Monday, 25 January 2021

New Year, Old Projects

You don't need me to tell you how difficult things are at the moment. Actually, I was on a call with colleagues from Australia this morning and they seemed to think it was a miracle anyone was left alive in the UK. My mother in law gave us a fright by ending up being treated on a Covid ward on NewYear's Eve, but thankfully appears to be recovering. An outbreak of bird flu in the UK also led to the urgent need to get the chickens into a covered enclosure. Amongst it all, I seem to be keeping busy. I've worked seven of the last eight weekends and Xmas day itself was the only Bank Holiday I managed to have off.

So modelling, unsurprisingly, isn't making much progress.

The 7/8ths test track is slowly bedding in, though it won't be until Spring that I'll be able to level it for the Summer. It is seen here with a tinplate tram on it, a late Xmas present from the step-son. Definitely more 16mm than 7/8ths, but perhaps with some potential to run on the vegetable patch line when I get round to sorting that out.

Talking of which, here is a much younger version of my stepson, sculpted by Rob Bennett, sat waiting for a train on the test piece I built for the vegetable plot project. It is stood up to the winter quite well so far. And yes, I do trim the grass with a pair of scissors. Both photos show the obtrusive ranch fencing. It disappears in the vegetation during the Summer, but I'm going to have to think of some way of disguising it at this time of year.

One thing I have been able to do during lockdown is to explore the remains of some more of the local agricultural tramways

This is one of two surviving loading banks on the Lawyers Farm railway, near Holbeach St Matthews. It is relatively easy to trace the route of this one.

Next is the Lighthouse Farm tramway. This is an odd one. It is on the mouth of the River Nene and served a farm built on land reclaimed in 1910 and 1917 as successive sea walls were built. Another wall built, I believe, during the war means it now sits still further back from the sea. The mystery is the only route map I've ever seen of it, in the Oakwood Press book, doesn't make much sense compared to the layout of the fields it ran through. This is actually a photo looking back towards the 1917 sea wall from the current one, so the tramway would have run from right to left behind the lighthouse. You can't actually see where it would have run from here, but the lighthouse is of interest in its own right. One of a matching pair designed by Sir John Rennie to guide shipping in from the Wash I'm standing on what was once pretty much the seashore. It is famed as the pre-war home of Sir Peter Scott, and it was here that he underwent the conversion from wildfowler to conservationist. It is also currently for sale if anyone is interested.

What of other on going projects? Priorities are some 7/8ths rolling stock that just needs a little work and space to finish off, a RC ship to be built once I get the RC gear, and a single baseboard OO shunting layout based on a mix of Kings Lyn  and Great Yarmouth

There are, needless to say, many other projects lying around the studio including TAoC baseboards. Roy Link's recent sad death does make me think I should return to that, and I'm still gathering bits and pieces for it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

I See a Baseboard and I want to paint it Black

On Friday morning I looked out the window to see that not only had the goats turned the ELR's coach on to its side, but they had already started eating it.

I swore. Very loudly and for a long time, using a very naughty word.

And I felt like giving up. Not just the ELR, but everything.

It was the proverbial last straw. 

On at least one level I've decided to scrap the ELR. It is the railways or the goats, and whilst their rescue was yet another "over my dead body"  argument that I lost, and they have left a trail of destruction in their wake, I am very attached to them.

At another level, and perhaps it helps that I'm thinking on more than one level, I'm considering radical alternatives for reconstruction. In pretty much every other aspect of my life this is where fate plays a card and there would be a ridiculous coincidence. If railways were like cats yet another wanted feral would walk into our lives  - currently nine of them, I think. But no such luck so far.

Perhaps it might even force me out to my comfort zone, and into the front garden, where I've been suffering from the 7 1/4" gauge equivalent of empty baseboard syndrome. 

One idea I'm exploring in my head involves abandoning the very first section of the line, at least for now, and gaining access to the front garden from the other side of the house. That would significantly reduce the amount of line exposed to the goats and force me to use the back garden section much more as a spur to the engine and stock shed just for use at the beginning and end of the day, rather than as a railway in its own right. It would also give me access to a better alignment in the front garden with less need for earthworks but would add the need for two substantial crossings of the driveway. And Issy would have to move the caravan. We will see.

On the 7/8ths front, I managed to find time to treat the marine ply baseboards. In the long term they will be covered anyway, but using a black tinted preservative seems to help me envisage how the line will fit in. I all still looks dreadfully ugly but I can see where I'm going with it. I need to start thinking about a few simple structures to provide scenic blocks.

It is odd looking forward to Winter with a workshop re-established. I lost so much of last year to the workshop/studio/office move.  I keep looking down at the "railway" end of the studio and pondering the long term 7mm plan. I can't yet free up the space to make a start on the Last Great Project but I'm increasingly wondering why I'm not focussing on 7mm  rather than 4mm. Not that the 4mm projects won't carry on, but I need to build up a feel for 7mm again.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Autumn Thoughts

 It has been an odd Summer, hasn't it? What has struck me is how busy I seem to have been despite lockdown. so much so that when I took a couple of weeks off at the end of September I more or less collapsed in a heap for the first seven days, before filling the second half of the "holiday" with some of the much need chores around the garden. One of the biggest was getting round to painting the outside of the studio. At some distant point in time this is scheduled to be the terminus of the ELR, so painting it a decidedly none railway colour was a big decision. Other factors swayed the choice, and it has certainly done a good job of visually shrinking the building so it is less obtrusive.

