and it is a huge influence) was via the one.

This one was at the much missed Heathfield shows. Not being brought up with the Constructor I didn't know who he was, but he was billed to give a talk with Bob Barlow (also not known) on light railways. I'm not usually drawn to talks. However this one I sat through and was completely inspired and fascinated. I was one above track mat level at that point, and in 40 minutes it changed everything. Seriously everything. I bought books, found these magical light railways, discovered narrow gauge and started modelling in 009. 

I bought the 1990s layout design book, swallowed it virtually wholesale, and was still using the Ullysses design of board support up to Wood End in the early 2000s. Then there were the wagon books: both RTR and kit built. Sensible pragmatic advice on how to improve things. Then MORRIL which was a bit hit and miss, but with Rice-ian writing that engaged and drew you in.

Would I have ever been the modeller that I am? Without Iain Rice? Completely and categorically no.

Monday 10 October 2022

Farnham exhibition

For the second year running a trip to the Farnham show. Aside from a slight issue with getting parked whereby I took it upon myself to park in the logical space rather than wait for someone else's brain to kick in, a very good day.
There wasn't a bad layout in the entire show; the exhibition hits a middle audience, perhaps leaning toward the finescale, and was spread out over five rooms. This meant that despite being told 'we've had our best Sunday ever' by the club, the place didn't feel crowded. There were a lot of people to talk to and connections were made including brief chats with Phil Parker (who was photographing for BRM) graphic artist and fellow Peco-ite Steve Croucher who was operating Modbury and a hook up with the chap that bought Unnycoombe, which is still going strong. The catering was friendly, well-stocked and slickly-served and there was a generally happy buzz around the place. Although I'd mainly gone to see Canada Street (above) the whole day (and it was the whole day) was very enjoyable. This really is the one to beat.

The scores (I know this is the important bit)
Exhibition 10
Catering 10
Rucksacks 4
Parking 1

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Friday 7 October 2022

Half Acre N gauge


Ph: Craig Tiley
As you may or may not have noticed, the long drawn out and marginally frustrating Half Acre build is now running in RM with the final instalment in the December '22 issue. It will also be appearing at the Warley show although without me behind it. To tie up with this, a new page tag has appeared at the top of this page with a couple of shots taken by the Ed. along with the RM track plan.

Its future was discussed yesterday at a local level, the upshot of which is that if Peco don't want it, it will be probably be up for grabs at some point. In other words I don't want to keep it.

Tuesday 4 October 2022

16 ton coal

All done with the expected light corrosion thrown in. There are all sorts of issues with this once you start digging (aren't there always?) in that all the examples that I pointed you towards on Paul Bartlett's site differ very slightly from this. Did you notice? No? That's good then. A quick look at the supporting text in the Peco catalogue which I keep on my person at all times day and night, appears to fudge the issue a little and even the original Parkside instructions don't actually state that it's a diagram 1/099. Though with the 10'wb there isn't much else that it could be as all the other 'standard' dia 1/108s (as per the Airfix) are 9'. Answers to the usual address on a five-pound note please.

Speaking of the people in darkest Devon, I have now completed two years of remotely pushing commas around in RM articles, and my time will draw to a close at the end of the month. It's been fun, occasionally hair-pulling, but now a return to my old pretending-to-work freelance life. Though it has been pointed out that Peco is a little like Hotel California; you can check out any time you like...     It' isn't quite falling off a cliff as publishing schedules being what they are, I'm currently working on the December issue, there will be bits of my sticky-fingered sub-editing appearing into the new year and even some well-polished photos in the January CM. I'm sure the population will be thankful for the sudden drop in semi-colons in 2023.

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Sunday 2 October 2022

Holiday wagon

A longish weekend to the west country needs something to pick up at the odd moments when Mrs F. is watching something dreadful on the TV. In this case Rhiw 2 is in need of several late-period 16 tonners of which I had one in stock. This is the Parkside PC19 kit of a 1975 build Dia 1/099 which has been around for decades now. Essentially this is a standard 16-ton shape with a vac-fitted 10' wb as opposed to the even older Dapol/Airfix 9'.

As with all Parkside kits the body is good, but the chassis mouldings are a bit of a curate's egg, seemingly in a softer black plastic and less crisp. In most cases I would replace the buffer heads at least. Here though, far from the spares box, I made do with the supplied parts. Breakages are likely and if you get through the build without losing one of the axlebox tiebars then you've done pretty well. I didn't and the unseen one has been replaced with plastic strip. The eight gusset plates are awful, and I've replaced most with some plastic sheet bits which was quicker than trying to make the supplied parts work.

This suggests that the kit is crap... it isn't, just that there are a couple of things that can be improved. Peco now supply this with transfers so even better. Half a dozen similar ones to buy and build.

Piccys of the real thing here.


Wednesday 21 September 2022

Peco platforms

 There was a time when I wouldn't have given the range of Peco platform parts a second glance. However, with the building of Hopwood I was honour-bound to use as much of the Peco/Ratio/Wills range as possible and aim it at the novice, so they seemed logical. I wouldn't say that this was a a road to Damascus moment, but I became aware that the rather old fashioned clip-together and paper overlay construction had a certain amount of merit and was quite adaptable. There were a lot of scraps left over and I topped this up with a further pack from a well known North-West retailer. 

The biggest physical change is to reduce the height slightly. I'm guessing that these come from the era where a strip of foam underlay was considered almost compulsory under the track, so they are slightly on the lofty side to allow for this. There are inward protrusions designed to retain the crossmembers and these were used as a guide to rest a razor saw against giving a consistent reduction of about 3mm. This brings the overall height down to a more logical buffer level.

The packs are supplied with paper overlays which I used on Hopwood here. In this case I wanted a more modern concrete facing and also a dumb end without a ramp which would have been quite rock and roll in 1980. This represents a new platform built purely for multiple units, so barrow ramps are superfluous. I'll add a set of steps and a fence/gate. I have a problem with concrete and usually end up mixing pale greys and sand to get a close colour. Here though there is quite a bit to do so Games Workshop  Screaming Skull has been used. The top is still in its natural state and will be coated with a lighter grey.

Monday 19 September 2022

The big shed

Eleven years ago on this page, I described the research and building of a cheap industrial unit for Rhiw Mk1 which can be found here . Onward to now and the rebuild and a new unit was required. As Mk2 is slightly shorter this too had to be reduced slightly and Mr. Hill took on the basic build in card and Slater's sheet. What I failed to mention was the cut outs required for the reinforcing block on the end board. The basic carcass as supplied is above.

Over the last two days it's been painted and detailed. All that it's required to do is to stop the eye at the end of the layout and to look as boring as possible, so some modern brickwork colour and the extruded sheeting in a dull cream. It would have been brand new so is very clean. The graffiti on the original ('Maggie out' was neatly cropped out by RM for fear of upsetting the readers as were the Jimmy Saville posters) tied in with the 1984/5 period of just post-strike. Now the timeline has been dragged back to 79/80 and the graffiti changed to what I remember going on at the end of my school days when half of my classmates were tripping up to Greenham Common to protest. It was pointed out that some Welsh nationalist script would be good, but the CND won out because I could spell it.

Sunday 18 September 2022

Seaboard Southern Exhibition

A lovely day for a stroll across the environs of old Crawley. The local NMRA group have a base here and their annual day is always worth a look. Not really an exhibition as such, it is quite focused, more of a members' day type of affair much beloved of the 009 Society. Half a dozen layouts representing the Americas (the inclusion of the Cuban above stretches the geography). Not a duffer amongst them though notably some were getting far more attention than others. The On30 in the side room was especially deserted, probably because nothing seemed to be running despite its size.

Trade was good and more or less what you would expect. Though there seemed to be a dearth of the useful small switchers of the 44T or S2 variety. The manufacturing side of the hobby doesn't appear to be looking at what may be popular, or maybe that's just it... it's sold out.

The catering, which is high on my agenda was a little lacking: the heavily advertised bacon and sausage baps having a 25 min wait; at lunchtime? When did you expect the demand for food? I've done a couple of catering turns at small shows in the past and would have been embarrassed at that. That aside good for a small specialist show and good to meet up with a couple of old friends.

The scores (well that's what you were waiting for)
Show 8
Parking 10 (very easy without the car)
Rucksacks 0.2
Catering 4 (three of those are for the cleavage)