Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A good day's work

Not that I got anything done that actually involved railway building, but...

The back corner of the music room is now cleared to the point where I can get at the workbench, which has light, heat and power. Also sorted out a batch of donated tools, including corner clamps, clamps, a metal set-square and loads of sandpaper.

Scored some replacement batteries and a sander/jigsaw/screwdriver set to go with my Black and Decker Versapak drill - also discovered batteries are still available in the US.

Scored all three volumes of "Great Western Branch Line Modelling" on eBay for £40 the lot.

Still haven't found my craft knife/cutting board set. Reduced to using Anne's scalpels.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Deeping model railway exhibition and fiddle yards

Went to the excellent small show in Deeping St. James (just up the road) last week. Several nice layouts, including Woodcroft. which was using aluminium-angle based cassettes in its fiddle yards.

I've just acquired, from a friend who's clearing out, a couple of 5'x18" or so papering tables. which are a touch wobbly to lay track on, but DO look as though they could be reasonable supports for cassette-based fiddle yards.

Hrm. Must think about that :D

Monday, 19 April 2010

An afternoon's woodwork

Finally got James' piece of 8'x4' down from upstairs, with much cursing and wondering how we ever got it up there in the first place.

It now has some 3/4" x 1 1/2" underframing, from which I have learned several things:

  • the problem with 8'x4' baseboards is they're 8'x4' :D
  • 8' lengths of 1 1/2" x 3/4" have a lot of flex about the thinner axis
  • Liquid Nails is no substitute for a drill and a bunch of woodscrews
  • that baseboard is never going back upstairs
On the good side, it's now sitting on two B&Q trestles in the playroom, where I suspect it'll stay for a while, and has been given a coat of spray mud-brown.

In other news, scored an Airfix autocoach on eBay. Rarer than I realised.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Back from York...

...and my feet are killing me.

High spots: definitely Long Line (67' of GWR branch line in N - even better (and longer) than when we saw it at St. Albans) - James' favourite too, which shows I must be doing something right.

Also got to chat with Aidan Campbell, who makes and paints some really nice figures. Figures on railway layouts always intrigue me - it seems that a lot of folks just plonk down something pre-painted, and you don't (that I can tell) see as much effort go into detailing and shading as wargamers do - not even the quick and easy dip method. Aidan was therefore something of a breath of fresh air in this regard.

James got to do a bit of modelling in the kids' modelling area (with the wife, who is actually a dab hand at detail work - comes of being a vet), and came away with a completed (Peco?) small signal box/ground frame hut which he was very proud of. We'll paint it later (rather regretting letting him stick the base/levers in, so we can't paint those!).

Purchases: not a lot - some Parkside Dundas wagon loads, a bottle of PlasticWeld and some Railmatch GWR Stock Grey (Trains4U having sold out).

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A few achievements today...

...helped by having no broadband, and having to be in home for the solar heating engineers.

I’ve removed the original Bachmann “G W R” lettering from the tank sides of my 56xx, with a cotton bud, some enamel thinners and the end of a cocktail stick, and replaced it with HRMS Pressfix “GREAT WESTERN” lettering. For a moment or two it looked as if one side was going to read “GREA|- WESTERN” due to not pressing down on ALL the letters!

I also took delivery of a MicroScale ‘Truck Tuner’ from wizardmodels.co.uk, which is a very handy little widget (pointed out to me by the folks on RMWeb) for opening out wheel bearings on (in my case) Lima wagons, which tend to have horribly out of scale (and in at least one case out of round) wheels.

Also did a lot of thinking and planning, and I think the current aim is to:

  • settle on a track plan for James’ 8’x4’ board, and use that as practice for track laying, ballast and scenery. I suspect this is going to wind up as a derivative of one of CJF’s ‘double track junction plus high level branch’ plans from 60 Plans For Small Locations, and will make James’ happy ‘cause it’ll have a tunnel! This will, I think be ‘Onnybrook Junction’ and I might try and squeeze Longville’s track plan in as the upper level station. What I do hope to do, though, is try and avoid CJF’s penchant for retaining walls, perhaps by adopting the approach from the Peco Settrack plans book of having a double sided scenic break.

