Wednesday 28 December 2011

All muckied up and ready to roll

The new Bachmann 3F you may recall from before Christmas, has now received its final session of weathering after a renumbering to Templecombe's 43216. I tend to weather engines in stages, breaking for a day to two to appraise the effect under the layout's lighting and how it looks in relation to the layout and other stock. I like to get a uniform but not necessarily totally even look between engines and other items of rolling stock so nothing stands out too much.

After looking at several colour photographs of this particular engine on the former SDJR I noticed that the smokebox area was frequently rusty, probably due to excessive heat effecting the paint. Apart from that, they had a slightly oily sticky appearance which would have attracted soot and grime. "Imagine Christmas Pudding smeared all over the engine rather than Barry Scrapyard" I recall somebody many years ago saying down a railway club.

This is a good looking engine, especially now a bit of fake patina really highlights the fine detail. But one thing I hadn't really noticed until last night when weathering the tender frames, was the crazy positioning of  the tender brake shoes, despite reading about them but obviously not taking on board the recent excellent Model Rail review on this very subject.

If you click on the link below to bring up a bigger photo, it's very obvious that the brake shoes are flush with the tender frame sides and nowhere near the wheels. They're so far out that I'm sure sure even if it was regauged to Irish broad gauge they wouldn't be anywhere near!
As yet I haven't done anything about this, but now the weathering tends to highlight the flaw even more so, in due I'll be ordering some bits from one of the plethora of men-in-shed-suppliers to address what I'm hoping will just be a matter of cutting the shoes away and replacing with some brass or white metal bits.

Anyway, above we have the usual pretty photo, today's one being of the grubby little fella complete with my usual load of old bull;

'After working the empty return trip from Bath Green Park Goods down to the sidings at Brewhouse Quay, we see Templecombe's 43216 resting before the fully loaded return trip. This trip, the last of the day was always popular with certain crews if near the end of shift (Drivers mainly!) because it left at 7.15pm which allowed for a few pints in the nearby brewery tap bar; the fireman was then given the dubious honour of driving the loco back to Bath Goods!

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

When I took this photo around 0600 this morning, I quickly came to the conclusion that if a Christmas Pudding or Plum Pudding was a loco it would be a Beattie Well Tank, compact, un-athletic, well rounded, rich and oozing in character.

I hope you'll agree with me that it looks perfectly at home tootling about the sidings on Brewhouse Quay, so much so that history has been re-written, well in Nevardland anyway!

Imagine if when the delightful locomotives left Wadebridge shed for the last time in the early 1960's, that one of them at least was whisked up to Bath to operate the tight curvy brewery sidings, an ideal task for a design which spent much of its life on the windy and curvy Wenford Bridge line. The loco would not only shunt the brewery rail-network, but would also perform the occasional trip working from the brewery to Bath Green Park goods.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday 24 December 2011

Secrets of Brewhouse Quay

Bachmann Midland 3F weathered and renumbered as Templecombe's 43216. This loco was the 3F allocated to the former Somerset & Dorset line and was withdrawn in 1962.

For photographers, this was taken on a mid-1960's Nikkor-S (Ai converted) 35mm f2.8 wide angle lens on a somewhat newer Nikon D700 digital body. 2 sec, f16, Adobe RAW/CS5 using the layout's own lighting. The only digital post production apart from basic level adjustment during the RAW conversion is the addition of fake smoke.

To find out a few secrets of Brewhouse Quay, click on the above photo to take you through to another photo, then float your cursor over the image for detail notes.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Bachmann Midland 3F

The recently released Bachmann Midland 3F arrived yesterday, and I must say that first impressions are that it's rather splendid. I'm not going to dwell on accuracy and suchlike, that I'm sure will be debated for the next 25 years on model railway forums, and anyway for the real truth there's a cracking review in December 2011 Model Rail (163) by people who really know what they're writing about - so get that back-issue of you're not already a subscriber.

Instead my two pennies worth will be a few snaps to hopefully show the little beastie from from different angles to those already seen. Just click on the images below for a BIGGER view.

Looking down (the layout is Brewhouse Quay), and it's very apparent just how good the cab detail is. The coal load is cast and actually loose, so if you want to replace it with real coal and to keep the weight a strip of lead might need to go in its place, though actually if you're happy with a full load, a layer of coal sprinkled on to PVA should work.

Side view showing the compact nature which is rather like a 4F but squashed. The compact nature of this delightful loco makes it ideal for small layouts like this which normally only receive tank locos. It runs nicely too, and the wheel back to backs didn't need any tweaking to get them to run through the code 55 handbuilt finescale track here.

Another side-view, but this time from the other side showing the gubbins on the side of the boiler. I'm no rivet counter, but what's depicted does look rather good, I'm not going to count them for you though.

Flying across the rooftops, no I haven't rebuilt Brewhouse Quay, but simply placed my stock-photo-thingy on top of the wharf to take advantage of the layout's built in lighting. The eagle-eyed will notice that the cross-member has become detached from the brake hangers at the front, easily popped back in to place - the result of me being too eager to snap the engine after taking it out of the box without checking it over first.

Next I have to pluck up courage to renumber  and weather it up!

Happy Christmas

xmascard2011_WEB by nevardmedia
xmascard2011_WEB, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
Merry Christmas &  Happy New Year!

I hope that Father Christmas brings your the model train you want. Looking to 2012 and that all important new year's resolution; if you're an armchair modeller, you will finally build that layout. If you're a modeller, you will finish that project and start a new one!

Above all though, have fun and don't pay any attention to anything I say!


Saturday 17 December 2011

Old Sox

As a model maker of mostly historical scenarios, I'm always on the look out for bits of 'olde England' to record for posterity to aid model making. Currently in Surrey, older street lighting is being updated with new low energy systems which can be controlled and monitored from a central remote point, the outcome being that power will be saved and failed lighting easily pin-pointed.

In residential areas like the above in Guildford the familiar rich orange coloured low pressure sodium lights (known by lighting aficionados as SOX) are being replaced with white flourescent lamps, and on busier roads, pink high pressure sodium lamps (SON) are rapidly taking over due to a longer life and a slightly less overpowering monochromatic effect on colours.

