Friday 16 February 2024

Now Breath


Or that was the week that was.

And what a week it has been. with the mortgage offer deadline dangerously close we exchanged and completed in two days, during which I had to demolish the entire ELR.

So here we are with a much bigger house, on the fringe of Stoke on Trent, and a much smaller garden.

Then, there is the model railway room in the attic. On the plus side, it is 22ft x 8ft. On the downside, it doesn't have standing headroom, and this is the access.

So, what are my plans?

I've sold two of the wagons from the ELR, and I'm desperate to get rid of the lifted 16mm rail to replace it with a portable line.

There are a lot of options for 7/8ths and 16mm lines in the garden, more than I realised when we viewed. I might even build some small dioramas in the less accessible places.

Indoors I'm torn. I've committed myself to n gauge by buying Gerald Road to reconfigure it as a new Tanat Valley-based line. 

Being so close to the Caldon Canal I'm keen to build an OO industrial line, with a Cromford and High Peak vibe. Also in OO I want to get the East Coast light railway out of my system. 

I still want to build a simple OO9 layout to use my Festiniog/Penhryn locos on, and simple is the keyword.

As predicted Flemish Quay suffered badly during the move, but nothing terminal.

Then there is the big project. What that will be will depend on how I come to terms with access to the loft.

Saturday 23 December 2023

The Future of Flemish Quay

It is many months since I last saw Flemish Quay. I dread to think what state it will be in when I get It out of storage.

It might be a case of starting again. That would not cause me any great problems. 

Or it might be a case of integrating it, in some form, with my other plans. 

Before catching the train to London, I took the chance to wander along the Welland near it's supposed location.

At the back of my mind was a vague idea of capturing images I could stitch into a back scene. Sadly I was in a hurry and also dodging traffic so I didn't apply the rigour that would require.

Having said that, the nature of Flemish Quay, with deliberately limited viewing angles, means I might get away with it. We will see. In the worst case, I can use the photos as a basis for something created from scratch.

The back of the old fire station

You might recognise this from the Hornby Old Forge model...

The remains of the Old Chain Bridge

Thursday 21 December 2023

The Cheques Get Bigger

Life continues to be "interesting" 

With my professional head on I've just returned from an intense trip to London, meeting up with several dear friends but also working on upcoming ISO standards for Ariticifical Intelligence.

It gave me a chance to wander around two of my favourite stations and pay homage to two people I admire and would love to emulate.

Meanwhile, Hattons tempted me with the unplanned purchase of a half-price 7mm scale railcar...

...And I finally got around

to ordering the Guinness loco from Garden Railways. Service from both retailers was as great as I've come to expect.

Meanwhile, my favourite grocery store had an interesting display in their St P. store

It looks vaguely familiar.

Finally I will leave you with a suitable Xmas tree.

Sunday 3 December 2023

Cheque Book Modelling Part 2

I'm supposed to be writing Xmas cards. It is a task Issy loves, and I hate. Not least because so many of my friends live in Wales and have addresses that go on forever.

 Yesterday was enlivened by the arrival of early Christmas presents, even if I bought them all for myself.

Quickly posing the Penhryn and FR locos on the Cadeby micro did make me yearn to return to OO9. And reminded me that focus stacking is easy, and I have no excuse for not using it. As you can see, I didn't use it.


I've mixed feelings about the OO gauge deliveries.

I really, really like the Rapido W&U coaches. Apart, that is, from the roof. The transverse detail is pretty proud of the roof on the prototype, but the longitudinal detail seems slightly odd. It might be that weathering will sort that out.

As for the Hattons GWR Genesis coaches. Well I know that when I ordered them a long time ago, I thought they would "do" for a stop gap to go with the one or two GWR liveried engines I have until I finished building more appropriate vehicles. But leaving the lack of historical accuracy to one side, there is something that just doesn't look right about the livery. It reminds me of litho printing on tinplate. I'm hoping that will be less obvious at normal viewing distances.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Cheque Book Modelling

It has been a weird sort of week, and it is only Wednesday.

While I left my old job a week ago, this is my first relatively quiet week. Partly because Issy has recovered sufficiently from her spinal surgery to go and spend a week with our families. Last week I had meetings every day, but I'm down to just a couple this week. The combination of neurodiversity in the workplace, AI, and ISO committee work is where I'm happy at the moment. At some point I will return to a full-time job, but for now, at least until the house move is (hopefully) done and dusted I'm happy to pick up the odd speaking session and freelance gigs.

Anyway,  not knowing exactly what the future will bring, I had a bit of a spending splurge.

Many of the purchases have actually either been waiting in my Hattons "trunk" or have only just been shipped to the UK.

Nothing exciting, all boringly OO gauge and with an industrial and light railway theme. They all really go back to my idea for a W&U-inspired line with elements of Wissington, Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth docks. That might still happen, most likely as a layout in a box. 

Looking at the stock I'm accumulating, I might also dig out an old RM plan that was inspired by the Cromford and High Peak.  I bought the baseboard to suit it a few years ago and still haven't assembled it.

Then there is the question of my Cambrian/GWR/WR stock. Originally bought with Apa Valley in mind I don't really want to part with it. A bit of me would love to revisit Apa Valley and the Tanat Valley theme in EM, as I  intended to before the last house move. It would very much be in the spirit of that layout, as much a diorama  with movement as anything else.And like  Apa, I think  I need to work within the constraints of a storage unit of some kind, or yet another box.  I'm also still tempted  by an EM version of TAoC.

