Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Plans and more Plans

It has been a funny first half of a year. Whilst the Winter months were busy with work Spring was focussed on family and improvements at Elder Cottage, particularly in the garden.

That is quite significant for the Eaugate Light Railway, because as our plans become more concrete for the garden so do the plans for the extensions, and revisions, of the 7 1/4".

One of our local crafters made this rustic version of Elder Cottage
The trees on the left of the photo have now gone.
You can see how close to the house and the overhead cables they were

In the short term the biggest change is that we've taken out several of the mature self-seeded trees that had grown alongside the house, and the old apple trees a third of the way up the garden.

Now I normally hate having to have trees cut down, but I salve my conscience with the fact that we are still to count all the trees on our land, and the long term plans involve more suitable replacements.

The sycamores and elders were stealing light from one of the rooms, their roots were in danger of causing structural problems and their branches were dangerously close to overhead cables. It is pure coincidence that they also formed a major barrier to extending the line down that side of the house.

With them out of the way we can now plan what will be a short but significant new section of track that will eventually lead both to additional wood storage areas and a road-accessible terminus. The trees will be replaced by native hedging. One thing that is already clear is that I need to alter the alignment of the last 5m of the "tramway" section, so I'm glad I made the decision to lay the tramway as temporary track.

It was a tough choice deciding whether or not to remove the apple trees. They were very productive, in fact far too much so, giving us a massive glut of fruit and a major problem clearing away windfalls each Autumn. Visually we also found them a major barrier to us even beginning to imagine our vision for the garden. That eventual vision will obviously have a big impact on the big extension to the ELR and its eventual route to the garden office. The apple trees will be replaced by a more manageable and diverse mini-orchard as part of the redesign, which will also let us remove some of the other fruit trees that have also grown out of hand.

We are hoping to have the garden office built by the end of the year, and that will also give me more space for a modelling workshop and a more permanent layout. It is odd thinking about returning to 4mm standard gauge after what has been a four-year gap, but that is a story for another day.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Learning Curve

Model Earth Design Wagons

My adventure into 7/8ths scale over the last few weeks has been surprisingly exciting.

It isn't like I'm new to garden railways, having built my first line in 1980, and first having played around with 7/8ths in 2000.

My old Outline Simplex, which went "missing" in a house move
But this time around I'm finding it not only exciting, but fun and ..well I was going to say challenging, but encouraging might be a better word, because, to be honest, it is is too easy to be challenging.

The new production techniques being exploited by small manufacturers are incredible compared to say, the original 16mm Association GVT coach "kit" or the Archangel ones that didn't even have the planks marked on them.

But here is the odd thing, because the kits are essentially simple it means I'm spending more time thinking about how to finish them. So some very simple Model Earth Design resin wagons have been subjected to a  new to me weathering technique of misting on basic rattle can paint.

Other models, from North Pilton Works, Bole Lasercraft and Resurgam are being subject to a range of wood stains and finishes designed for full-sized structures.

After a cryptic phone call from Accurcaft, the Wren is now en route to Matt Acton for lining out.

Just for old times sake, I've built a 16mm kit, one of Matt Nunn's excellent range

On top of all that I'm getting a crash course form James Hilton on modern R/C technology.

I haven't had this much fun since, oh around 1980!

Monday, 29 April 2019

Springing Forward

The combination of poor light in my current office/workshop and a cruel wind around the Eaugate Light railway's engine shed means modelling takes a backseat until mid-Spring. Early Spring is dominated by gardening, but the 16mm show at least kickstarts the thinking process.

This year's thinking is dominated by 7/8ths scale, and the workbench is littered with work very much in progress on the rolling stock front, whilst the loco fleet is on order. I'm particularly excited about one of the locos because it is one of the ones I wanted many many years ago, but for now it will have to stay under wraps.

I've also settled on a temporary site for the 7/8ths line, although in the long term it will fall foul of the expansion plans for the Eaugate Light Railway.

A side issue is that changing my mind about where the 7/8ths will go frees up some space for a 16mm line, though 16mm is very much on the backburner at the moment. Well apart from the loco and wagon that are also WIP on my desk, but they are intended for another micro layout.

Talking of micro layouts, Rails Round the Garden took a major step forward yesterday.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Another year, another 16mm show

Yes, it has been quiet here.  Not that nothing has been going on, but little of it has involved modelling. Since moving to the country again I've realised I need Spring and Summer light and late evenings to get modelling.