Sadly though it's not just a case of replacing the bulbs and control gear because many of the columns are suffering from internal corrosion and could be a danger hazard. This means that lights like the above are repidly becoming a thing of the past, with Rydes Hill in Guildford being one of the few roads left with these 1960's Stewart & Lloyd lights as I type this.

When the above Corby manufactured lights were new, they would have probably had mercury vapour lamps emitting that familiar blue-green glow which would have been replaced with the 35w sodium lamps seen here in more recent times. Whilst it's sad to see these lights go, environmentally the newer 'white' lighting in residential areas does make for a more pleasant experience, like many I've never liked that sodium glow that works past any gaps in the bedroom curtains. As the orange sodium-polluted sky gets replaced with a soft whitish-green hue in the side roads, in a funny kind of way the effect is quite retro and must be more like those night-skies of the 1950's when mercury and tungsten mostly lit the way.

Friday 9 December 2011

Forums, the web, mags and green nonsense.

Forums, the web, mags and green nonsense.

The internet came along and changed everything, with all age-groups embracing the possibilities it bought. There can be few things in western society that the internet has not infiltrated, whether it’s shopping, banking, watching tv, gaming, research or simply uploading photos of drunken parties onto social media sites.

For me, internet hobby-forums are a great way to see what other model makers are up, what’s hot and what’s not. It’s also a great social tool for like-minded nutters like me, and since re-joining this hobby a decade or so ago. I imagine that 95% of all the modellers I now know in the real world I had first contact with via the internet. 15 years ago, such was looked at as being slightly odd, possibly because in those days those ‘online’ were frequently socially challenged computer types – not always though, but mostly! Mix that up with toy trains and you really were entering Jimmy-no-Mates land, that underworld of smelly types in sheds, multi-coloured biros, bad breath, GWR green enamel under the finger nails, infrequent changes of underwear, a bath tub full of Lima boxes and overly well organised tidy notebooks.

We all know this hobby doesn’t have the best of image, but interestingly the guys doing the really great model making are sound upstanding members of society, not the odd-balls often seen trolling around shows with that fruity-aroma in tow (they’re mostly collectors I gather). The smart ones tend to keep their passion private and away from their professional lives where they could be ridiculed unless they have the character to carry it off of course!

Like many hobbyists I'm not in a local railway club, possibly because what I see in the clubroom around the corner doesn't really inspire me, so would rather spend time working on my own projects. And anyway, when it comes to toy trains, I’m a bit of a control freak and would almost certainly snap at those who don’t know which end of the tube the glue comes out of (as it ends up all over my latest wagon). Luckily several times a month I get to travel the country to see other modeller's layouts up close through a lens (and over several cups of tea), so that takes care of my yearning to see other people's fabulous modelling first hand, but without having to share glue with people who stick their fingers together.

Traditionally the printed hobby-magazine prior to the web was the only platform to share modelling with a greater audience beyond that of a club open day or exhibition. But now, the internet, or more specifically forums are changing the way that magazines used to work, in the future magazines will probably have less emphasis on breaking news to become of more of a showcase for classy layouts and modelling professionally photographed, written and presented. I might be wrong of course, but with the ability of the internet to transmit breaking news globally at an instant, manufacturers clamouring for pole position increasingly will rely on the web as the first port of call to introduce their new wares.

Some will say that the bell tolls warning the end of traditional paper media, but I think that there will always be a demand for something that doesn't need batteries. For many, large volumes of text are easier to read printed on paper than on a computer screen - though maybe that's just me? When photography was invented they said that painting was dead, when TV was invented they said that film was dead. Nonsense of course!

But I do think with all these extra ways to get our fix (or is it distraction?) less model making takes place these days because there still are only 24 hours in the day, the likes of Hornby & Bachmann know this of course, and will happily swap some of your salary for an increasing arsenal of ready-made bits and pieces to save the modeller time ultimately turning us all into collectors.

In this increasingly ‘green’ society we live in, I always find it fascinating that we have a hunger for electricity that is far greater now that it was just a decade ago. When you’ve finished reading your paper book or magazine you can recycle it into egg cartons or newspaper and a new tree can be grown. On the other hand electronic display devices are costly to make, use many toxic materials, cannot really be recycled to any real degree and require bigger and bigger power stations to produce all the electricity to manufacture and power the devices.

Rounding up on a positive note, we have more choice than ever before with electronic and printed media living side by side, with some model railway magazines unlike their other paper stable mates covering other subjects are actually increasing their sales! Of course there will always be those that favour one media form over another, so now there is something for everyone which is always a good thing. Me? I love the web for its immediacy in getting information across and being able to communicate and share the hobby with like-minded souls, but nothing will beat the proper printed page to appreciate a good model railway properly photographed, short of seeing it for real of course, but I would say that wouldn’t I?

Sunday 4 December 2011

New Sign for the Pedant & Armchair

The Pedant & Armchair is now fully open and is complete with appropriate signage on the front. The nearby railway also has warnings to warn of its presence, but of the course the clientele would never dream of wandering onto the line because they almost certainly read government health and safety guides before going to bed. They are also unlikely to be drunk, 'mother' would never allow it.

I just need to think of a suitable name for the licensee to post above the door, thoughts?

Thanks to Troels Kirk for the inspiration.

Dirty Beattie

111204_polbrock_IMG_2088_WEB by nevardmedia
Beattie Well Tank No. 30587 trundles through the open crossing at Polbrook with a freight from Wenfordbridge to Wadebridge on a sultry summer day in 1957.
111204_polbrock_IMG_2088_WEB, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.
"She smells a bit but has a heart of gold", as coined by John Cleese when introducing his slightly less than fresh wife at a drinks party on a well known Monty Python sketch.

