Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Eaugate Light Railway

The imminent delivery of Teddy led to a rather dark and extremely windy evening of emergency track laying on Monday night. Fortunately simplified by the short term use of Ride on Railways portable track connectors.

So when Chris Dixon of CMD Engineering  delivered the loco this morning there was at least some track to test it on.

Needless to say I'm very very pleased with it. It runs very smoothly and controllably. Although I went for the modern Loncin engine rather than the Suffolk Punch I think it still sounds rather nice. I must add the obligatory Scamp bicycle horn though to scatter any poodles on the line.

It was a bit of a challenge getting it into the engine shed at the end of the day, since the railhead is currently around 60 feet and 90 degrees away from the limit of shunt, but I managed it using the traditional approach  of  swapping track panels around.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Big Boys Toys

Xmas is fast approaching, at least if I believe the TV adverts, though with another trip to India planned before then I've still not put away all my Summer clothes.

However Xmas always make me think of toys. Frankly it is quite annoying that we are in the awkward gap between children and grand children so I've no excuse to buy toys for them that I really want to play with myself.

So that means justifying buying toys for myself.

Now my last post was definitely a toy, the GVT tram loco. And to be honest I regret it. Yes it is a lovely model, but I haven't even bothered to steam it yet.

Meanwhile though this is taking shape...

The combination of a Colin Edmondson design with Chris Dixon's production expertise.

Not a toy, obviously, because it is going to earn its keep hauling logs, bird food and garbage around the garden.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


Not mine, which is as glacial as ever, but progess in the world of 16mm narrow gauge railways.

Here is my first new 16mm live steam loco for over thirty years. An Accurcaft GVT loco commisioned in conjunction with Anything Narrow Gauge and made in China.

I haven't steamed it yet, and my out of the box impression is that is rather nice, apart from the usual abomination of having a hard to ignore pressure gauge facing forward in the cab. At least being a tram loco forwards actually means backwards when running. The lining is a little OTT as well.

Here, in total contrast, is my very first 16mm loco, a Merlin/Beck Midas  hauling a GVT coach buit from the old Association GVT coach "kit" on a Mamod chassis.

Possibly a fairer comparison is with the Gosling GVT loco that I lusted after as a schoolboy.

Monday, 5 October 2015


Trees are funny things. Except when they are a little bit scary or spooky. 

Or Ents. I can't imagine an Ent telling a  joke, and if they did the punchline would be a long time coming.

This twisted example is to be found high up on the Burren and I took the photo on a particularly brutal day off from cycling around County Clare and missing evidence of the West Clare.

What has really made me think about trees is first of all the recent excellent BBC documentary on a year in the life of an oak tree  This includes some incredible statistics and should be a must see for anyone contemplating realistic trees. DId you know they have 700,000 leaves?

The other thing is watching our new garden as Autumn approaches. There is a point where we seem to lose the ability to look at individual trees. One tree, two trees... four trees, five trees....lots of trees.

I actually still haven't counted how many trees we now have under our care, but as they begin to change colour I'm finding it easier to pick out individual specimens,  I could stand and look at them for hours,

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

There was a time in my life when I moved house on a regular basis and took it in my stride. So I've been bit taken a back by how stressful I've found this latest move, particularly since the move itself went without a hitch and we both adore living here.  Sometimes though even good changes generate stress. That is especially the case when one change sets in motion a domino effect in many aspects of life, which is what seems to be happening now.

To give just two apparently trivial examples, having moved somewhere flat I've exchanged one of my bikes, an old and much loved 21 gear hybrid, for a single-speed bike in a rather fetching shade of electric blue. It is radically altering my how approach to cycling and I'm loving every minute I spend riding it. The catch is that because of all the other pulls on my time I'm struggling to find the time to put in the miles I want to.

The same applies to photography. To be honest I've never been the most successful landscape photographer but even so I've been really struggling to get to grips with Fenland. It isn't that the scenery is unattractive and boring, far from it, but somehow I can't yet capture the images  that my mind is seeing.

On the bright side I get to practice  taking lots of sunset photos whilst leaning on the garden fence, and there are some great agricultural buildings around.