Being unobtrusive is also one of the aims of the initial 7/8ths line. I'm sufficiently happy with the proof of concept that I'll be bedding it in as a semi-permanent line over the rest of Autumn. I've nothing specific in mind but I'm also allowing for potential extensions at either end.  I was hoping to finish off the 7/8ths rolling stock whilst I was off work, but with the black dog yapping at my heels it was as much as I could do to get the roof on the gunpowder wagon. Again massive thanks to Bole Lasercraft for providing the replacement roof. It really is a lovely kit.

You might have noticed the slightly smaller rolling stock in front of it. It is one of several key purchases that I bought last year but have only recently been delivered. It is a Busch HOf set, destined to have a Narrow Planet 6point5 body on the loco.  I've three possible layouts in mind for it. The original intention was to provide the railway element of the Scalescenes wharfside boxfile layout, and that is still top priority. The second is a variation on a well known 009 rabbit warren layout which I think could work really well given the magnet aided adhesion and the possibility of hiding an absurd gradient in a tunnel. The third option is another variation on the Cadeby theme but modelled in  TTn2.

That would, of course, mean scratch-building or 3d printing some stock. And oddly that brings me to another recent delivery of something bought last year... but more of that in a later post.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Further proof of Concept

It turns out I was Oh so right! about the impact of Issy's she-shed/caravan on my time. I hate being right in that way. I suspect it means I will run out of time to get anything meaningful done on the ELR this year beyond building a few track panels and coming up with yet another plan to exploit the space created by the goats and their wake of destruction.

On the 7/8ths front I'm at that odd point where the wagons just need a few finishing touches that I keep putting off. All I really need is a single day off when I don't feel shattered and my muscles aren't shaking from the use of garden machinery. 

I have just found enough time to more firmly fix the layout for the first attempt.

Once the ground becomes workable again I'll give it proper foundations and then landscape it, but for now I'm just marking my territory. As before, what you see is pretty much the entire line but that is all i need for now. 

One thing it it makes very clear is just how small the Model Earth wagons are compared even to the Sand Hutton/WD wagon. Their future lies on a photoplank for inside the studio.

I was going to donate an offcut of the marine ply to the caravan, but the more I look at it the more I think it deserves to become a corner shelf layout. 

What I'm not sure of is what form it will take. I could use that curve either to reflect the flow of the track, or as a theatrical framing device.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Proof of Concept

I guess my colleagues will tell me the title of this post should really be Minimal Viable Product.  That is the idea of building something that just about holds up to scrutiny but isn't yet fit to sell. It lets you see if the concept works, but if it doesn't you "fail fast" and learn lessons without falling foul of the sunk cost fallacy.

I've got a fair amount of LGB track in stock. It was bought with the short-term intention of using it to run-in Peter Jones and to visualise some possible locations. The longer-term intention involves grandchildren and a well known blue engine. After all, I started off with the old Meccano clockwork Percy.

I had been shifting towards hand-building the track from day one. Issy's latest enthusiasm (Poop Poop said Mrs Toad) means I'm going to be time poor for the rest of the Summer which has put paid to that plan. I've also got a nascent idea for a better location for the line in the long term and I don't see the point of building track until then. So I'm back to using LGB as my proof of concept and to get some sort of 7/8ths line in place to help my thinking.

I'm also warming to that idea of a little 16mm line in one of the raised vegetable beds. Teddy seems quite supportive of the concept.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Taking Stock

Progress is well underway with building the 7/8ths wagons, which means it is time to start thinking about building a railway to run them on.

This is an evolving process and I don't have a definite plan in mind yet. The mist has cleared a little though.

The first iteration is going to be kept simple so I can try out some ideas, especially around track building. A short continuous run to allow Peter Jones to run, and a long siding leading to a basic yard or quay. It is going to be a mineral line, so no station. Whilst it is going to be a ground-level line the construction will have to take into account how much the ground moves in these parts.

What I'm most worried about at the moment is not copying recognisable aspects of other 7/8ths lines. For instance, there will be no preservation society sharing the line. There is some stock already built that I might dispose of because they seem cliched now.. 

A bit of an accident meant that I had to recover a lot of my olf 16mm stock from a watery grave. As is often the way a coincidental event meant I came across some old photos of it in use.

As well as summing up my less is more thinking they might even make me consider a very simple battery operated line gfor one of the raised vbegetable beds.

Friday, 17 July 2020

A little More Progress

For some reason I've found building the Bole Lasercraft Sand Hutton wagons (spelling changed from waggons for Phil) much more fun than the Trefor wagon. They just feel that little bit more thought out, with some nice touches like the emulation of through timber bolts.. Having said which I made a major mistake by misreading a picture in the instructions. I also built the second body in a completely different order to that suggested by the instructions. I glued the underfloor bearers in first before the L shaped end supports. That made life a lot easier. I had been worrying that as 18" gauge prototypes they would look odd on 2ft gauge, but they don't, in my eyes.

I'm still struggling perceptually knowing that these are small prototypes but feel like big models. On the other hand they look just right in a large garden in a way that I found 16mm didn't after
we moved here.

Time to build a railway, I suppose