  • slowly start building baseboards for Much Wenlock. It looks like this is 3 4’x2’ board plus a 4’x1’ fiddle yard either end. The interesting gotchas are that the whole thing isn’t flat, and there’s at least one road that has to go from over to under the railway in about 7’. I think I understand how, though.

Monday, 15 March 2010


My copy of "The Wenlock Branch" finally showed up, tucked between two veterinary medicine books (I blame the wife) on the bottom shelf in the library.

Lots of useful pics and a full 1928 WTT, as well as lots of operational detail. This should be fun. Initial useful discoveries are that there are nice scene-breaking bridges at both ends of Much Wenlock station (only requiring a little tweaking in one case, and none in the other).

Also had a play with designing Longville in XTrakCAD, which does give me the advantage of being able to 'play trains' and see how much space there is in the various sidings. Hopefully I can do the same with Much Wenlock later on in the week.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Or.... (what, me? indecisive)

... I wonder if I could fit Much Wenlock in 10' or 12' of scenic baseboard?

The main problem is it would restrict the number of rooms in this house I could built it in. Longville would fit along one wall of one of the (several) 12'x12' rooms here including its fiddle yards. Much Wenlock is markedly longer - it's actually two stations separated by a couple of hundred yards, for all practical purposes, as the old one became the goods yard when the new one was built.

Longville has two problems:

  • It's positively dead in terms of traffic and loco availability - 3 passenger trains a day! 
  • It slopes the wrong way! If you look at the diagram in the previous post, the terrain actually slopes down from bottom to top (being as how it's on Wenlock Edge!). Which would mean that ideally you'd want to view the layout from the top... which means the buildings block line of sight on half the track.
However, on the plus side:

  • It's only four points, and is nice and small.
As far as Much Wenlock goes, on the other hand:
  • Much more traffic
  • No real slope, although the south/west bound line to Presthope is usefully at the back of the layout and raised a little.
  • Has a proper engine shed and goods shed.
  • It looks like it really needs 12', which restricts me to the outbuildings or the library, by the time I've added 3' of fiddleyard either end.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

New arrivals and a track plan

Today’s post brought James’ Bachmann 4575 small Prairie, which went straight to Trains4U for chipping - nice purchase, seems to be pretty much brand new except for a missing set of cabside steps, which doesn’t look as if it should be beyond me to knock up in plasticard. It also brought a couple of books from Transport Diversions, specifically the Country Railway Routes book on the Wenlock branch and the District Controller’s View series book on the Severn Valley Railway (also covering the Wenlock branch in passing).

I’m now even more desperate to find my Wenlock Branch book! Some very nice photos of several of the stations on the Wenlock branch, especially Longville (which benefits from the station building being still intact and well photographed).

Starting to be very tempted by Longville on a 6’x18” or so board with a pair of 3’ fiddle yards either end - it’d be pretty simple to build and allow me to concentrate on scenery etc.

My only wonder is whether James would object to something that’s not a roundy-roundy and has a very simple track plan.

Monday, 8 March 2010

On 00 R-T-R pre-nationalisation releases generally

An interesting few contrasts this year between the Bachmann and Hornby new releases, at least from my point of view.

Hornby are ‘celebrating’ the GWR 175: one reworking of the 28xx, ditto for 61xx (in shirtbutton livery only), and a set of Hawkesworth coaches that actually (as far as I can tell) never actually ran on the GWR qua GWR. To be fair, I will be buying the 28xx, but... by contrast, let’s look at Bachmann...

Brand-new S&DJR 7F 2-8-0. Brand-new Johnson 3F 0-6-0 (if you’re being really uncharitable, there was a R-T-R 3F back in the 60s by Triang, but short of a complete rebuild below the footplate, I don’t think it counts). City of Truro. No coaches. Now, the latter is a shame, but given that Hornby’s Hawkesworth’s are pre-nationalisation in name only (and they’re only producing them in maroon and blood-and-custard), that’s pretty much a draw on the coach front. (Some Toplights next year, maybe?)

To me? Bachman win hands down by daring to produce new stuff, and moreover they are (as I commented on RMWeb) very much actively encouraging pre-nationalisation modelling: in fact, they seem intent on turning modelling the S&DJR into this decade’s GWR branch terminus. And they’re not afraid to produce unglamorous workhorses like the 3F, the kind of thing that’s as common as muck and usually covered in it. More power to them.

It is, as I’m sure I’ve said before in this blog, perfectly possible to produce R-T-R Big Four (or even pre-grouping) stock that’ll attract the BR Steam Era modeller - in fact, if I were one, I’m sure I’d be delighted at the chance for something unusual to offset the dreary procession of Standard Class engines and Mark I coaches. Custom paint jobs aren’t THAT pricey - witness the number of custom finished modern era locals and MUs that are produced for various model shops. Putting out a shortish run of something in a GWR or LMS livery isn’t going to break the bank. I don’t believe that the cries of ‘there’s no demand’ are true. There’s no demand because you aren’t making the stock!

So, I say more power to Bachmann for daring to produce genuinely new Big Four locos and actively trying to create a demand, even if it’s for the S&DJR! Keep it up.

Bachmann's new announcements?

  • Johnson 3F 0-60? Yes please, I'll probably take 2. Now if Hornby would re-tool the 4F....
  • S&DJR 7F 2-8-0? Tempting, but I shall probably resist.
Some of the new scenery items look cool. A little disappointed there are no new non-BR coaches.

A brief aside on eBay

To James' great delight, we managed to score a Bachman 4575 Prairie in Great Western livery yesterday morning. For £15 or so less than the average eBay price.

Why? I strongly suspect because no-one's up and actively using eBay at 11am on a Sunday. Sunday evening is generally held to be the best time to sell stuff, as most folks are active. Sunday morning? Bit daft if you ask me.

And as to how I won that auction while sat behind a sound desk in church? AuctionSniper.com :D Well recommended, and your first three snipes are free* - after that it's 1% of the final value with a minimum of $0.25. Well worth it in my book for nabbing things you'd otherwise miss.

Me? I have a couple of old computers to eBay - I foresee more stock in the near future.

* in the interests of full disclosure: I get three free snipes if you sign up from that link.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

All quiet on the (Great) Western front

Walked back into work on Jan 6th to find I'd been promoted. Along with a music convention and a church panto to organize, life has been a bit busy.


Scored a Hornby Collet restaurant car on eBay. James has £65 burning a hole in his pocket and lamenting the lack of GWR RTR Prairies and similar - we're watching eBay like a pair of hawks.

As for the master plan? It's too cold to do anything out in the outbuildings, and I've been kind of busy. Toying with a couple of ideas at present:

One is to move Onnybrook Junction to be a fictitious station actually at Marshbrook Junction on the Marches Line. On the plus side, the track plan would a lot less ambitious and we'd still get to see the same variety of stock. Moreover, it'd not be impossible to make this portable, which probably has WAF. (Wife Acceptance Factor).

The other, that I'm seriously considering, is to have a shot at the RMWeb 2010 challenge with somewhere on the Much Wenlock branch, or perhaps a bit of the Clee Hill line. It would help if I could find the Wenlock Branch book which is somewhere in this house, honest!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Time to stop spending money :D

Picked up a second-hand Dapol/Airfix B-set from Trains4U along with a pack of Bachmann couplings+pockets. just in case I have any more accidents (while James' unofficial Aunty R was buying him some more track).

Also scored a Slaters' Toplight brake 3rd kit on eBay.

Tonight I'll be eBaying a few Wrenn wagons, some Super 4 /and/ HornbyDublo track, and assorted tatty Triang/Hornby stuff, and seriously considering listing the slightly-out-of-period Jubilee to see if I can raise the readies for an unrebuilt Patriot or Royal Scot.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A Happy New Year...

I'm sure there's a reader or two out there :D

Last couple of days small achievements:
  • Body swap on the Bachmann Pannier - amusing how all the guides just assume you can get the couplings off. In fact, the mounts have to come off with, and it's surprisingly easy to break one, which I did. Trip to Trains4U tomorrow - Gareth reckons he has one in his spares box.
  • Finished the weathering on the Lancashire Coke Co wagon.
  • Had a very interesting read of a GWR steam in the 30s book - fascinating to discover just what a mess the average rake of coaches was - things like local passenger trains made up of a clerestory, a B set, two Siphon G's and a NE perishables van, and semi-fasts a huge mix of Colletts, toplights, clerestories... None of these perfect rakes of uniform, pristine coaches!