Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Art of the Possible

The new building is far from ready for use, but I thought it would provide a safer refuge for the baseboards of The Art of Compromise than either of the sheds have been. So here it is in its new home, and despite the ravages of mice over the last five years there are still substantial remnants of my Templot plan in place.

A lot has changed in those five years.

The original idea, to save you trawling through old posts, was to take a break from the somewhat down at heel Tanat Valley and then come back to revisit it both refreshed from the change and having improved my skills enough to make the investment in a new version worthwhile. TAoC had always been one of my favourite plans, so seemed an ideal candidate. When not in use it could be displayed as two separate dioramas in my then office/workshop and then combined with the fiddle yard to be operated in the library.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that the layout can't actually be built as Roy Link originally drew it. As a result, most versions of TAoC are modified to a greater or lesser degree. I wanted to prove the original design was feasible using either the models he specified or their current equivalents.  In fact, I wanted to go beyond that and show it was possible to build it with handbuilt EM gauge rather than with Peco Setrack points. That would also provide the opportunity to test out EM conversions as I got round to them. An additional benefit, at the back of my mind, was that I could later replace the scenery with updated TVR structures as a halfway house to the next full-blown TVR layout.

So what has changed and where am I now?

Well obviously we moved house, and I built a  7 1/4" gauge railway. Modelling has been restricted to the OO9 micro layout to experiment with the new generation of 3D printed loco kits and beginning to dabble in 7/8ths scale. I've been building up a small collection of recent RTR OO gauge releases as well, some for eventual conversion to EM, and some for an OO dockside micro layout.

The new building gives me the space to keep a layout like TAoC, or even larger permanently set up, which is a nice plus. On the negative side, I seem to have less free time than ever thanks to the garden and animals, never mind work.

Then there are the developments in the hobby, such as the rise in 3D printing and laser cutting, and in particular the fine-scale bullhead track from Peco in both OO and, via the EMGS, EM.

Oh yes, and Chirs Ford built his version of the TAoC using a very similar philosophy

So the options I'm considering:

Carrying on with the original plan for TAoC but using Peco finescale track in either OO or EM. If I went down the OO route it would let me exploit some of my RTR stock until it is converted. I could build a small Apa Valley type micro layout in EM to test any stock I convert to EM in the meantime

Keeping very close to the original plan, but using 18" wide baseboards, primarily to allow a little foreground into the model and protect the running line from curious fingers. That would swing the pendulum back to EM. I could reuse the original baseboards for an N gauge version of Minories.

Skip straight to the EM TVR on 2ft wide baseboards, again using the existing boards for Minories.

And, of course, even if I go for the first of these options, I could still build Minories on the baseboards at a later date.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The purpose of life, railways and everything

Well, the purpose of an agricultural tramway is to carry agricultural produce. The goats took that into their own hands by destroying the entirety of my vegetable plot.  Meanwhile, timber and coal traffic has been disrupted by the end of the "tramway" being lifted for my wife's goat-related deforestation project*. A project that has been balanced by hedge planting on my part but which means I need to reinstitute  20m of track in the Spring.

But then in the Spring, we are getting a different breed of goat, and that does definitely mean having to remove a stand of conifers. Conifers that currently hide both the big metal engine shed and the stock siding. That is a Bad Thing in the language of 1066 and All That. The upside is it lets me remove the infamous 8ft radius reverse curve, which also means it is feasible to fit in a second road into the big metal engine shed.

It is  Bad Thing that to do that means relaying another 40m of track, building an extra point and altering the geometry of one of the existing points.

It is a Good Thing, I suppose, that goats generate their own kind of agricultural traffic. Mucking out the goat shed produces a rich, and ripe, source of compost. The input to this process is bales of hay and straw, but I think I'm going to need longer wagons...

* She didn't check in advance that whilst certain shrubs are poisonous to goats, goats seem to be aware of this and so don't eat them.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Railway Room

A few days of dry weather meant Alan could complete the new railway room/home office.

Hopefully, the electrics will be in over the next two or three weeks. It still needs a final floor and decorating but after four years of building models on a space  2ft by 3ft, I'm so looking forward to this. Finally, I'll have a room where I can assemble TAoC baseboards semi-permanently.

The delay has, in some ways, been a benefit. at least where availability of trackwork and point rodding and control are concerned. To my mind, they are key elements int the realism of the final layout.

Retirement still feels like a distant hope, but I think I've also identified my retirement layout if ever I'm in a position to not need the home office space. Strangely, or not, it is another Roy Link design that goes back to my childhood.

But before then there is the small matter of extending the 7 1/4" another 100m or so to allow me to commute to work by ELR.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

And a hint of things to come

My new 7/8ths Trefor quarry Hudson Hunslet, built by James Hilton to replace my much loved Merlin 16mm version that got stolen. Working with James on this commission has been a delight from start to finish. Leaving aside the quality of the finished product, which looks just like I imagined it would, James went out of his way to accommodate my requirements, provided a lot of additional advice, and kept me fully informed throughout the process, so the end result felt like a true collaboration that fully realised an image of this loco I've had in my head for many years.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Normal Serice Will be Resumed

A lot has been happening at chaos manor in recent months, and, as usual, a lot has not been happening.

I'm yet to put together a full pictorial of all the ongoing changes we are doing to Elder Cottage, some of which definitely, especially from an ELR perspective, feel like we are going backwards.

As usual, the Summer months have been full of lovely visitors, who somehow abandon us as the fenland winds pick up and the nights draw in. We've also welcomed Freddie, our first grandson, into the world, as well as Gigi, our new pup.

Last week the foundations finally went in for my new home office and model workshop. I suspect the next few weeks are going to be traumatic as we change things around. Tomorrow my main computer will go dark, and probably remain so for a month or so.

I'll see you on the other side.

Support your local show

Last year I was quite disappointed with the local Spalding MRC show, because to my mind it didn't come up to their usual standard.

It would have been easy not to go this year, especially when several of the layouts had the suffix Depot or TMD, which isn't a universal sign of quality.

Before we go any further I'm glad to say my decision to go again this year was a good one. My bad decision was about cameras.  It is a long story, but don't trust the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. Because I was disappointed last year I didn't bother taking my reliable Fujis that also perform at model railway shows. Instead, I thought I would rely on my Sony RX100. Now there are times when that little camera can work miracles, but an exhibition hall is somewhere it struggles big time. On this occasion, it wasn't helped by a change of prescription for my glasses, which meant I was struggling to work out the right diopter adjustment and relying more on on-screen information than gut feel. Big mistake.

And to compound it all, I was using a new camera phone, a Pixel 4. This isn't the place to go into detail a mobile phone review. To cut to the chase, I love the camera capability it has, but it is obvious I'm also still learning how to use it.

The net result is my worst ever ratio of shareable shots from an exhibition, which is a real shame, and means some layouts I'll mention aren't supported by a photo. In fact with my first draft, I'm leaving photos out altogether.

First of all, some general observations. It remains a really friendly show where it is easy even for an anti-social g*t like me to become involved in conversations with punters and operators. The free guide was 76, yes, 76 pages! Trade stands seemed buzzing but not busy in terms of cash changing hands, but to be honest this is mostly a show for box shifters, so I didn't hang around them except to get past them to the next layout.

As usual, a sign saying a layout had been in RM or CM seemed to result in a crowd, as did the big layouts such as Grantham and James Street. You can imagine Grantham was popular because of the area, but, whilst not my thing, I think a big range of modellers could appreciate it. James Street is perhaps a touch more gimmicky, but well done. It also highlighted that N gauge layouts, in general, seemed very very popular with the audience, and this year all of them were of a high quality, even if one or two weren't what appeals to me.

Looking at narrow gauge layouts, again they were all quite good. I'll come back to one later in discussing my best of show assessment, but Launceston was by far the best OO9 layout, and  Zauberwaldbahn was a nice example of continental O16.5. The Winter setting of Great White River stayed just the right side of twee,

It was nice to see an Australian layout, South Walton. Another good example of N gauge. I really need another visit to Australia, but at least next year I'm scheduled to speak in NZ.

As for those feared TMD and depot layouts, I rather liked the O gauge Ladeside Depot. The locos were very good indeed.

Webbs's Wharf and Wolds Way were good examples of relatively small but well-presented layouts in, respectively 7mm and 4mm. And the Iraq diorama was a brilliant if over-busy, use of forced perspective. So good, in fact, it took a while to be aware that is what it was.

A quick aside before I select, or try to, my layout of the day. I've been reconsidering couplings recently. My conclusion after today is that it is a close-run thing between DGs and Kadees. I was surprised by how unobtrusive kadees can appear. They might just win out.

I'm really struggling with my layout of the day. I loved the 3mm Heybridge Wharf with its hints of the Wisbech & Upwell,  and its use of a Tanat Valley goods shed, except, of course, the combination of the two seemed jarring to me of all people, having a foot in both camps.

So for me the winner by a whisker was the Spanish based Ferrocarrial San Maria.

It had a lot going for it:
  • Great engagement with the audience
  • An unusual but attractive prototype
  • Great integration with the back scene
  • Attention paid to road vehicles
  • The Faller road system used so it was just part of the scene.