Here though I'm writing about Kernow Model Rail Centre's recently released Beattie Well Tank. The model supplied is quite delightful in pristine shiny black, any weathering being left to the modeller. Locos in service were generally a little grubby and had an acrid smell of hot oil, steam and soot - this aroma being perfume to steam fanciers

My method is to brush on a sludge of water based black acrylic and weathering powders, then wipe most of it of. These locos were generally quite well kept, so to reflect much use of an oily rag to give a nice sheen, Humbrol Metalcote was drybrushed on here and there to give a metallic oily look. To complete the effect, three link couplings have also been added, though I have still to remove the socket under the buffer beam used for the supplied tension lock couplings. I have also added one of the supplied distinctive Southern Railway route disks that sits just in front of the chimney.
  • Bigger version of the above photo HERE!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Salute to the glass-half-empty brigade

Train nuts aren't known for having the most positive outlook on life, here are a few comments I've picked up over recent times, many on internet forums sadly.
Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, but I'm sure you can add some real corkers....
  • Didn't buy that mag it because it was plastic bagged
  • Hope they do it in N gauge soon
  • Why do I have to pay for it?
  • There's nothing in it for me
  • Photography, these days it's all Photoshop!
  • Not enough modern image
  • Not enough steam
  • Not enough Z gauge
  • Too expensive
  • The never reply to my emails
  • Help me, I don't know what to model
  • Which scale is right for me?
  • Armchair
  • You don't want to do it like that, you want to do it like this!
  • That question has been answered many times before, why didn't you think of using the search function?
  • Not enough time to make a layout because I don't know how to turn the computer off!
  • I hate television
  • Grrr, the X-factor!
  • Don't like gurls
  • The car parking is dreadful at that show
  • Lima class 50s look much better than Hornby ones
  • Female
  • Mother has lovely hands
  • Said engine
  • Said poster
  • S&D means Stockton and Darlington not the Somerset & Dorset!
  • My mate said he saw a Deltic on the SDJR in 1961
  • Giving up and taking up stamp collecting
  • They don't do the number I want
  • They don't do the colour I want
  • Warley parking is far too expensive
  • Prototype or fiction?
  • Prototype is better!
  • Fiction is better!
  • I want mummy
  • Don't like colour
  • Don't like B&W
  • Giving up
  • I don't smell
  • I stink because I wash in beer once a year!
  • My rucksack is bigger than yours
  • I ordered a Bachmann 3F 3 years ago and I'm still waiting
  • Ex-pat; why don't I get the same deal as UK readers?
  • It's not fair 'cos I can't afford it
  • Help!
  • Can I get Waterloo onto a sheet of 4 x 2 in O gauge?
  • Mummy!
  • Why don't manufacturers make that loco?
  • P4 is better than S4
  • It's my trainset
  • Bad grammar
  • Youth of today
  • Why don't magazines employ proof reader?
  • That feature on the Class 87 was all wrong, they should have asked here first!
  • In my day...
  • Divorced
  • Too many adverts
  • Off to put the kettle on
  • Just dropped onto the doormat
  • Can't wait, mine was posted today!
  • Lost my modelling mojo
  • Why don't gurls like me?

Monday 28 November 2011

January 2011 Model Rail (issue 164)

Winter Essentials is the theme for this issue, with literally dozens of products being tried out to create a temporary or permanent winter wonderland. But for the cover shot here I used sifted B&Q plaster through the kitchen sieve on the then incomplete Polbrock. I must stress that I would not recommend such even though it does very much look the part, it's gets everywhere and will certainly not do your rolling stock any favours especially if you get it into the workings. For this shot I took advantage of the fact that the layout had no scenery or ballast at the time and that all I had to do was take to it out into the garden for a good beating to remove the powdered plaster.
Now I've told you what not what to do, rest assured that all the tips and techniques in the magazine are highly recommended and excellent examples of how things should be done!

And now the contents, in no particular order....
  • News
  • Reviews
  • Layout: Elm Park
  • Layout: The Tri-ang Collector
  • Layout: Ackthorpe
  • DRS decal offer
  • Exclusive Oxford offer
  • Britain's Model Trains 2012
  • Model Rail DVD offer
  • Q&A
  • Show & Tell
  • Model Rail Shop
  • Exhibition diary
  • Workbench: Cut wood
  • Workbench:Big upgrades
  • Super Sentinel
  • Build Lightweight Baseboards
  • Select the right wood
  • Cut, lay and ballast track
  • Supertest: SNOW!
  • Workbench:Refine your Class 20/9
  • Instant repaint
  • Backscene

Thursday 24 November 2011

Moonlight Express

Under a crisp full moon, 44560 passes Kimble North Signalbox with the late service.

The shot straight out of the 
camera raw conversion

Captured at The Warley Show last weekend; the sodium light is unsuitable for serious photography, so rather than battle with the mixed sodium and daylight, a little Photoshoppery was used which primarily  involved removing the ceiling of the NEC and replacing it with a Mediterranean sky. I also decided to de-saturate and colourize much of the image to replicate moonlight. Cheating? Well of course, and what fun it was too. Of course the other option would be to simply turn the photo into black and white, but I hope you'll agree this is a little more fun!

Friday 18 November 2011

Penguins and Pillboxes

Mr & Mrs Penguin ponder on whether they should go in to The Pedant & Armchair public house next to the halt at Polbrock.

Deep down in the mystical country of Kernow all sorts of strange creatures are know to exist, everything from druids and dragons through to the well known but elusive Beast of Bodmin Moor.

The Pedant & Armchair public house was known to attract all sorts of strange creatures, many with thick unfashionable NHS glasses and rucksacks who were interested in trains, Star Trek and the inner workings of personal computers. Mr & Mrs Penguin where no exception having travelled all the way from the southern tip of Argentina to sample the delights of the Penguin Porter sold exclusively at this pub whilst enjoying a discussion about mother boards or the delights of travelling behind a Brush Type 4 in a British Rail Mk2F carriage.