Meanwhile on the railway front I'm still focussed on the garden but after over tens years with hardly any garden at all I'm struggling to work out how to fit things in. I've worked out a location for the 16mm test track but it isn't a long term solution.

The 7 1/4" gauge line also needs a lot of thought, trying to balance avoiding it being too public or intruding on the garden too much whilst also doing a useful job of work.

Friday, 10 July 2015

New Beginnings

So the house move is completed. The dogs are having the time of their lives, as is one of the cats, though the other one is less certain, and the cycling is a dream.

And track laying has begun.....

Saturday, 20 June 2015

End of the Line

So the long awaited house move is finally happening on Monday. 

The upside is obviously the prospect of a 7 1/4" gauge line at long last.

The downside is the short-term lack of space until I get a workshop built, and that means a hard decision had to be made.

Apa is no more 

Typically it was only after consigning it to the bin that I realised the last train photo was taken with the Sentinel's body sat skewiff. 

I did strip the layout of all the reusable things I could beforehand, although I'm not confident they will survive the move and an extended time in storage.

It had served the purpose for which it was built, and I'm looking forward to the next iteration

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Modelling Narrow Gauge Railways in Small Scales

I got home from a rather wet day gricing Listers and their like at Lamport Hall  to discover my Amazon pre-order of Chris Ford's new book had arrived.

That's quite impressive considering Amazon aren't even showing it as being released yet.

So far I've only had a chance to skim through it but first impressions are of an excellent guide that takes you through pretty much everything you need to know to build your first OO9 layout, or, for that matter, your first layout in most scales, I particularly liked how balanced the content seemed with no undue emphasis on any one aspect. and also how it dives straight in to projects that presume the reader is going to build things for themselves.

I could see a definite opening for a similar approach to a book on finescale standard gauge modelling.

Well worth a more detailed read..

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Lucky Find

With the house move on the horizon I decided it was time to visit some of the local museums that I've not got around to going to nearly ten years.

The first, and most relevant here, is the Electric Railway Museum.

I never have worked out why it is located next to Coventry Airport rather than somewhere with strong historic links to electric railway. It also only opens sporadically, but fortunately last Saturday was one of their access days.

If this sounds familiar it is because Phil Parker, another local, also only fairly recently managed to make the same visit.

So there isn't much I can add to his observations. Except that in the on board shop I found an October 1959 Railway Modeller.

And in the back of it was this advert for my father's old shop.

Not only that but it also had a fascinating article by P.D. Hancock on building the trams for Craig, and by Doris Stokes on shop window displays.

More photos here and since it was only next door I also popped into the Midlands Air Museum.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


For those of you who have been wondering about the prototype loco I mentioned  for the proposed 7 1/4" gauge line

Designed and built by Colin Edmondson to use an old Suffolk Punch engine, or the more modern Loncin.

To find out more have a look at the Minimal Gauge Railways group on Facebook

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Go East Not So Young Man

So a  quick update on the house move situation. Things continue to move rather fast. Within twenty four hours of my last post we found a house we both fell in love with, our offer has been accepted, the mortgage is in place....and every finger and toe is currently crossed that nothing goes wrong.

Actually I'm sort of hoping one small thing goes wrong just so we can get it out of the way.

I'm not going to tempt fate by posting too many details yet, but the photo above gives a very strong clue about the approximate location, especially to a few of you who I know are reasonably local to the area. A pity this site wasn't for sale itself really.

What it currently lacks is an office and a proper workshop, but it has plenty of space for both that is currently occupied by kennels. Mind you with the poodles managing to be rather annoying this morning the idea of keeping the kennels has its own appeal.

As for the garden....

Well I think it makes a 7 1/4" gauge line pretty much compulsory. There is ample scope to start with something simple and then add in a more circuitous route at a later date. And in a remarkable coincidence the ideal loco for it has just been successfully tested before entering production.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Long March

I think I've alluded in the past that we have been planning to move home at some point. A sudden and incredibly positive shift in the local housing market means the emphasis has suddenly shifted from trying to sell our house to finding a new one PDQ.

The short term implication of this, allied with a greater emphasis on my photography has been zero modelling.

The longer term  implications are something I'm only just daring to start to think about.

