Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Lcut Bridge

Xmas seems to be rather extended this year.

An unexpected present has just  arrived from Jakub at Lcut. In keeping with my hints about TAoC it is an overbridge based roughly on the ones to be found on the Fairford branch.

The first thing that struck me is just how many components are in the box considering  the price. In fact I couldn't find a sheet of paper big enough to put them all on to take a photo.

I've always taken their kits to be a starting point and this one in particular gives you a fair amount of freedom in how you put it together. The downside of that is it is possible to put it together in a way that might not meet with the full  approval of the Civil Engineer's department so I highly recommend making much use of photographic evidence.

Whilst a nice kit in its own right it has also made me realise how much I want to play around with their products as a scratch-building aid.

This has certainly given me the much needed impetus to push on with the replacement Apa module using my first attempt at EM gauge point building from, oh let me see, almost exactly a year ago. That in turn frees up my original Apa box for a tramway layout although the jury is still out on whether that will be in 7mm or 4mm scale.

On the subject of small suppliers I've also had excellent service this week from Alan at Quarryscapes this week, who produces 3d replacement parts for the 14XX. The more I look at photos of the real thing the more work I realise I need to do..

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Santa Delivers the Goods

As someone who hates Xmas shopping I love Amazon wishlists, although sometimes I think my darling wife might use this to her advantage.

Every railway and model railway enthusiast will, I'm sure, have received presents in the past from a well meaning relative that either replicated something they've had on their bookshelves for years, or that fell into the bumper book of trains category. Pointing people in the direction of a wishlist means you are much more likely to open a present that it is genuinely useful.

This year I have to say it worked rather well, although for the third year in a row Caroline is still to make an appearance on Xmas morning. What did appear were various tools, most notably a Silhouette Portrait cutter.  For those of you unfamiliar with these it is worth checking out the relevant RMWeb thread. Yes, sometime it still has its uses. Essentially we are talking about a poor man's substitute for a laser cutter.

I've disclosed my dyspraxia in the past, and this gizmo offers real hope to those of us who struggle with cutting basic straight lines. To make best use of it you do need to be able to find your way around a basic vector graphics program,  like Silhouette Studio that ships with it,

You also need to do a lot of advance thinking about how you are going to build the final model.  I messed up my first attempt, Llynclys weighbridge, because halfway through construction I decided to use a thicker card for the basic shell.

These are the initial cuts I produced, but when I moved to using thicker card I didn't make enough allowance for the change in dimensions so the "fold up" brick work no longer fitted. I had to resort to Photoshop to cover up the resulting cracks.

The other thing I think is apparent from this photo is that it isn't a substitute for every problem. The door, for instance, was scribed by the Silhouette but would have been much better if I'd fabricated it.

On the plus side  producing a corrected version tomorrow will only take ten minutes.

I'm really impressed with how it can be used to produce windows. It certainly makes the prospect of building signal boxes a lot more attractive.

There are a couple of tricks to play around with that I hope will enable me to align cuts and score marks with brickwork and other artwork. In theory it might even be possible to use it to accurately cut out existing paper and card models.

Yes, I know the rest of you clever b*****s out there could achieve the same results with a ruler and a fresh Swann Morton blade, but I can't.

Meanwhile, in other news....

... a new Apa display unit has been thrown together to highlight the Lcut range, and starting construction of their latest products is next on my to do list. I've also finally taken a scalpel to the brace of 14XX  I've been hoarding.  The early Airfix chassis really was awful, so i suspect I'm committing to more chassis building.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Santa Comes Early

In the form of the team of the guys at Lcut Creative he actually came very early, with the delivery of the parts for the station on TAoC.  This is high on my list of priorities for the holiday season once I've created some space for modelling again.