In reality this is Polbrock my latest tiny micro, it's not even in Cornwall but on my dining room table 25 miles south of the smoke. My wife collects miniature penguins, with this duo being rather interesting; the left hand one is Murano glass and is well under an inch high, the one to the right was carved from wood by an ex-prisoner of war somewhere around Stafford well over 60 years ago during WW2. I'll try to find out more because it's most likely an interesting tale, with this probably being the only ever photograph taken of this delightful little chap who will almost certainly have outlived his creator.

Whilst on the theme of WW2, you'll notice the pillbox that has appeared since the last update, it being the well known Wills kit that appears on every OO gauge club layout in the UK. I'm not sure such a structure would be so close to housing, but it fulfills the need to place something on on the far side of the line are part of the necessary scenic block. And anyway it's been kicking about in my kits-to-be-done box for 5 years so was well overdue.

To please Daily Mail and metallic-support-stocking-beige Rover owners, this little scene has been shot against a sheet of pale blue card rather than having a backscene Photoshopped in. I'm possibly starting to favour the idea of a curved pale blue backscene maybe with a simple water colour over a home-grown photographic one - the jury is still out.
  • Find out more about Polbrock here.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Armchair & Pedant Now Open for Shandy and Rover 400 Drivers.

The Armchair & Pedant is now in place to hide the right hand exit to the fiddle yard on Polbrock. Of course it still needs a proper sign, but my printer inks have dried up, so until I waste yet more time on cleaning the printer heads and taking out a mortgage to replace the inks it won't be happening for a bit unless I get a print done in the local Boots or Happysnappy next time I'm down in town. The sign on the right hand end of the building is a left over from Brewhouse Quay , and by the way it displays the imaginary 'Marriott Dent & Foster Brewery'.

I've cheated with the backdrop here, it is part of the 4 foot long image file created for the backscene which has yet to be printed, and it has been super imposed behind the layout to see how it looks. I'm sure this will probably upset some 3 day old Daily Mail reading Rover 400 driving ex-pat living in Normandy in that I should be messing about with a computer to appraise what the backscene will look like in advance of physically producing a hard copy, for you I have an unadulterated photo here with just a sheet of pale blue/grey card behind the layout.

What is probably a rather dangerous level crossing will be protected with a warning sign in due course, and probably just behind the loco will be an old shed or platelayer's hut and maybe some more shrubbery to hide the transition between 3D modelling and the 2D backscene.

Realistically this is probably about as far as I'm going to get with Polbrock before The Warley Show this coming weekend where it will be used as a prop to photograph some of the OO gauge new releases. Once that crazy weekend of modelrailwaymania is over, I'll be able to get this little layout to a stage of proper completion.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Lost place

The England side of the long closed Aust Ferry terminal. It shut in 1966 with the opening of the Severn Bridge. 45 years on and it is still there. Even the turnstile still exists. Bob Dylan has a famous album cover shot here.

A misty dull morning in November is the time to visit this 'lost' place.......

Monday 14 November 2011

'Doris' settling in

With the little Beattie Well Tank now in my possession I couldn't resist popping the little beauty on to Polbrock to see whether it fits in. On that note is 'it' a 'she' or 'he'? Presuming 'she' had a name, I think that 'Doris' would suit? That being the case, 'Doris' is all rather pristine and will in due course be given a little fake patina replicating a working engine rather than looking like a finalist in the X Factor. The trick with weathering is to create the effect of a working engine, but not make it look like it's been trashed and dropped in due-to-be-changed-cat litter - it's often a fine line. Maybe 'Kev' would be a better name for mucky engine?

The 'set' is of course my latest micro Polbrock, which is far from complete, but finished enough to use it as a prop to photograph stock on. Recent work being to tidy up some of the static grass around and between the rails. During application I over-diluted the PVA glue a little too much making some of the grass fibres fall over through lack of support, over thinned glue being limp like a manager promoted beyond his or her capability. It was an easy enough job to rub the almost horizontal fibres off and re-apply with some less diluted PVA about 2 parts glue to 1 part water. Now the freshly applied fibres stand up boldly unlike limp management.

Interestingly enough the grass fibres between the rails have no effect on running performance as long as they don't stray between the loco wheels and rail surface. A disposable razor run along the rail top is a good way to remove any stray fibres followed by a good vacuum and dusting of hair spray to keeping everything in place - you don't really want the little fibres getting in to engine mechanics.

For the shot here, the camera was resting on the level crossing and the scene lit with natural window light. A large pale blue board and my rolling stock photo plinth thingamajig were then placed in the background to hide the lack of proper backscene and domestic furniture! Later in Photoshop I replaced the blue board with a de-focussed actual sky because the pale blue wall had some shadows on it. The smoke is the only other embellishment. I'm looking forward to sorting out the proper backscene which will have a fuzzy, misty Cornish inspired landscape which will negate the need to mess about with bits of board and computer editing too much.
  • Bigger version of the above photo here.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Oooh Beattie, You're a Right Beauty!

Click image to enlarge
Earlier today a much awaited Beattie Well Tank commissioned by Kernow Model Rail from Dapol was handed to me by the postman. This is the main reason for my current 'micro' taking the name of Polbrock, it being built to justify this delightful purchase which rarely ventured outside Cornwall.

This isn't a review, that's been well and truly covered in the popular press and on various railway forums, so this more of a punter's appraisal, and the first thing to make an impression was just how great the packaging is, a proper foam inlaid box complete with a ribbon inside! I normally chuck the packaging, but won't be doing so in this case. The little loco is tiny indeed, after seeing close-up photographs in the various reviews for some reason I thought it a little bigger, but of course the real thing was only pint sized, it spending most of its life on the lightly laid Wadebridge to Wenford Bridge line pottering about mostly with mixed goods and china clay wagons.

Looking at the photo above which I've lit to highlight the fine detail, shows that this is really no toy with a plethora of separate mouldings all factory applied, leaving just some vacuum pipes and route disks for the owner to place should he or she so desire. In my case I'll add these along with some working screw couplings topped off with a little weathering and probably some replacement real coal.

