Tuesday, 7 June 2016

HMS Belfast

Last week being half-term we had a family day out to London - meaning braving over-crowded trains, that's if it hasn't been cancelled! I'd been keen to visit HMS Belfast for some time, but when we got there we found it had company. A small cruise ship (the Berlin) was tied alongside.

Waiting by the bow was a tug, the Svitzer Laceby (oddly registered in Grimsby). There was another at the stern, but I didn't get a good view.

Hang on, here's something you don't see every day...

With a blast on the fog horn, the Berlin was under way, to be reversed under tower bridge by the two tugs. 

Leaving the impressive lines of HMS Belfast between Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

There's no mistaking her purpose though, bristling with guns. Apparently these can fire a 6" shell up to 14 miles - meaning if fired now they would land beyond London.

HMS Belfast was built in 1939 and served in the Second World War in the North Atlantic, Normandy, and the far East; and the Korean War. As well as being an interesting historical ship, it tells a fascinating story. The tour is quite hard work - lots of up and down ladders and corridors - but well worth it, both adults and kids found it interesting.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

Much of the work involved in making a model is preparation rather than construction. For example, I've made a start on an O14 Hudson Hunslet kit by Nonneminstre Models - which involves preparing the white-metal castings for the chassis to ensure a good fit before assembling them, and filling any gaps. As the prototype chassis is a single, massive casting rather than the five pieces of the model, I've taken the unusual step of giving it a coat of primer before proceeding further with the build so that I can see any remaining gaps and imperfections, and treat with filler and emery paper.

I'm planning to adapt the kit as per the Thakeham locos, but while I have plenty of photos I don't have dimensions yet, so this may sit on the back burner for now.

At the same time the Hudswell Clarke 009 loco has been primed. First I blackened the nickel-silver which both helps paint adhere, and disguises any wear or nicks in the paint along the edges. Then any gaps are filled - I find Squadron Green Putty ideal - before the model is cleaned. A couple of coats of Halfords etch primer are then applied, and once hardened the model is examined and any visible gaps or imperfections seen to with more filler and emery paper - before another coat of primer.

Meanwhile I've started yet another loco kit - of which more another time. However the build starts with preparing the N-gauge loco chassis - which means dismantling it completely, and chopping it up. As you can see that means a fine mess, I hope I can get it back together again - and working!

Monday, 23 May 2016

SWING 2016

Last Saturday I headed over to Bognor to the SWING exhibition, which has now established a reputation for having a good selection of industrial and narrow gauge layouts. Though I think it has struggled to keep the same small and friendly feel in the larger venue, it has allowed more layouts - and bigger ones too, such as the live steam 16mm scale.

Strangely I still like the small ones best though, like Compass Point by Chris O'Donoghue in 009. It packs in a lot of detail in a small space, and achieves that atmosphere that is impossible to define.



Chris Ford and Nigel Hill's ultra-simple and quite different Morton Stanley is also full of atmosphere, following the "less is more" route in 7mm scale.


Abbey End is David Malton's O14 model of the terminus of the Abbey Light Railway in Leeds, though sadly now closed. Despite being a simple prototype David has captured the woodland setting, with the varied and colourful stock, and achieved a fascinating model


Portwenn is a delightful 7mm scale layout with an attractive quayside, now in the new ownership of Simon King I hope it gets to more exhibitions.


Simon Wilson brought Wangford, just part of his Southwold Railway layout in 009. As this board is normally at the back of the layout it is nice for it to be more visible, and the simple set-up with a fiddle yard each end allows a procession of trains through the station.


Those are just a few of my highlights - you can see more photos here. Trade support was good too, with some narrow gauge specialists as well as both the 7mm NGA and 009 society sales stands. Not that I got much time to browse with my Son nagging, however he really enjoyed making a tree for his layout as guided by a very patient chap on one of the demo stands - a nice touch - and the ride-on train too.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Motor-Bogie Rebuild

At Sparsholt I spotted this on the 7mm NGA stand:

Branded Keykits I guess it's pretty old, but it looks like a Wrightlines motor bogie, which is currently unavailable (like much of the Wrightlines range, sadly). It's essentially a Tenshodo motor bogie replacement, but with a Mashima motor mounted with it's widest dimension vertical to allow the wheels to be pushed in to 14mm gauge - very useful given the number of 7mm scale kits that utilise the Tenshodo unit. This one had crudely fitted pick-ups, mismatching bolts and a broken wire - but the motor turns when it got power.

It didn't take long to dismantle. I checked and adjusted the wheel back-to-backs, and found some M2 bolts that were a good fit - the nuts are secured with Araldite. I moved the PCB down away from likely body fitting and closer to the wheels, and attached new pick-ups from phosphor-bronze strip - which I find much springier and more effective than wire. With the motor refitted, wires reattached, and keeper plate bolted in place the unit was running.

