Wednesday, 9 June 2021

A micro diversion

A few years ago I got given a small bottle of port in a wooden display case. It was around the time the Oxford Diecast IoMR loco came out, and I kept the box to build a static diorama as a memory of all the time I spent over there working for their government. hat in itself is a long story for another day. Needless to say the diorama never got built, partly because I lost the loco in the house move.

Now James has built my Ruston Proctor I decided the box would make a nice setting for it, but would also let me try out some scenic ideas ahead of Grundy's Yard, especially around modelling water, which has always been a challenge for me.

A failed project by my wife means I have a lifetime's supply of perspex, and it has made life a lot easier.
The photo, showing all 22cm of display area, also reveals the loco now has a chassis. As always I find it fascinating to watch these HOf/OO6.5 locos at work even though the low voltage controller is single speed. Why I think it works is that the magnet adhesion, Magnadhesion to those of my age, compensates for the scaling of physics and reduces the small scale "wobble"

The eagle-eyed will notice that the track in this picture is the dummy plastic track produced by Aufhagen

I'm still contemplating whether to use this or to make the display operable. I have some scenic ideas in mind. To the left the railway will appear from under a bridge, and to the right will enter an industrial building borrowed from the canal boxfile. I'm still wondering about the backscene and whether to include trees.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Ruston- Proctor

I've always liked 18" gauge railways. I think it must go back to seeing pictures of the ex-Woolwich stock when it was at Bicton. I've always had a soft spot for the early internal combustion locos as well. So when Narrow Planet introduced a 006.5 kit for the Ruston Proctor it went on to my wish list. It would probably have stayed there if James Hilton hadn't mentioned that he had a slot available if I wanted a built and finished one.

Those of you who follow his blog will have already seen the result.

It is posed here on my 009 layout, so it would be off the rails, if it was actually sat on the right chassis. That is in a box somewhere. 

This picture is an attempt to give an idea of scale. That blue loco is actually a HOf one. Having a thing for the Ruston Proctor I have some other supposedly "4mm" prints from Shapeways lying around. They are massive in comparison. 

So what am I going to do with it? It was originally intended for the Scalescenes canalside boxfile layout. I'm still playing around with ideas for this. I don't want the railway to overpower the scene, and I want it to look integral to the site. In the meantime, I have a display box that originally contained a miniature bottle of port that I think would suit a static diorama.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

A Bank Holiday in Skeggie

I spent a lot of my childhood in Blackpool. For a few years, my parents ran a pram and toy shop in Cleveleys. My first school was Norbreck Infants, and even after we moved to Birmingham all my school holidays were spent in Blackpool with my Gran.

I think I saw Blackpool at its best. Most generations probably think that.

The tram fleet was still diverse, and not yet worked to death, and new developments were still happening. The illuminations were truly magical and reflected the space age when anything was possible.  Every Summer season a new celebrity would live in the bungalow at the end of our avenue, and at the other end was a tram stop. The circus and the Tower were magical, the Pleasure Beach and the Golden Mile still felt like old-time fairgrounds, and the trawler skippers still had cash burning in their pockets. There were even steam trains to be griced, at least for a few years.

I go back occasionally. It is a long time since I last went for pleasure, but work has sometimes taken me there. The last visit was ghastly. I was running a training event at the Norbreck Castle and it was dreadful in every respect. We walked into one pub and because we were a team and relatively smartly dressed for Blackpool they thought we were the bailiffs.

The one bright spot was my fellow lecturer had been heavily involved in the broad gauge project at Didcot.

Anyway, despite that, I will still defend Blackpool to the death as the best British seaside resort.

But we do like Skeggie.  We love Sunny Hunny, I crave Cromer, but Skeggie is the family choice for a day out.

So that is where we went on Sunday. 

We weren't alone.

A quick aside. The last time we visited was back in September, I think, during one of the partial relaxations of lockdown. Everyone was very sensible. This time, despite being fully vaccinated and not going inside anywhere I still felt a lot less comfortable. To be fair, families on the beach were being very good at social distancing. Elsewhere though the 2m rule and masks had clearly been abandoned. 

It was lovely to see that the town has made use of recent funding to make it more attractive, and it shows. I'm looking forward to the pier refurbishments as well, now it has changed hands.

One of the major changes has been the entrance to the car park that now takes cars away from a pedestrian area.

Now the interesting thing about the car park is the seaward boundary of it it was the route of one of the three* incarnations of the Skegness Minature Railway. Visitors today will note that since that map was made the pier has been truncated and more land has been claimed from the sea.

* I might have miscounted

I believe the later versions of the line ran on the other side of the lake. I'm sure I knew that once, but can't now find the evidence. This is an oddly neglected bit of the resort.  An old miniature golf course is left abandoned.

And the much loved Fairy Dell paddling pool is unopened 

There is also this superb, Emettesque kiosk

Perhaps what is needed is a new miniature railway? Perhaps if the Wells Harbour line is forced to close this would make a good new home for it?

Anyway, to close on a  positive note, it was great to see some steam in action for the first time in over a year.

Monday, 31 May 2021


 I have many happy memories of cycling around Ireland in the company of good friends, many of them Americans with Irish roots. As one of them was brusquely reminded by her grandmother when enthusing about how green the country was  "There is a reason it is so green, and that's why I couldn't wait to get away from it" Having been wetter than in an swimming pool on some of our trips I can understand that sentiment.

