Sunday, 23 March 2014

Let Us Now Praise Fabulous Suppliers

One of the most pleasant revelations of my return to the small scale world is how easy it is to obtain bits and bobs direct from specialist suppliers. As the son of a ex-model shop owner I certainly miss some aspects of the better old fashioned model shop. Trips to Victors or W&H Models were one of the pleasures of trips to London, though at the other end of the scale you had those shops where you felt  the average punter just got in the way. Rather like the typical cycleshop.

In recent weeks I've had excellent service both at exhibitions and via the internet from:

And also from the sales side of the EM Gauge Society and The Scalefour Society

In every case the information about the products I've interested in has been easy to find, the ordering process has been painless, the goods have either been dispatched very promptly or else I've been kept well informed of progress. And in every case the products have arrived well packaged in pristine condition and have been of excellent quality

Meanwhile I'm still waiting for a response to the email I sent my local cycle shop....

I really do think we live in a golden age of small suppliers.

It is just a pity the standard of my modelling doesn't, yet, do justice to their products.

One for the scrap bin. The good thing about downloadable card models is you don't worry about the mistakes

Friday, 21 March 2014

How does your railway grow?

I love gardens but I'm not a gardener. Perhaps I was once when I lived in Herefordshire and had 1/2 an acre to play with and dreams of a proper garden railway. Today though I just have a few square yards on a brownfield site, and have to struggle with the limits of both a heavy clay soil and an awful  lot of shade.

At this time of year I look out of my home office window and despair.  The enthusiasm of the early Spring bulbs has given way to tiredness and the tulips look like they are only making a half hearted effort to fill the gaps.

Only my lovely hellebore looks in the peak of condition.

If I take a step back, or we could go forward in time to mid April I know the picture would be very different.

Thanks to the use of the miracle that is gypsum the soil structure of the lawn and the flower beds has been transformed. On the otherside of the fence the soil is waterlogged and the grass is yellow. Our lawn is already greening up and for the first time since the house was built is almost weed free. It has been dry enough to cut for weeks.

The honeysuckle and the clematis are looking good, the roses need some effort but I know they will put on a good show. The sweet peas,though not of the 5" gauge variety, have survived the frosts and have probably never looked so robust this early in the year.

And then I look around the workshop....

It is pretty much the same story.

So many projects are at a critical but disheartening stage. A Ratio 4 wheel coach in the middle of being converted to un-paneled departmental status, an old Triang clerestory coach in mid conversion to a non clerestory  Dia.E40.

Buildings that looked OK last year but now need to be replaced by more rigorously accurate versions, RTR locos and wagons that look too out of the box, and the seed of an idea that might grow into something.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Baseboards and Things

I'm a past master of procrastination. Like Douglas Adams I love deadlines because of the whooshing sound they make as they fly by

This week I have mostly been not building baseboards.

I've charged the jigsaw, I've got out the trusty but slightly rusty Workmate. I've been to the back of the shed and retrieved both my first attempt at a 4'x2' effort and the remaining timber and plywood.

And I've stared at it all from lots of different angles.

What I haven't done is started to build the baseboards.

There are three reasons why:

The first is I keep looking at the minute luggage space in our new car, an IQ, and wondering how I could ever get anything to fit. Realistically I think 2'6" x 18" might be the maximum board size that would fit, allowing for some way of stacking the boards. To put how small it is in to context we can no longer use a normal shopping trolley if we want to get the groceries home. Of course I'm not planning to transport the layout that often, if at all, but I know if I don't plan for it the need will arise..

Secondly I need to think about how any layout is going to fit into my home office, both during construction and once built. the real challenge is that I don't have space for both a layout and a workbench. That actually favours a slightly larger baseboard so that it can double as a workbench in the early stage of layout building - which in my case could easily mean at least a couple of years.

Thirdly there is that terrible fear of settling on a final decision and then having to live with it. I've changed my mind about the final form I want the layout to take several times before breakfast today.