With the children moving out, and both Issy and I working from home much more of the time, we can be somewhat selfish about our new home. So bedrooms are being swapped for more office space, much more garden, and more utility spaces. There seems to be a never ending list of other considerations to take in to account including making my journey to at least one of my offices cheaper and preferably shorter. The easiest one to accommodate is the desire to move nearer to the coast, since it is quite hard to move anywhere in the UK that is further from the sea than our current house.

Where does this leave the railway?

Well first of all my bitter experience is every house move I've made, and I've moved around a lot, will end up with models broken, lost or stolen so there doesn't seem any point investing effort in any other projects until we've moved.

That is the only negative, apart from knowing what ever property we move into will need time and effort investing in it to make it work for us as a living space. Oodles of poodles need careful fencing in, and the home offices will need to be more than just a traditional study if I'm going to become more relaxed about working from home.

The positives are hopefully immense. Having a separate workshop, rather than it sharing office space, will make it a lot easier for me to switch modes between work and relaxation. It will also mean the layout can have a permanent home. I'm not intending to develop grandiose plans as a  result, but it will give me more options to play with. A few inches more foreground and background space and the possibility of modelling a through station rather than a terminus are the only changes I'm currently considering.

At least indoors.

When we first moved here part pf the deal was that I would be able to build a garden railway. In reality this turned out to be pretty incompatible with boisterous teenagers, chickens and dogs.

It went through a few iterations, some of which I rather liked, but to be honest my own thoughts about what I wanted from a  garden railway were also evolving rapidly. I began to hanker after a scale based approach rather than the typical 16mm "scale" caricature. It  always amused, and saddened, me that the 16mm crowd poured scorn on G scale modelers for their elastic approach to scale whilst doing exactly the same thing themselves.

16mm might still have a place in my plans, I have an Accucraft GVT tram on order with Simon Whenmouth at Anything \Narrow Gauge because I've always hankered after one from when I first saw the Stephen Poole 016.5mm version in the window of W&H models as a child. Roy link's plan for a GVT layout in that scale is another of those, like TAoC, that has permanently imprinted itself on my  mind. If I did build a 16mm version though I think it would be based on one of the smaller roadside stations, and much more  focused on just watching the train rather than more hands on operation.

Another prototype I've  mulled over for the garden treatment is the Darjeeling, but then it looks like we are heading East, a part of Britain not renowned for mountainous terrain.

Hold on a second though. Time to put two and two together and make 7.25

Large garden + Very flat garden =  7 1/4" gauge

It might be an option. 

Nothing fancy mind, and inherently utilitarian, but just perhaps worth considering.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Sacrificial Victim

The railway has been on a bit of a back burner for a couple of weeks. Partly because photography has been taking up more of my time as I've made the effort to really get to grips, quite literally, with the Fujifilm XE-1. When using a camera with a lot of manual settings and overrides it takes a time for certain things to become second nature. There is nothing worse than missing a shot because you fumbled to find a setting.

I've also been quite occupied with a Tata Group wide competition for innovative solutions. I'm glad to say that my team won our European heat and we will be off to Mumbai in April for the finals. Anyone who thinks that the UK has forgotten how to invent and build things would have been very impressed by some of the engineering solutions coming out of JLR and Tata Steel that we were competing alongside. On top of that the end of the financial year at work is always a busy and stressful time for me as we calculate how all our hard work finally translates into revenue.

So I think I need to re-focus on a few projects. One of which is the Manning Wardle. Here is the sacrificial pug waiting to go under the knife.

Flicking through my copy of Manning Wardle Locomotives Volume 1 it appears that there were some 4ft gauge versions of the H class. Since the Tanat Valley connected with a 4ft gauge line you can probably see where my long term thinking is going.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Playing Around

Over at Wood End and Beyond Chris has posed the question 

Why, if The Art of Compromise always generates so much interest,
do you so rarely see it being built?"

Part of the answer I suspect is in his own comment that 

Its an idea, not a list of instructions

I'm sure an awful lot of people who have the plan squirreled away eventually decide to build it with their own  design changes, and it is one of those designs where you don't have to alter much to end up with something that just isn't TAoC. That is one of the reasons I'm trying to keep my effort as close to the original as possible.