This loco as already mentioned is a special commission by Kernow Model Rail, and from what I can gather as with Model Rail's recent Sentinel also commissioned from Dapol selling really well. I do hope though that the majority of purchasers are modellers who intend to run these locos and not funny collectors who will simply keep them in boxes under their beds away from Mother who will almost certainly disapprove of their flamboyant purchase.
  • If you'd like to see a few more snaps of 30587 like the shot above, follow this link HERE.

Sabotaged and Defeated

Polbrock - late summer 1971 and the contractors are slowly clearing the line from a railhead 4 miles to the west of here. By May 1972 the rails had finally gone for good.
  • Bigger version of the above photo here.

The Armchair & Pedant

Polbrock - construction of pub/cottage to act as a scenic break next t the level crossing. It has the beginnings of painting the stone work. Woodwork will be picked out at a later stage along with still to be made sash windows guttering and downpipes.

The pub might be called 'The Armchair & Pedant', that being the case will be a little run down because nobody normal wants to share a drink with the irritating middle-aged adenoidal Norman Bates type characters that drink shandy in there. - that's when 'mother' allows them out of course! I must thank the hugely talented Troels Kirk for the pub name inspiration here

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Rural Backwater and a People's 'Grasmaster'

Hopefully a little scene a tad like that from the excellent Railway Bylines? Here we picture an EWS class 08 trundling through Polbrock with coal for the nearby china clay works. Passenger trains haven't stopped here since 1967, and despite lack of use the ex-GWR corrugated iron 'Pagoda' looks in fine form considering its age. It would also appear to be in Southern Region colours, a result of frequent regional boundary changes.

Enough twaddle; it is of course the latest micro-project, today seeing a flurry of static grass activity whilst trying out a new budget static grass tool. The layout could still do with a good vacuum to remove the excess fibres but I think the result speaks for itself which is a bargain at £25 plus a little extra for postage. You now have no excuse to use dyed sawdust anymore - well for grass anyway.

There's quite a bit more to do on the little layout, for starters I need to fabricate two buildings to go in the far distance to act as a scenic barrier to the fiddle yard by the level crossing 'Helland Bridge style' (that sounds sort of Chinese take-away). The building in shot is my Cornish engine house which is temporarily standing in for this snap. Things like telegraph poles need to be added along with an open to the elements ground frame (do any of you fine folk know of a suitable supplier?). The photo here was shot in the garden against a big blue board for the sky, there will be a built in curved photo-back scene eventually depicting a hazy Cornish landscape.

Whilst I won't have the layout finished, I will be able to take it along to The Warley Show at the NEC to use as a OO gauge photo prop on the Model Rail stand. See you there.
  • A bigger version of the above photo here.
  • Find the budget grass tool here.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Beer, Cake & Toy Trains

Operator's cake, this hospitality rapidly becoming the
trademark of Wycrail, with the cakes becoming more
 luxurious year on year!
Wycrail is always a shining jewel in the toy chuff chuff calendar, it being a wray of virtual sunshine the weekend after the clocks change plunging us into dismal, miserable darkness for 5 months. I gather it's to do with farmers in the very north of the British Isles, though why they cannot just set their clocks an hour later than everybody else for the winter months I have no idea, especially seeing most of them are being subsidised by the UK tax payer.  In the UK we've always been rather too obsessed with the minority and underdog at the expense of everybody else, well almost, the almost pointless Channel 5 stills needs to be replaced with 'Channel Rail' for us nutters with minority hobbies. Best stop, I'll get in to trouble and have my trainset trampled all over by a flock of irate sheep, men in kilts and Channel 5 employees!

Ian Mellors' 91000 'R. A. Riddles' powers through
Catcott Burtle with a secret test train on a sunny late-summer morning.
With my morning grump over; Wycrail was great fun with a good crowd around Catcott Burtle for most of the day, even during those silly moments put on especially to wind up enthusiasts from Tonbridge Wells featuring Ian Mellors' facinating 'could have been' creation of a Riddles 91XXX 2-8-2 (that's it above by the way). His stunning loco had on-board sound which even works with DC. Clever chap that Ian, and you can find out more about all of his smart stuff here. Rumour had it 'R.A. Riddles' will be appearing in the popular press soon as well - top man! I'm waiting now for some person who lives in a bungalow or who shares a bed with mother to tell me that such big locos would never have run along the former SDJR - I wonder if they've ever heard the sound of a raspberry?

Cheers 'anonymous benefactor'!
Beer? Yup, correct! Halfway through the morning a top chap (who wishes to remain anonymous) took me to one side and handed by a couple of bottles of ale from the Loose Cannon Brewery in Abingdon. They're a thank you for all my silly BLOG postings apparently, silly fool, there's far better stuff to read on the interweb I'm sure. Still, thank you kind sir - I will enjoy these very much!!! It's also great to know that the smell of boiling hops and malt now floats over Abingdon again now that Old Speckled Hen has become an ex-pat living in Suffolk after running off with somebody called Greene King.
A visitor in the form of Ian McKechnie's ex-GWR Collett 0-6-0 No 3218
 is captured plodding through Catcott Burtle with an afternoon
empty return milk trains destined for the dairy at Bason Bridge.
Finally I must thank Ian Mellors and Ian McKechnie who kindly gave up their Saturdays to play trains on my trainset. And before I go, I must point you in the direction of Ian McKechnie's website featuring his photography of the real SDJR in the mid-1960's, without it, Catcott Burtle would not be the layout it is -

Friday 4 November 2011



John Hampden Grammar School

Marlow Hill

High Wycombe

Bucks HP11 1SZ

Open 10am till 5pm. Saturday 5 November.

More info here!


Damaged cross members on the 4Z05 empty Drax - Daw Mill coal train captured at Elford Loop on Thursday 20 August 2009.

Here's something I've never seen modelled, probably because it would be quite tricky trying to get the effect with moulded plastic - more of that in a minute. I'm no expert on coal hoppers and loading, but this looks like damage that could have happened during the loading? Most of the wagons in the train had this damage so presumably it's quite normal.

If one wanted to model this interesting feature, it might be possible to remove the centres of the partitions and replace with some suitably distressed aluminium take-away container, the same type that Paul Lunn recently used to create home grown corrugated iron as showcased in a recent issue of Model Rail magazine maybe?