So the 16mm  AGM, on my doorstep, seems a good place to kickstart the thinking for future plans. Not in 16mm though, since I've started selling off my 16mm  stock to finance a move to 7/8ths scale.

It is a shame in a way, because having spent years complaining that too much 16mm rolling stock was built to a variety of scales, none of which were actually 16mm it is probably true that we are in a golden age for the availability of true 16mm rolling stock.

The catch is it just doesn't seem to suit the current garden. It isn't easy to articulate why. It is something aesthetic about the difference between seeing a railway in a landscape and it getting totally lost, combined with something practical about a garden where even the 7 1/4" gets derailed by nature, as well as being vandalised by chickens.

It isn't my first foray into 7/8ths, that was many years ago and unfortunately, my nascent line got nicked in one of the many house moves when I had things in storage.

So a little while ago I ordered the new Accurcraft Wren in green.

It might be 7/8ths, but it is still relatively small

I've got it booked in for lining and detailing, and I think this is the livery I'm going for:

Beacon Down was on the Heritage section, which this year had the theme of previous show award winners, and there were some gems

I got to the show quite early this year, and even when I left the Model of The Year competition table was sparsely populated, and, as in previous years, hard to photograph because of the light from the windows.

Needless to say, the other display stand that caught my eye was the 7/8ths scale one

The disappointment this year was the layouts. Indian Hills was as entertaining as always

But too many others seemed toy-like in conception and featured high-speed trains. Tony Hills' electric.

 Melin Llechi stood out as always

And for some reason, I have a soft spot for G3

The Garden Railways Magazine layout, built by Phil Parker in a day with support from the local Notcutts garden centre deserves a special mention. It might not be everybody's cup of tea, but the children at the show seemed to really appreciate it being at their level.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

If you can't take anything nice...

...then don't publish any photos.

I always try and be positive about model railway shows, and attitude that I find helps a lot.

But today I returned from a show feeling, well, disappointed. Even my wife was surprised at how little time I spent there.

It was a local show that I've always enjoyed in the past, in fact, one I think has consistently punched above its weight. But this year it did nothing for me. Unusually I was even more disappointed when I reviewed my photos. I really didn't think any of them showed a layout in a good enough light to be shared, except for one I've photographed a lot in the past, and another that to be fair I couldn't get a good shot because of people who stood in front of it chatting. That, incidentally, is my perennial complaint about this particular show. People take up a position and stay there for ages.

I suspect some layouts went down very well with a lot of the attendees, especially those featuring mainline running or lots of locos on shed. That is fine, I know they aren't to my taste but I do understand why others love those styles of layout. I'll also be honest that having looked at the list of layouts booked to attend I knew not many were my cup of tea. Not that cups of tea were easy to get at the cafe, yet again.

So what didn't I like, choice of prototype aside?

I'm going to pick out some big themes, some of which aren't always wrong, but were in the context of the layouts today.

Backscenes that were too low, had very visible joins and weren't an integral part of the scene.

This was compounded by several of the layouts having narrow baseboards. Narrow baseboards can work, but they need thought to be put in to how they are blended into the backscene and the balance between railway and scenery.

Animals and vehicles placed in ways that looked unnatural and placed without observation of the real thing. A silly example of this was a herd of cows on a steep slope that clearly were from a set designed to be used on a flat field.

Outdated scenic techniques, especially trees and grass. Last time I checked it was 2018, do you really think that glueing down acres of out of the packet scenic materials is good enough to put on public display?

Coming up to date is loco sound that doesn't sound quite right in an exhibition hall., which I recognise is a challenge.

And finally, that dreadful feeling that the out of the box models were the best thing on some layouts.

No, actually, that the saddest thing was the lack of imagination and aesthetic elements in favour of simple triggers like "Oh look an MPD layout with lots of lovely locos"

I know I never have, and never will, exhibit myself, but my point is the same show has done so much better in the past. Those three or four layouts that, in addition to the crowdpleasers, raise the standard of a show to the "must go to" level were, for me, so noticeable by their absence.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Further Progress

A lousy photo, but a quick snap to show progress on my "quick" Barclay well tank build.

Whistle and clack valves should be finished tonight, along with rear frame extensions.

I was originally going to keep it in black, but I think it will end up in green.