Now I know these things can be a little fast, with relatively high gearing, but a few lumps of whitemetal on top slowed it a little. The motor seems to run quite hot too, I don't know if it could do with more airflow. However it dos occasionally stop at low speeds, seemingly at the same spot, and I think more of a mechanical bind than pick-up issues - though I can't see anything wrong with the gears. I'm hoping some running in will help.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Print a wall

Joshua's train set is getting regular use, but he's keen for it to look more realistic - which means finding ways to hide the plywood and gaping holes between the levels. There's a lot of board to cover, and very specific size gaps to fill, so the Scalescenes retaining wall and tunnel mouth kits seemed the best option - as being economic and flexible. I printed out a couple of copies of each, bought a sheet of mounting card, and made a start at the front of the layout where the tracks pass by the high level station.

The Scalescenes prints give an excellent finish - the colouring and detail is spot on. I used a laser printer which I think gives a more robust (damp and light proof) finish, albeit slightly shiny - though a coat of matt varnish could address that. However what you really get is a kit to make a kit - the print-outs need sticking to card and carefully cutting out before even starting assembly. This all takes time, is rather fiddly - and I'm never sure what glue to use. PVA can cause wrinkling, so I use Pritt-Stick on the sheets of paper - but it really isn't very sticky and can lift at the edges.

The benefit is the freedom to adapt the kits. For example the set-track curves and track spacing, combined with the overhang of modern coaches like this Voyager, meant the tunnel openings had to be much wider than any of the suggested shapes. No problem - though I was running out of space to fit a large enough opening, so it is rather tight...

At the other end the loop off the inner track cuts acutely under the station, making a very tricky spot to present realistically. I found some Wills vari-girder mouldings in the bits box, which made up a suitable looking beam. Supports, walls, and parapets were made up to fit and dressed with the Scalescenes prints to match the walls. The result works well, although the Voyager won't clear that innermost track!

Thus the front of the layout looks much more realistic and is a good spot to watch trains go by. Now this is a train-set and is to be played with, so I haven't taken as much care in places that I could of to get edges sharp and disguise paper and card corners. However it's still taken me a good few weeks, on and off, to complete this 4-foot long wall and three tunnel openings, but there's a lot more of the layout needing walls and three more tunnels. I think I'm going to have to think of some short-cuts!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Narrow Gauge South 2016

Last weekend was Narrow Gauge South, held at Sparshotl, Winchester. I was helping my friend Martin Collins with his layout, Llandecwyn. It's very much Ffestiniog inspired, though set in the next valley south, and features slate wharves, and gravity trains, with Double-Fairlie, small Hunslet and de Winton locos.


It's not yet finished, and being primarily a home layout it isn't an ideal shape for exhibitions, but the quality of the scenery and stock is superb.


As usual the show is scattered through a number of class-rooms, which disguises it's size, as they contained nearly 30 NG layouts, as well as several specialist traders (and both 009 and 7mm NG society sales stands). The event hosted the 009 Society AGM, but I didn't go preferring to play trains and look at the layouts (it's the quietest part of the day!). With such a selection it's tricky to pick highlights, but I do love the character and finely modelled stock of Tim Ellis' tiny Grindley Brook Wharf.


Chris O'Donohughe's Compass Point is another small layout packed full of detail, and atmosphere. And a little humour too.


This was the last showing of Isle Ornsay for my friend Tom Dauben, even though it is not quite finished the scenery modelling is quite superb, but the layout has now been sold. Hopefully it will continue to be exhibited.


However there was undoubtedly one layout of the show for me. I've been a fan of Ted Polet's Craigcorrie an Dunalistair - a slice of Scotland built in Holland - since I came across it in the Peco book of Narrow Gauge which I found in the Library when I was 11. This was the first time I've seen Dunalistair, and the last time Ted was showing it, so it was a real privilege.


The modelling is to a high standard, but it is the cohesive nature of the layout (of which this is just a small part) with a fictional history, and a fleet of stock to match, that makes it a convincing example of freelance modelling, and such a popular model too. The harbour at Dunalistair is a particular feature, and as Ted spent many years at sea, it is superbly modelled.


To see more photos - of Dunalistair and the rest of the show - click here.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Thakeham at Steyning

It was a short drive over the sunny South Downs hills to Steyning, where Thakeham was quickly set up at the Wealden Railway Group show. With the information board I think it made an attractive display, and being shown just a few miles from Thakeham a number of visitors were interested in the local connection. As usual, kids were fascinated by the "unloading" of the skips, and a few even had a go pushing the lever. I'm pleased to report the layout performed without issues.


This year the show was held in a larger hall than before, which meant more space in the aisles (which have previously been somewhat cosy!), and some larger layouts, but all fitted the club motto of "Layouts you can live with", that is they are home-built and kept in modest spaces. Thakeham certainly fits that description...


So does Simon Hargrave's tiny folding 009 layout, surely an answer to anyone believing they don't have space for a layout! It is superbly modelled and surprisingly uncluttered, given it's modest size.


This nicely done industrial layout was shown by John Bruce, who I know better for small 009 layouts.


Thunder's Hill was one of the larger layouts, a fine exercise in 3mm scale, modelled to a high standard. The station is reminiscent of the Sussex style, including those of the Bluebell Railway.

That's just a taster, all the layouts were excellent, and you can see more photos here. As usual the relaxed show format - with a free hot drink for visitors - made for a friendly show.