Click on the photo to the right for a bigger view.

Thursday 3 November 2011


Catcott Crossing, September 1966. It's just 6 months after closure and the demolition contractors have already started to dismantle the railway. Most of the railway buildings on 'The Branch' survived the demolition men, with many of then ending up in private hands, unlike the Bath to Bournemouth line which ended up losing well over half its stations to the swinging iron ball.

It's interesting now as to whether the same thing happened again whether such woeful vandalism would be tolerated - for starters there are few people who would turn down the chance of owning an old railway station these days, certainly there would be far more money in such than a pile of stone rubble. But of course in the 1960's everybody hated anything old, we wanted new and modern, after all it was the space age! Now 40-50 years on we see old buildings that avoided the developers' mallets outliving some of the appalling tat the defined much of 1960's and 1970's Britain.

I was only looking through a book of immediate post-war photographs of my home town the other day, and noticed just how much vandalism took place in the late 1960's, certainly down by the river and the main railway station. The book displayed some beautiful medieval architecture, the sort of architecture, which had it survived to the present day would easily place my town alongside the beautiful cities of York and Bath. Sadly now, due to likely backhanders at local government level a generation and a half ago my town will never achieve such status, but I'm sure it ensured a comfortable retirement for the already fat cats who passed the schemes. One can however take joy in the fact that many of these semi-legal abominations are now being demolished, it's just a shame that the individuals who instigated these urban re-developments are have mostly passed way and cannot see their demise.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Another dose of the pedants

It's Wycrail this weekend, so Catcott Burtle has been set up for the last week or two sufficiently high off the ground to hopefully avoid the various scenic details being chomped on again by the cat who has a taste for white metal, brass and plastic card.

The happy snappy above is of Catcott, the ficticious (maybe more 'faction') scenario depicting a mixed train off the Bridgwater Branch which regularly featured such trains. It's unlikely that an ex-GWR wheeled coach would have been used in this service, but I hope you'll agree it looks the part. The Morris 8 Series E, suitably grottied up adds a little depth to the shot. I'm guessing it's the photographer's car.

Another dose of the pedants; the other day I received 'one of those armchair' emails that pops through from time to time with some chap taking great delight in telling me that I've got it all wrong because Catcott never had a halt and sidings. He'd even been on Google Earth to point other bits out that are different to the actual location. Well I know that of course, and because my parallel universe version is so different it's pretty obvious that this is a bit of fiction! This hobby is full of people with little imagination sadly, who only see things as black or white. I do wish they'd spend their time more contructively and actually do some model making rather than stating the obvious and wasting internet bandwidth. I consol myself in that he's probably a traffic warden with aspirations of being a lion tamer - he'll almost certainly have a squeeky voice and definately share a bed with 'mother' despite being 64 years of age.

If you're the pedant, because I'm sure you read this blog and because I'm not known to suffer fools too well, here's what Catcott Burtle is all about (again):

'Catcott Burtle, a could have been scenario which is heavily influenced by the BBC TV film Branchline Railway, and having been taken in by the wild open feel of the area much dominated by willow, water and big skies. Many roads in the area crossed the railway via manned level crossings rather than bridges, with each crossing having its own crossing keeper and railway cottage. Several of the cottages had no running water or electricity right up to closure in 1966, the water being delivered by rail in milk churns! Catcott, one of the many crossings on the line never was a halt or had sidings. In the parallel universe world here, imagine if to serve the local peat deposits things had been very different?'
  • Find out more about Wycrail here

Sunday 30 October 2011

December 2011 Model Rail

December 2011 Model Rail (163) is about to hit the shelves; this issue is particularly action packed and also features a DVD produced by Tele Rail of Model Rail Live (featuring Brewhouse Quay in action).
  • The Big Picture
  • News
  • Build your free clay hoods
  • Competition
  • Reviews
  • Layout: St Merryn
  • The Cornwall look
  • Layout:Lynton
  • South for Sunshine
  • All's 'well' that ends well
  • Layout:Carrick Road
  • Layout:Tintagel Road
  • Exhibition diary
  • Workbench: Maintain a motor
  • Workbench: Servicing essentials
  • Workbench: Make a Cornish Hedge
  • Workbench: All 'Sheds' great and small
  • Workbench: Building Combe Mill
  • Backscene 
  • Next Issue
More about Model Rail and subs here.

Friday 28 October 2011

It's all about me!

This post is all about me; it's not often that one gets ones name on the cover of a magazine so I feel quite justified in shouting about it.

MJ-bladet is a rather nicely produced Norwegian model railway magazine which showcases the very best in Scandinavian railway modelling, and unlike the UK model railway press has an eager audience for model railways from outside their own country.

In the UK for some some reason whenever a British model railway mag features anything across the pond, the editorial teams get hunted down and viciously threatened by middle aged soap-dodgers who still live 'with mother' and refuse to believe that railways exist anywhere else in the world. This is a tad odd, because railway exhibitions frequently have guest layouts from the other side of the channel that draw an appreciative audience. Sadly though, these same people don't want to see continental modelling in print, however good gracing the pages of the mainstream UK modelling press.

Anyway, this post is unashamedly all about ME, so whether you like it or not I'm going to tell you all about why my name is on the cover! Back in the spring, Practical Photography magazine asked me to write a short article on photographing toy chuff chuffs as well as showing off some of my more recent better pieces of photography.

Unlike in the UK, where we only have the command of 'Office English', 'US English' and to a lesser degree now those early evening soaps have all but vanished 'Oz English'; in Norway there is a market for magazines not only in the mother tongue, but also the English language Practical Photography being sold in many Norwegian newsagents for those that are proficient in 'MTV English'. Despite this worthy UK export, toy chuffs chuffs in a photography magazine is likely to miss its key readership in Norway (and in the UK for that matter), so the top chaps of the MJ-bladet editorial team sought permission to reproduce the article. And what a cracking job they've done, the reproduction is spot on and the design very simple, stylish and only using big bold imagery. They have also used a couple of extra shots not seen in the original article which adds another dimension.