This was one of the crazier ideas, with a proscenium arch obscuring much of the view and the track curving out towards a removable  fiddle yard placed at the front of the layout for operation so trains seem to appear from "somewhere" rather than just from the stage wings.

Apologies for the poor drawing, I've just changed my mouse and mouse mat and I haven't got used to it yet.

The damp patch?

 Reason number four: whilst I was procrastinating one of the dogs cocked his leg on it all.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Jolly Good Show

I'm not a clubbable sort of chap when it comes to my hobbies. Perhaps I should be, I'm sure it would improve the quality of what I produce. Having said that I believe many local  clubs do a great job and deserve to be supported. Especially when they can put on a really decent exhibition, like my local Leamington & Warwick club did this weekend. Here I have to confess that despite the show being held virtually on my doorstep at the Stoneleigh NAC this is the first time I've remembered to put the dates in my diary and actually go.

I like Stoneleigh as an exhibition venue. I miss the Assoc of 16mm modellers show not being held there. Compared to many venues space never seems to be an issue and the catering is quite good. It also hold many many memories from the days of the Royal Show and trips on the original Echills Wood Railway.

There were some good layouts this year. As usual the lighting was a challenge and once again I was aware when taking photographs of the lack of decent backscenes.

I was rather taken with Earls Court, a layout I've wanted to see for a long time and which really makes the best use of a limited space. The real attraction for me though is the modelling of the shops, like the barbershops above, which I've kept in colour because it reminded me of an Edward Hopper painting.

Loch Tat is one of those layouts that I always think would benefit from being displayed at a higher level where individual scenes like these would predominate over the birds eye view.

Staying with 2mm scale I probably should have spent more time watching Wansbeck Road

Moving up to 7mm Weydon Road had some nice set piece scenes

I've been known to admit being tempted by an American HO layout one day. If I ever did go down that route I think it would be something like Wiley City. The prototype is rather endearing and the modelling really showed HO in a good light by being suitably restrained.

Lack of restraint is still one of the things that I find spoils the illusion of reality for me, and there were a few layouts at the show that simply didn't know where to stop. Eaton Gomery for example is one of those layouts where you struggle to find a scene that looks like everyday life and not like a historic reenactment on a preserved railway.

On the other hand I can see why people would find Foundry Lane a little too plain. I don't think it was helped at this show by lighting that didn't bring out the texture of the retaining walls.Personally I liked it a lot.

Richmond was exquisite and provided an opportunity for my favourite shot, looking down the track through a station. Unfortunately I failed to notice when taking it that someone's hand was very visible fiddling about in the fiddle yard, so instead it is represented by my alternative trademark cliche, the solitary Toad.

I was also very taken with the trackwork on Bodmin. This is what I would like to aspire to.

Ah yes, talking of trackwork...the nice thing about a show like this is that unlike Warley you can actually get close to some of the trade stalls. That means I came away with everything I had on my shopping list, including a replenished supply of C+L bits and pieces so turnout construction can resume as soon as my EMGS jigs arrive.

I also got a chance to chat with the extremely helpful Geoff from Comet and as a result my to do box now contains their chassis kit for the 57XX.

Last but not least I picked up a copy of Marcher Railways from Roger Carpenter and three postcards of the Tanat Valley that I'd not seen before.

If you want to see some more shots in colour then I did manage to make some of them presentable

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Wheels on the Sentinel...

.....go round and round.

Which is something of a relief.

It isn't a great photo but it is a great leap forward for me. Early this morning I got round to fitting the Ultrascale EM gauge wheels to the Sentinel, and slipped in a cheap and cheerful Hornby 8 pin DCC decoder. It would have been a ten minute job if they hadn't started gluing the brakegear on to the chassis. And yes I know the body isn't fully seated in the photo, it will be coming off again soon as I need to pack the decoder a bit more carefully in the cab and disguise it a little.

But hey, I now have my first functioning EM gauge loco, and it ran like a dream.