As I write this we appear, after a dry but cold April, to be on course for the wettest May in many years. It is a miserable sort of wetness. A dreary day in day out sort of month. Even the chickens are roosting an hour earlier than I would expect at this time of year, and Issy and I aren't far behind them. According to Alexa the weather forecast has been "More of the Same" for days.

Spring is relentless though. This week, the hawthorn, and do we have a lot of hawthorn or do we have a lot of hawthorn, has started to flower.  The grass is as green as in Ireland, and the dawn chorus now begins at 4.10am. I know that because it wakes me up every morning.

It also means the natural daylight in the studio is a lot better.. I've mentioned before that I'm not one of those Winter modellers. I like natural light. I've even managed to start tidying up the workbench.

One incentive to do so is to find a home for a birthday present, a spray booth.  It is only a relatively cheap Chinese made model, but the absence of one has always put me off using an airbrush. It is a reluctance that goes back to university days and a year sharing a house with a chemist. Since then I've always been worried about the health issues linked to our hobby.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Apres Le Deluge

May Day reminded me of the bank holidays of my childhood: Driving rain and gale-force winds. As a result the studio has sprung several leaks, though thankfully at the office end, not the workshop one. Still as they used to say "'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" 

I might not have cast any clouts , but I did shovel a lot, and I mean a lot, of goat and chicken poop moving around the big compost bins to accommodate the new home for the chickens and the ELR's trailer. The big move itself will have to wait until calmer weather. 

Meanwhile,  with the 7/8th trial track lifted I need to find a new home for it. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I find it harder to home a railway in this big garden than in the smaller ones I'm more used to. I suppose my criteria are more complex now. It has to be relatively hidden both from public view and from livestock, not impinge on plans for the ELR or the (future)use of the garden, and not make mowing any more of a pain than it already is.  If ever we build the planned big wildlife pond it will be a no-brainer to run it around that, but that is a good five years in the future.

At one point I considered running it along the dyke, but now that has been cleared out I don't think it is feasible, which is a shame in some ways because it would have added a striking vertical dimension. On the other hand, the idea of putting it on the other side of our fence is still an option. I should add that our fence is well within the perimeter of our property, because it is there to keep dogs in, not people out.

Or, in the short term, there is the new vegetable patch, which I really need to focus on this year. Currently, it is a mismatch of the old fruit trees, the compost bins from the days when we didn't use a mulching mower* and the hurried relocation of the raised vegetable beds to avoid the attentions of the livestock.

One of the raised beds will be used for a simple 16mm layout, primarily for use of grandchildren, but I'm thinking about consolidating the old compost bins to provide a base for the scenic section of 7/8ths

*I had real concerns about adopting mulching rather than collecting grass to go in the compost bins, but if you cut frequently, slightly more than you might be used to, it works really well. I still use a collection box for mowing within a yard of the paths and house to stop it staining the paths or getting trodden into the house.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Another One Bites the Dust

I had plans for this Bank Holiday weekend.  I was going to progress Grundy's Yard to the point where I could start the scenics, and get the 7/8ths line fully commissioned.

Then my wife, as she has been doing for the last 57 years,  threw a spanner into the works.

Having spent last Winter convincing me to house the chickens in a part of the garden I argued against she suddenly decided they need to be moved, and before next weekend, so she can show off her finished caravan/she shed.

And where has she decided they need to go? On the site occupied by the 7/8ths line.

So it is no more.

To make the move I also have to move four large, full, wooden compost bins, and the trailer for the 7 1/4" stock. so that is basically it for my BH weekend. I love her dearly, even if for 57 years she has been dedicated herself to making my life difficult.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Setting the Scene

 I think I'm at the point where I only have one major design choice to make about Grundy's Yard.

It is a big one though.

How do I present it?

The view from our garden gate

What spurred me on to build the layout was an archived article on  Deryck and Peter Featherstone's Abbey Road and Barton Bendish, which was built without a back scene, as was quite common then. But I've always been critical of exhibition layouts that don't have a deep, relatively seamless back scene.

When I built the last OO9 micro it didn't have a back scene built-in because I intended it to be viewed from any side. The original idea had been to have a detachable one for photographic purposes, attached by magnets. In reality, I've taken photos of it outside with a natural background, or indoors with the generic sky blue walls of the studio behind it, as with the current cover photo.

In designing Grundy's Yard Iain Rice's book on cameo layouts has never been far from my side. It should be a shoo-in for cameo style presentation with a fully curved back scene.

But at the same time, I'm a  little uncomfortable about it.  


Well, a curved back scene is going to eat into the available space on the layout. Bear in mind this is set in the Fens, where space is one of the most obvious landscape features, along with our big skies. And that is another issue. Back scenes work well, very well, when modelling a scene with hills and buildings in the background. It is much harder to get the right back scene for open-countryside.

Look at the photo I've included. It is, quite literally, the view from one of our garden gates about five minutes ago. Wouldn't that do? 

Well no. 

Having the crop, winter-sown wheat, in the foreground gives you a sense of space, but the perspective is wrong. But if I cut out the crop the scene will lack the important middle distance.

And in any case, it is the wrong crop for the time period and season, and there are too may modern elements along the skyline.

Then there is the feeling that cameo presentation has become cliched. Now don't get me wrong, I like it, it is a vast improvement on the past, and I have ideas for using it in the future. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions...