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.