More recently though events in the trade put two of my loco projects in the lurch. In particular The running down of Mainly trains meant the chassis parts for the GEM Tanat Valley 2-4-0 and the detailing set for the 14 XX were unavailable,

As always I tried to look on the bright side, especially since I'd just bought the GEM body kit for the 2-4-0 and dug out my old copy of Iain Rice's tome on white-metal loco construction. If nothing else it meant I would have to concentrate on other aspects of the layout, and at least the arrival of an Ultrascale order meant I could quickly re-wheel one of the 14XXs.

Then things suddenly began to fall back into place.

First came the news that Hattons have commissioned a 14XX.  So one of those is on order since they've included an 89A example in the first production run. Oddly the security of knowing a better RTR model is going to be available actually makes it psychologically easier to start work on one of my Airfix examples, because it matters less if I mess it up.

Then Mainly trains seem to have reviewed their stock, since the chassis for the GEM kit reappeared on their lists. It arrived in the post in record time and I wasted no time placing orders from various sources for the remaining items I need for the chassis.

In reality the loco is anachronistic for my layouts, but in plain black it can be matched up with  an E40 brake third to represent the last GWR passenger services on the Tanat Valley.

I'm also very pleased to hear that Comet Models is to continue under the ownership of Wizard Models

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Cuban Steam part 2 - Cardenas

Once we got the beach-side resort of Varadero I really though my chances of any seeing any more railways were pretty much nil.

So I was pleasantly surprised to open the list of excursions available from our holiday company to discover that there was a trip that included both a visit to the railway at the Jose Smith Sugar Mill and also a visit to the breeding centre for Cuban crocodiles. Well, OK, I wasn't that bothered about the crocodiles to be honest.

On the way to the mill we came across a typical level crossing

I missed the first couple of locos that were plinthed on the approach road because I was on the wrong side of the coach, but pretty soon the sound of a loco in stream met us

After that there seemed to be more locos where ever you looked. I will at some point get around to adding some meaningful captions

After a quick look around the mill itself... was time to catch the train for the short ride. As far as I can make out this actually appears to include reversing along a line still in use by Cuban railways.  A lot of Cuban poverty was on display along the lineside.

If we hadn't been on an organised tour I could happily have spent another couple of hours here, but we had to head off south. En route I missed a couple more locos at the erstwhile Australia mill, but did manage to snap some shots of a typical Cuban station that shared a name with my wife.

I wouldn't be so obvious as to use "snap" as a pun to lead in a  photo of a crocodile, would I?

"For goodness sake he is still talking about his holiday in Cuba!"

We came back a different route which meant I missed my chance to take photos of the locos I'd not been able to get on the way down, and this turned out to by my last view of a Cuban railway. At least for now.

The full set of Cuban steam photos are here

None railway photos are here and here and finally I took some photographs whilst following in Hemingway's footsteps

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cuban Steam Part 1 - Havana

My expectations of Cuba were low. Once upon a time I know it was one of the places to go for steam, but since they fell out with Russia the sugar industry has been in decline.

In fact rather stupidly in retrospect I presumed that going to Havana and the beach resort of Varadero meant I wouldn't see any railways at all, so doing any research in advance would be pointless.

Post event I discovered  this site which has proved to be very useful in making sense of what I saw.

So where do I start? well the San Jose  Craft Market by the harbour is where I got my first shock. I believe up until 2011 tourist trains ran here. As it is there were several static locos on display of both standard and narrow gauge.

More photos are here though I've scattered them, through the text where I can.

To be honest I didn't have time to absorb everything I was seeing, especially since American loco design is a very peripheral interest .

I had quite a shock on the Sunday when wandering though the middle of  Havana, literally a few hundred feet from our hotel, I suddenly came across what I believe is the main restoration centre for steam locos.

An excursion in a 1958 Studebaker  gave me the only glimpse I got of the Hershey Railway

but also alerted me to the locos preserved around Havana's Central Station

Parque de los Agrimensores

And finally we stumbled over this coach.

Part 2 - The Sugar Mill