I also suspect that in marketing terms it doesn't have a clear audience. on the surface it looks like an obvious beginners design, and I'm sure if Paul Lunn were to update it to use setrack points and modern equivalents of the Prototype Models buildings then it would be more popular. But then I really don't think it is a beginners layout. First of all to work at all it needs careful packaging of the different elements in such a small space. Any errors are going to get magnified and any further compromise you might make is going to come back and bite you. 

It also isn't going to be a very interesting layout for the beginner from an operational perspective, all the interest is provided by putting effort into the scenic details. Then if you are an experienced modeler you'll probably consider it to be a rather unprotoypical . That is actually why I  didn't pay much attention to it for much of my adult life until I made the connection with the Fairford branch.

All this musing comes together when it comes to decisions about the goods shed.  The Prototype Models kit was based on the timber built shed at Watlington, Visually I think a  wooden building might work rather well. I think a stone GS, as on the Fairford branch, would unbalance the design despite being of roughly the same design.  Since I'm using Lcut components it seems a sensible compromise to go for a brick built version but using the Fairford footprint.

I still have some concerns though. The goods yard on TAoC as drawn looks overcrowded and unworkable in real life.

Anyway I quickly mocked up the shed this evening to see how it looked, and I think it might just fit, but it is going to be tight.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Devil in the Detail

Over at Odds Oracle Martin has been posting such juicy photos of  inconsequential details that I've almost forgiven him for his heavy criticism of Black Country Blues. Not that he is wrong in what he said, but for me the faults, exaggerated by a particularly cruel photo, are outweighed by how well it captures a railway scene that I knew so well as a Brummie - though let us be quite clear that Birmingham and the Black Country are not the same thing. If I'm honest I thought it was another photo of  BCB in the MRJ article that I expected him to have most fun with. I'll let him guess which one.

Anyway I digress from my main point, which is both how important ancillary details are and at the same time how challenging they can be to model.

Take this for example.

I must have walked past this pole in our neighbouring village of Brandon hundreds of times, but I've never really "looked at it" before. How long would it take to model that, yet how much would it add to a model if you did? Here I have to confess my most basic ignorance that I don't even know if it is a telephone pole or a power pole. And are poles for telephone lines still called telegraph poles? This is what it looks like in 2015, what would it have looked like in 1965 or 1915? Whatever the answers I hope you'll agree with me that it is rather wonderful and deserves to be modeled.

And then what about this? I suspect it is a good few years since any Ferrari graced this forecourt, but there was a time when the wealthy West Midlands was peppered with exotic car dealerships in unexpected places. I think Stourport used to have a Lamborghini dealership. At this point my wife usually gets the speech about how before I married her I was living in Chelsea and couldn't walk out of my flat without tripping over some variety of super car. Literally so in some cases.

But lets get back to real life. One of the more exciting events in our twin villages of Brandon and Wolston has been the inscribing of the last two names on the Brandon war memorial. They weren't put on it originally because they came from a very small village that decided helping the families was more important than erecting a memorial.

I have to say the masons did an excellent job because if you didn't know they were new you would think they had been there since the same time as the other WW1 inscriptions.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Sometimes it is good to remember that experiments don't have to be 'successful' to be useful.

I've been playing around with the Silhouette cutter again. Late in the evening probably wasn't a good time to start but it was the only time I had. It is so long since I last used it that I made a few silly mistakes along the way. All of which is part of the learning process, I suppose, especially getting used to how it cuts different materials.

And of course there are the happy accidents along the way. For instance having accidentally misaligned two lines I discovered that in 10 thou plasticard you can cut extremely thin glazing bars compared to using card. Oddly though there is one shape that should be cutting cleanly but consistently isn't, as you can see in the photo. I'm guessing it is something to do with the order in which the cutting blade changes direction.

Can  you tell what it/they is/are yet?

There are some big clues here that I haven't given up on the 14XX body that suffered from the unfortunate mix up with the paint strippers, and also that I'm attempting to emulate laserglaze on the cheap. Incidentally since taking this photo I've discovered how to massively improve the quality of the curves the machine can cut.