I have a soft spot for that bridge

In the meantime, what to do with the stock? The obvious answer is a Titfield Thunderbolt cameo, set in some unspecified post war time period. Effectively, little more than a photo plank.

Underlying all these ideas is the concept of maintaining some commonality Ideally one OO layout could act as the fiddle yard for another, and I certainly don't intend to build multiple fiddle yards. IN fact I have one half built,

Did I mention my rash OO9 purchases? They are going to dwarf my Cadeby cameo. I have vague plans for them, if I can find a very old copy of MRC...

All this begs a question about space at the new house. IF the sale ever goes through my office will have direct access to the attic railway room. I'm looking forward to having that split in space, compared to my current combined office and studio. I want to make better use of technology and ergonomic design on the office front. Here it has always been a bit of a compromise.. At one point I had four screens in use, all taking up deskspace along with the printer/scanner which is mostly used for domestic purposes.

Then there is the 7mm dimension. I suppose the post-retirement  GVT and GWR layout might be possible in the new house, but I'm not optimistic. That East Coast light railway idea won't go away, either. But that is a classic case of it getting more difficult to build something with an inherent simplicity. It needs to portray something stark and isolated on a Winter's day. I've images in my mind, but realising them won't be easy and needs experimentation. Some of which will come from playing around with these Kato "Circus" diorama modules.

Which neatly brings me to the 2mm or TT dilemma for Minories (North)  . I'm very attracted to a 2mm version, but I'm conscious the original Minories plan was drawn for TT, albeit not TT 120.  One thing that layout would be dependent on is the wholesale adoption of DCC, but I think I'm heading  in that direction anyway

I feel that my modelling has been on hold for the last two years,  and now I have time I don't want to build things that will get damaged amongst all the upheaval. What I do want to do is to get ready for the future, and explore the commonality between projects. I know I can work quickly when circumstances are right. An to go back to my years introducing new working methods into organisations we know how inefficient task swapping is. It certainly seems more expensive when I'm buying consumables for a single project. So if any of these ideas move forward they will do so in parallel

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Camera Chat

If I'm honest, I spend more time thinking about photography and producing photos than I do railway modelling.

Perhaps that isn't surprising, given that one of my key career decisions was not to pursue photography professionally. Oddly, had I done so, I would still have met one of my best friends. The world works in odd ways.

Anyway, this week, I have mostly been thinking about cameras.

I don't, at least I don't think I do, suffer from GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. That dreadful affliction makes sufferers think they always need the latest and best equipment to take photos.

Some cameras work for me, and others don't. I've learned, expensively, that the camera everybody raves about might differ from the one that works for me.

And I've mourned when many a much-loved camera has died a premature death. 

The last few years have seen me slowly returning to a more manual approach. First, with a few of the new cheap manual lenses flooding the market, then with the Leica.

In parallel, my phone camera has been getting so much better in a very automated way. It can take photos in a range of situations that would once have been unthinkable.  But that is the catch. All I do is press a virtual shutter button. The phone is actually in control of the shot. 

So I find myself thinking, "What next?"

One option is obvious, if expensive.  It would have been slightly less expensive if Leica hadn't discontinued the series that spoke to me just as I became aware of it.

Let us park that option for now.

And also, please let me park my obsession with dreadful instant film cameras. OK, I know I will never kick that addiction.

Let me say it out loud.

I'm considering buying a vintage film camera.

I blame the combination of  Chris Nevard and 35mmc.

They both keep posting experiments in the genre.

And I am tempted.

There is something indefinable that I miss, especially if 120 film is involved. It isn't the process and the smell, though I miss the solitude of the darkroom. 

It is something else. The grain, the commitment to both the moment observed and to the image when you press the shutter.  And it is about knowing exactly what the final image will be.

So, where is this taking me? I'm not sure. I don't want to spend a fortune for what will still be a a niche part of my hobby.  There are more accessible decent vintage 35mm cameras than 120 ones - An Agfa Silette with the f2 lens would be my 35 mm choice. But there is something about a TLR.

Perhaps cameras are like cats. You don't find them, they find you.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Big Decisions

 The last few weeks have been tough.

Issy has just undergone major spinal surgery and is recuperating . She is not a good patient to be nursing at home.

On Friday we made the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye to Daisy, our seventeen-year-old toy poodle.  She had coped well with going blind and deaf, but in the end, it was clear she was suffering from doggy dementia and had no quality of life.

The house purchase has stalled, not helped by the vendor not being on the internet.

And I've decided to take voluntary redundancy after thirteen years of both chronic and acute stress. I'll admit the prospect of retirement has crossed my mind, but there is a lot more I want to achieve. Not least finally doing something about my book deal, and focussing more on my activity developing international standards for AI.

Meanwhile, there has been another delivery that is going straight into a packing case.

I was in two minds about buying this, especially since I went for the deluxe version with DCC sound. 
I decided against the Lion version on the basis that it is as much of a pastiche of the original as the Thunderbolt is. I don't imagine building a layout around it, but a photo plank with some sort of shuttle program might be on the cards. 

It has been some time since I last played with DCC, and whilst I take the view it isn't the solution for every layout, I think it will have a use on at least one of my long-term plans.