OK, that's it, I've blown my own trumpet enough with this BLOG post, so much so that I might not be able to get through the door later due my briefly over-inflated ego! I'm sure though it will soon be deflated with a barrage of private hate-anything-that-isn't-British-emails from those dreaded soap-dodgers that are always first in the queue at model railway exhibitions.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Steady progress and a name at last!

I've had a rather busy week out snapping other people's model railways and taking care of the airwaves for a minority satellite TV sports channel. I have however shoe-horned a little time to carry on with the 'Cornish Project' which now has a name in the form of 'Polbrock' which is one of the places the Bodmin to Wadebridge line passed through. I'm not going to be too specific on the history, that way I'll hopefully avoid being nobbled by all the 'model railway experts' who've never even pinned a length of set track to an old door.

As you can see from the snap, the track is now down and wired up. The scenic basics are now taking shape, the not too obvious curved perimeter will allow for the curved backscene to fit between the edge of the layout and the diorama box the tiny little layout will sit inside when finished.

The backscene has been created, well electronically anyway from various bits of West Country photographic imagery, and is now a 4ft x 1ft 300 dots per inch PDF ready for the local printers to print off onto a suitable material as with Catcottt Burtle. No Peco-Disneyesque 3 inch high backscene here, time really has moved on with the advent of the home computer, high street repro houses and commercial printers that will print anything on to anything for a few sovs.

Since the above snap was taken the siding has been ballasted and the scenic sub base built up with tissue paper dipped in PVA coated in coloured plaster.

Jobs still to do...
  • Ballast the through line 
  • Complete the fiddle/staging yards 
  • Finish the presentation diorama box with backscene and built in lighting 
  • Ground colour 
  • Scratch-build 2 buildings for the scenic break behind the camera (pub/old barn) 
  • Scenics

Monday 17 October 2011

Count Down to Wycrail!

nevard_111016_catcott_IMG_1527_WEB by nevardmedia
nevard_111016_catcott_IMG_1527_WEB, a photo by nevardmedia on Flickr.

The excellent Wycrail in High Wycombe is in just under 3 weeks on Saturday 5 November, and this year I've been invited to take Catcott Burtle along for the day.

Metal chewing cats helping to wire up a layout, maybe they
 should have been  callled Jaws and Fang?

'CB' is all ready to go, so there's no midnight oil to burn, which will make a nice break fom the norm, but I do need to finish repairing an ex-LSWR lattice signal post that one of the cats chewed the top off. I don't know why, white metal and brass hardly makes a tasty snack even for cats I wouldn't have thought, but I'm no cat so what do I know? Still, I've managed to get the signal into the right shape again and it now works, it just needs the replacement finial fitting in place, ably supplied by the excellent Wizard Models at the recent Scaleforum.

'What's with the class 121 bubble car?' you might ask, well I imagine most are fed up seeing the usual steam trains in photos of the layout, so I dug out this conversion of a Lima 2 car unit I performed back in the early 1980's when the real thing was still running (actually it still is on the Colne Valley Railway). W55033 portrayed, was a regular on the Bridport branch in the line's latter years and was probably my reason for choosing that number seeing we lived in the area for a short time in the 1970's.

Click for more about Wycrail
It actually looks the part, but of course the Highbridge - Evercreech line shut in March 1966, but imagine if the line had remained open to Glastonbury to serve the Clarks shoe factory and to transport revellers to Glastonbury Festival in June?  

Sunday 16 October 2011

Model Railway Photography

60026 arrives at Cement Quay Old Wharf with a
and empty short rake of MFA high sided box
wagons. The loco will uncouple and run around
the train before propelling it under the screen for
loading. There is no computer Photoshop jiggery
pokery here, the sky is part of the layout painted
onto a nice hight curved backdrop, something that
 is worth considering if you intend to photograph
 your layout alot.
I'm always being questioned about photographing model railways, so here is a 'reprint' from an article I penned for Model Rail July 2008 issue. Cameras have moved on a little since then in that most are capable from producing a good quality A3 print, but the basic rules are the same - 'light it well, keep it still'.

After spending very many hours and money on creating your favourite railway item in miniature, it’s quite likely you’re going to want to record the outcome to share with the friends, on social media, your own website, or of course the model railway press!

The last decade has seen photography change enormously, with mega-pixels & digits replacing film emulsion in this increasingly digital world we live in. This for the casual snapper this has been nothing but a good thing, for now with even the most inexpensive digital camera, what was quite specialist photography is within the grasp of almost anybody.

OK, well, it’s not quite as simple as that, if it was I wouldn’t have written this guide! However, with a few simple rules and easy to grasp techniques, extraordinary good results can be had from the recent breed of high resolution small digital pocket cameras.

Let’s look at some of the key features that spoil good picture:

• Fuzzy?
• Noisy snowy pictures?
• Camera shake?
• Out of focus?
• Badly lit?
• Off colour?
• Too light or too dark?
• Subject too far away?

An out of the box Bachmann 3MT. This has been shot under the
layout's own built in flu lighting which gives nice even illumination.
Despite many manufacturers claiming that, ‘their’ camera will turn you into a brilliant photographer with little effort, some basic techniques and a little understanding of photography will help to give some credibility to their claims though ultimately framing and composition is very much down to the user.

Super fine, fine, ordinary?

Before we take any pictures, we need to be sure that what we record has the potential to be the best quality possible. Always use the finest and biggest – it really does matter! If you’re taking pictures for the printed page, always shoot at the best quality jpeg. The computer screen is quite forgiving, the printed page isn’t. If you’ve leant the camera to the kids or Aunty Mabel, the ‘ordinary’ quality will be fine, after all there’s no point in filling up precious memory with stuff you’ll probably delete anyway (with apologies to any Mabels out there that are top photographers). For serious photography, only ‘Superfine’ (this term may vary depending on camera make) will do. You’ll know when you’ve found it, because it will be the setting that gives you the least number of pictures on your card. Good things come at a price!

