Saturday, 28 March 2020

The Cadeby Conundrum

In happier days - now lacking a chimney and the cab backsheet is cracked
Having moved lots of books and tools from one of the sheds my studio now has a healthy population of spiders. In fact, the number of spiders has roughly achieved parity with the number of nearly finished OO9 kits.

Work on them and the Cadeby based micro layout came to an end when I lost my old office. I have to say that storage and the move to the studio have not been kind to them. It is quite depressing contemplating repair work before finishing them. I might even be tempted to start again on some of the cheaper 3D bodies. Other than that I will progress the models as and when, a major factor beign the suitability of the weather for spray painting. As for the layout itself, well that has now found a home in a storage box. I suspect it will see a little more use as a test track and for photography, before been denuded of trees as I borrow them for other projects.

Like Apa Valley before it, it has served its purpose. It got me back into OO9 and relatively up to date on improvements in the trade. It was always intended to be the precursor to a larger version of Cadeby that would allow for more sidings and a greater sense of place. It won't be an exact model because I'm inclined to allow for a continuous run and disinclined to model the monstrosity of a "modern" rectory.

The conundrum arises over baseboards.  I've got an unbuilt Tim Horn baseboard that I originally had in mind. I've also got two other ideas that could make equally good use of it though.  What hadn't really dawned on me until moving it the other day is that it isn't going to be a lightweight structure, even before I build a layout on it. That means whatever I use it for is going to need a semi-permanent home, and I'm not sure OO9 is the best use of that space.

So what are the alternatives? I'll take a look at a few more commercial alternatives, but I have a feeling I might end up using foamboard. I also think I'm going to play around with some dimensions once I've built a suitable Old Rectory and some larger trees.


Wednesday, 25 March 2020


OK, not much, but more than is probably apparent here. A lot of the boxes contain paperwork that accrued whilst I was in office stasis last year. I'm hoping I can reduce their number considerably over the next ten days.

Most importantly of all I finally have a workspace again. It is still less than half the area I've planned for, but it will do for now.

Meanwhile, splendid isolation continues.

Monday, 23 March 2020


Well, not quite.

The forecast of a spell of warm Spring weather, and the prospect of losing five days of annual leave that I can't carry forward, finally persuaded me to take a week's holiday at home. I was actually surprised to realise it is the first week I've taken off since July.

It might seem odd to some of you to take a holiday when people are homeworking, business is quiet, and sensible people are self-isolating.  The novelty of home-working wore off many years ago, so unless I force myself to take time off it is just like working in the office, only with longer hours. The wet start to the year also means I have a big backlog of tasks. To put it in perspective, this weekend I walked sixteen miles without leaving the garden. If nothing else, that is proof that the ELR needs to be extended.

The big job for this week is to move the vegetable garden as far away from the chickens and goats as possible. That, unfortunately, is also where I was planning to put the 7/8ths line. Whether or not railway and vegetable plot can co-exist is something I'm going to have to think through. It might be possible in some form but not the one I intended. Another big outside task is to start putting in a loading dock for the ELR  in the eyesore space created when we had to remove a stand of sycamores. How far that progresses probably depends on how timber I can salvage.

The other big project is to start organising the studio. Leaving aside that many boxes of books and model railways haven't really been unpacked since we moved here four years ago it is still chaos as a result of the shift around of rooms last year. It is amazing what I'm finding that I'd completely forgotten about, likes these 7/8ths kits from Model Earth

I suspect for the next couple of months 7/8ths will be my main focus, since I had so many part completed models on the go last Autumn. After that, the layout in a box takes priority as a precursor to TAoC.

My O gauge ideas are firming up. I want to make use of some of the RTR locos available whilst not falling into the trap of being derivative. I love the Minerva Manning Wardle, for example, but it is so common on exhibition layouts these days. I'm homing in on the Leomisnter-Bromyard branch at the moment. I know the route really well, having lived near Leominster, on and off, for some twenty years, albeit in what now feels like a very distant past. Station layouts were relatively simple, and there is even scope for a narrow gauge interchange. I'm imagining a variation on Llanastr with a solitary 57xx as motive power.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020


I was going to write quite an angry post about people in our hobby living in a bubble divorced from the reality of the current situation. Things have moved on since then and I hope we all now realise the potential seriousness, and that the knock-on effects will be widespread. In the big scheme of things, this is still just a hobby. Having said which I've no intention of minimising the impact on traders, manufacturers and others who depend on the hobby for all or part of their living. I'm also extremely worried about heritage lines.

In the short term, the key priority is keeping others safe, and, in doing that, protecting ourselves. 

Here in the fens, it isn't making that much of an impact on us, yet. Issy and I both work from home 50% of the time so moving to doing so 100% isn't that hard. On the other hand there is no novelty factor and we've already got well-worn routines that mean we make the most of the working day rather than idling.

I am taking some time off, quite literally as gardening leave in the sense that I'm using it to do gardening, rather than before joining a new employer. And it is hard to ignore that the ELR takes u quite a bit of one of our gardens.

So as well as doing some maintenance I'm thinking about a wholesale reworking of the track plan to separate the workshop from the running line. After all, one day I might finally get around to holding an open day, and it would make life a lot easier and safer.