The other parts will hopefully look familiar to Phil Parker....

Monday, 26 January 2015

Tidying Up

Weekends since Xmas seem to have been dedicated to clearing out the loft and the library.  For some reason we now have an empty loft, a  library full of junk, and a spare room full of the TAoC - but I think Issy has discovered that is where it is hiding so I'm going to have to find space for it in the office again.

As a quick reminder my office also functions as my digital darkroom and my workshop, so space is at a premium, especially now my work desk has two Apa boxes perched on it. Actually it also acts as the over spill library as well and as the dogs' daytime den.

I've been meaning to have a tidy up in here for ages, but one of the issues I've had is finding homes for stuff whilst still keeping it accessible for quick modelling sessions when I've got a spare hour or so.

Recently I came across the Hobbyzone modular workshop and thought it might be worth a try.

So here it is in action. The brushes and tools unit is really useful. The draw units have draws that are a decent size and clear plastic windows so you can see the contents. I find relatively large draws useful when trying to extract sharp objects from them, or just sorting though the content of Misc & Sundries.

I'm glad I opened and built the corner shelf unit, on the bottom left hand side, last, because it doesn't give the feel of confidence in the construction that the others do. On the other hand it has proved to have two really good features. First of all it is a great place to sweep up WIP at the end of a session, but also, as you can see, the cut-out in the shelf is just the right shape to accommodate the dishes from our local takeaway.

Incidentally that is an Lcut bridge under construction in the photo.

To be honest the units were a little smaller than I was expecting, and they aren't cheap. I'm sure most of you could knock something similar up for yourselves.

They arrived quickly, each well packaged, and with instructions that are best described as adequate in places. The cylindrical object is the stack of magnets used to connect the units together, an idea that seems to work well.

Will I be buying more of them? Probably. I could see myself getting a couple to sit on my main desk for those five minute jobs.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


One of the mini projects I have underway is a 4mm scale tramway micro layout.

In some ways this is unfinished business. As well as his three rail O gauge garden railway my father, inspired by trips on the Vicinal  built a crude tramway layout when I was still in nappies. He also did much to promote Hamo and Anbrico trams when he was running his model shop in the early 60's.

My grandfather, great grandfather and a great uncle all worked on tramways. Indeed my great uncle met his death when the Birmingham tram he was driving collided with a church.  He was lucky compared to the great uncle who died in a foundry accident.

One of the first white metal kits I built was of a Birmingham tram, and I was rather proud of it , but I never found suitable seats for the open top deck and time and house moves took its eventual toll on the model.

And as a child growing up in Blackpool and going to school by tram I often dreamed of a model tramway empire.

Exactly what form this model will take I'm not yet sure. Despite my obvious links to Blackpool and Birmingham trams I suspect it will have more of a black country interurban  flavour with the Kinver line being a major influence.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Exhibit A:

One jar of solvent free paint stripper suitable for use on plastics

Exhibit B:

One jar of not safe for plastic paint stripper

The rest of this post more or less writes itself, doesn't it?

It looks a LOT worse than it is!

I made the mistake of trying to strip the paint off of the diecast Lisbon tram at the same time as trying to get the last traces of paint off of one of the 14XX bodyshells.

I very nearly got away with it.

In fact it might just be salvageable down the line if I can identify suitable Archer resin rivet transfers. I was going to replace the toolboxes anyway. The splashers aren't brilliant either, so perhaps I should just replace the whole area of the footplate.

In the meantime lets make a virtue out of necessity and use the damaged body to practice some techniques on. If I'm honest with myself I was already feeling uneasy about having removed the bunker and tank steps. I still think there is something wrong with the moulded ones, but that doesn't mean I'm capable of improving on them just yet.

In any case replacement Airfix 14XX are easy to come by and a new one is already en route to me, and this one is allegedly a runner, not that that is relevant.

Whilst I'm confessing to mistakes I also had a stupid accident whilst clamping the Lcut platform. I let some glue escape whilst taking a belts and braces approach to clamping pieces together which damaged the surface detail. Not catastrophic, but annoying.

Are we downhearted?

Well yes, a bit, because both the mistakes were stupid and avoidable. Who would be so daft as to make sure they had a separate brush for each type of paint stripper, but use identical brushes with no way of telling them apart?

But hey, nothing expensive has been ruined, I have a plan B to recover from both situations and, perhaps most important of all, I expected to make some mistakes along the way. I'm glad I made the mistakes now rather than further down the line. I was watching a programme about the Lindisfarne Gospels and a calligrapher said two things. The first was that the scribe included a deliberate mistake on every page, and the other was that as a calligrapher you always,always, make a mistake on the very last page.

Hopefully I can avoid that by making my mistakes on the first page and getting them out of the way.

And the Lisbon tram is looking great.

Saturday, 10 January 2015


So for those of you who have been wondering, here is the Templot track plan laid out on the baseboards

Thursday, 8 January 2015

New Year, New Progress

With the New Year our focus has shifted once again to a possible house move. Or at least my wife's has. Still it is an excuse both for a clear out, and perhaps counter intuitively it is also a catalyst to get some serious modelling done.  I can clear WIP and "not actually needed at the moment" debris away and focus on those projects that can be completed quickly.

No sniggering at the back, I know my reputation for procrastination.

With the baseboards of TAoC complete  the obvious next task on that is to start track laying. My original plan was to build as much of the track in-situ.  I might still take that approach with the second board, where the timbering is a little complex.  On the first one though I'm going to build the turnouts and catch point separately so the don't get damaged with the baseboard being set up and then taken down to allow for viewings. By the time I get on to the second board I'm hoping we will either have sold the house or I will at least have found a better place to store the layout.

Whilst on the subject of track building I've wondered about using the Silhouette to build a sleepering jig for the turnouts. It depends on how accurately I can get a plan output from Templot into the design software for the cutter.

The other TAoC task I want to work on this week is the Bullfrog "manual point motors"  They aren't cheap, especially when you get charged duty on them. On the other hand people are only likely to use them on relatively small layouts where they are easily accessible from the operating position so no one is going to be buying them in large quantities.

The station buildings for the initial version of TAoC need a home whilst track construction goes on, so a second APA box has been called into service.  This means I can retire the OO version and replace it with a tram layout in a scale that is still to be decided. The Lcut buildings are well underway, or at least the platform, bridge and station building are. The platform mounted signal box and the Fairford branch based water tower should follow. I'm going to write a separate post on all of these as construction gets more advanced

Then it is on to the loco fleet.

For display purposes at least I'm re-wheeling one of the Airfix 14xx chassis. The cosmetic work on the first body has been speeded up with the delivery of a pack from Alan at Quarryscapes including plates for 1449. I might even have found a solution to the tank vent replacement issue. Where I think I might have gone wrong is in removing the tank and cabside steps without having thought through their replacement. I do find the more I look at photos of the real thing the more small things I find that contribute to that distinct 14xx look.

I'm also building a conversion of the Dapol Pug suggested by Phil Parker sometime ago. This is really just another exercise in using the Silhouette to see what it can do, I'm also trying out the Silhouette as a way of making the duckets on the E40 coach.

What I really need to prioritise this year is some wagon building,

Then in the distant future there are  projects that I suspect I'll still be writing about in five year's time, like the Bachmann/Hornby combination Class 25.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Another Present

I've mentioned Tim Horn's excellent laser cut products  a few times before. I'm using his standard baseboards for TAoC and in the meantime I'm displaying my stock on one of his display standards.

With Xmas out of the way I've just got round to opening the package containing the second baseboard which has been lying around in my office for weeks. I was a little chastened therefore to discover that because Tim felt the order had been delayed being dispatched he'd included one of his A4 scenic boards with it as a gift. Incidentally I thought the order was sent out quite promptly and wasn't aware of any delay.

So now the dilemma is what to do with it? I already have a second Apa based diorama underway to showcase the Lcut buildings, and the original Apa is about to be re-used for a 7mm tramway layout.

A small diorama using the Sentinel is one option, another is a 4mm tramway scene. Then again I still hanker after a return to narrow gauge modelling. I've even got a Smallbrook Studio Nellie hiding somewhere in a draw that needs a home.