The title of this post relates to another dilemma that I half-hinted at a few weeks ago. Like Chris Ford I'm thinking about O gauge, and this seems like a chance to think about it a little more. At some point I still want to build an O16.5 layout based on the Glyn Valley. So it makes sense to start getting some experience in the scale again. It isn't a priority as things stand, but that might change. I'll have to see how I get on once I can start building TAoC. A big question is probably whether I can really face up to the backlog of EM gauge conversions that has built up whilst I've been without a workshop. We shall see. If I do make the leap somethign else will have to go, and it is probably the Tanat Valley based layout. You know, the one where this blog started. 

I also need to find a track plan that would fit in the space I'm currently allocating layouts. until I don't need the office space. That could be quite a challenge.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Summer Campaign

With a possible lockdown imminent I'm beginning to wonder if it was at the back of my mind when I wrote the Cabin Fever post. At least I should get a chance to seriously consider the next steps on the ELR. it does look a mess, mostly thanks to the livestock.

A positive piece of news is that the report on Teddy's overhaul is that much less work is needed than first feared. This has cheered me up immensely. Especially since I'm still struggling to find the time and space to get to grips with Tug's electronics.

I at least managed to re-seed the lawn today, a task that took 9,200 steps according to my FitBit. In the past it has bounced back quite well, so we will see. The main task is really to fence off the track and workshop to prevent this sort of damage

I have to remind myself that the line is actually still the longest it has ever been. It just doesn't feel like it. So relaying the lifted section is quite key psychologically.

The track used to run up to here, under a canopy of laurel bushes.
It might not be visible, but the current limit of the track coincides with the grassy area by the fence
Immediately behind me is a gate that will give access to a loading dock area for firewood.

Before reinstating this bit it makes sense to ease the curves past the workshop and the point that currently lead to the storage siding. Hopefully, that will mean Tug and the Coach can run this far for the first time.

Extending the other end of the line really means firming up plans for the route to the Studio and deciding the location of a planned pond.

The daffodils are just before the current head of rail, honest.

Meanwhile, we are struggling to maintain our isolation...

...which in reality means visits to the line are on hold, given that I fall into two of the high-risk groups.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Cabin Fever

This is the one time of year when I dislike living in the fens. Visitors tend to shun us in mid-Winter, and those who visit at Xmas often question our sanity, but it is late Winter and early Spring that I find utterly depressing. Paradoxically it is because Spring comes early here.

Elder Cottage as it was in 1971.
Still as bleak today despite a windbreak of trees, and I wish the big shed had been retained

February isn't yet over but our snowdrops are on the way out. The early daffodils are also fading. Against a south-facing wall, we already have tulips in bloom. The grass in parts of the garden is already too long to mow and will need strimming first, and two of the fruit trees are setting blossom.

So why is it so depressing? Like all of the UK this year we have been lashed by a succession of storms, conveniently timed for weekends. We've actually got off lightly. Then that isn't surprising because unlike most of the country the fens accept strong winds and the threat of floods as part of life, especially at this time of year. And it is that combination of early spring with high winds and wet ground that is so soul-destroying. The garden runs away from you and you can't do anything about it. Every year I hope for a couple of those beautiful cold but dry and sunny winter days. Every year I plan to take a week off to prepare the garden but never choose the right week. This year seems worse because of the amount of work we had done last year, and the preparatory work for this year's plans that we've started. The new work has suffered by the inevitable, but planned for, shifting of the ground over Winter. Not built into our plans was the additional impact of the goats. It is a mud bath in the back garden.

Once again, oddly, the 7 1/4" track laid directly on the turf seems to be in better condition than the properly laid track. there is a lesson in that.

At least I now have the studio, though plans to move the last couple of bookcases and workshop equipment in have been stymied by hibernating butterflies...

And then there is Geoff and his brilliant foray into 7mm

With his use of Tanat Valley structures it calls into question if there is a point to me building a version that will not come close, but he is also making 7mm look a very attractive option now I have a little more space to play with.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

The Joy of Books

Moving into the new studio is a protracted affair. I suspect It won't be complete for another year as things get juggled around.  Progress is being made though, and most of my key railway and modelling books are finally accessible again. It isn't the same as having the dedicated library that we had in the old house, but that isn't all bad.

Moving did mean an awful lot of books going to charity shops. Most of them were fiction titles. Some were old friends from university days and before but it seems silly to use up precious space in the cottage when they can all fit on my Kindle and go with me on my travels.  It is also true to say that whilst in the old house Issy considered books to be "mess" in the cottage she sees them as adding character, so they are to be found in most rooms of the house. I just hope she never realises the combined value of the books in the photography section.

That raises a key, if morbid, point that many of us don't give our partners an indication of what is particularly valuable in our collections, be it in terms of monetary value, historical interest or just the things we would like to keep in the family as long as possible.

The original subject of this post was going to be the disparity in my books between those about making the best use of RTR models and kits, and those about scratch building. This is especially true when it comes to books about building structures. Putting them all on a single bookcase seems to have really highlighted this.

When I started Apa Valley I intended to scratch build all the buildings, but I did end up using a repurposed Hornby moulding for the wooden platforms and an Lcut signal box. I did have a couple of other signal boxes in mind and half-constructed both a scratch-built and a kit-bashed version, and one of them will end up on the next TVR based layout. For me the TAoC layouts need to use commercial kits to be in the spirit of Roy's original design. The ones I have sourced are very good, though not without issues. The problem is that those issues aren't easy ones to solve. And even if they can be solved do I still end up with people saying "Oh look that is xxxx kit of....." rather than "That is nice model of ....."

I think the scratch builder in me might win this particular battle.