Size does matter!

Keep the camera still, the slightest movement
during exposure will spoil the shot
Indeed it does, well in digital photography anyway. Along with ‘superfine’ jpeg just discussed, you need to have the largest picture dimension selected, again as before, the printed page is far less forgiving than the computer screen. Most people have found this out when they try to print a picture from the internet, it looks great on the screen but terrible printed. The terms here are pretty straight forward. ‘L’ meaning ‘large’, ‘M’ for medium & ‘S’ for small. Forget the last two, large is the only option despite what the local pub know-all or salesman down the camera shop might tell you. Again, it’s as before, you know when you’ve found it because it will give you the least number of frames on your memory card!

Noisy snowy pictures?

With the flash turned off when in dark places, you might well find that you get snowy noisy looking pictures? This is because your camera has automatically boosted its sensitivity. Whilst this may be fine for that boozy snapshot down the pub, you probably won’t want to see this effect in your pictures. Check your camera instruction and you should be able to adjust the camera’s ISO, this being the international standard used to rate digital cameras and film’s sensitivity to light. Simply speaking, the lower the number (ISO) the less noisy or grainy the picture will appear. For this reason we need to ideally select the lowest ISO.

Camera shake?

A small bean bag is a great tool. It stops the
camera from damaging the layout and keeps the camera
nice and still

However steady handed you think you are, because we’re photographing something often close up, any movement will be amplified, making the slightest bit of camera shake looking like you took the picture during a 10 plus Richter scale earthquake! A tripod will always be a useful tool, however, if your interest in photography is only passing, understandably it’s unlikely you’ll want to invest in such. There are other options, you could try resting the camera on a cushion or table. A small bag of rice or purpose made bean bag can be very useful (get somebody nifty with a sewing machine or buy a purpose made one), it allowing you to adjust the angle of the camera with little effort.

A nifty trick is to find the camera’s ‘self timer’, that’s the setting you use when you want to do that self portrait whilst on holiday. OK, the idea isn’t that you do a self portrait of you and your favourite piece (well, you can if you like!), use the tool to fire off the camera without touching it – thus reducing the chance of camera shake when the shutter opens. Obviously the camera needs to be supported so that bean bag or bag of rice already mentioned will be ideal!

Out of focus?

Must modern digital cameras will focus very close indeed with their built in auto focus. For real close-ups, you’ll probably need to select ‘macro’ mode, this is often via a button with a ‘tulip’ icon depending on brand of camera. If unsure, check the camera instructions.

Some cameras will allow you to turn the auto focus off. If you have this option, which will again depend on make and model, this will have the advantage of letting you focus exactly where you want to. Another option is to point the camera at the part of the item you want in sharp focus, half press the shutter release (which will set the focus), then with your finger still half pressing the shutter release recompose the shot to the angle you want then fully depress the shutter release. If you’re using the self timer, you can fully press the shutter release button before recomposing, the 10 second delay giving you lots of time.

Mendip is captured mid-take at Catcott during the
making of 'The Return of the Titfield Thunderbolt'
during the late summer of 1956. Of course that's
complete tosh, but I can tell you that the is no computer
addition other than the splirt of smoke from the engine,
 which was added using the 'clouds' filter in Photoshop.
 How do I get more of the picture in focus?

This will again depend on your camera make and model. With many makes, you can set the camera into ‘aperture priority’ mode, this is often displayed as ‘AV’. With this setting you can select a small aperture.

What’s all this small aperture thing? The aperture is an iris much like in ones eye, hold a finger up to your eye and really squint, you’ll notice that you might even be able to see your eyelashes, finger and background all more or less in focus. Choosing a small aperture does the same thing, meaning far more of the picture will be in focus – just what we want! This is known as ‘depth or field’, aperture is normally marked up as numbers, the higher the number, the greater the ‘depth of field’.

Some of the simpler cameras will not let you have any control over aperture or shutter, user changes being via ‘scene modes’ where you select the type of picture you want to take. There are usually modes for ‘sport’, ‘portraits’, ‘landscapes’ fireworks, but sadly no mode for model railway close ups! For this reason you may have a problem getting the camera to select a small aperture for the close ups. However, if you can take your model out side into brighter light, it’s quite likely that the camera’s computer will select a smaller aperture.

If you have yet to buy a small digital camera, and you intend to do quite a bit of model railway photography, it would be a good idea to choose a camera that allows you to have control over the aperture setting.

Badly lit?

You must turn that flash off, direct camera flash doesn’t have a place in our world. Whilst it might be fine for family snaps, it will generally not do our model making any favours, creating flat and quite often washed out pictures with no depth. This can usually be controlled by a button with a ‘lightning’ icon somewhere on the camera.

Getting your subject properly lit, the simplest way, is to take your model outside where the light is good. Overcast and sunshine work well in this respect, both giving different but equally good results.
Another option, especially if photographing a model railway, or using one as a backdrop for an engine or train, is to use the layout’s own lighting. Digital cameras generally have quite good automatic white balance control, which like the eye, should adapt to the lighting on the layout - more on white balance in a moment.

Too light or too dark?

It’s possible that the camera metering is being effected by something very bright or dark within the picture. Photographing a dark engine against a white background or visa versa will do this. Check your camera instructions to see if you can use manual exposure ‘M’ or exposure compensation (often marked as a +/- button).

Off colour?
The resulting photo from the set up below. The computer
smoke is optional of course.

The trick when doing this is to experiment a little, after all, cameras and lighting will vary. Sometimes the automatic white balance will refuse to work as well as you like, when this happens, you might want to experiment with some of the white balance ‘pre sets’, again look at your camera manual. White balance settings are often embedded in one of the menus, and will usually be indicated up with simple icons to reflect the type of light you are trying to balance for. Fluorescent lighting and the new ‘energy saver’ bulbs are the ones most likely to cause issue, due to there being so many different types. Some cameras will also allow you to balance for your specific light using a sheet of white paper in the scene prior to taking pictures.

One thing you cannot do, however clever your camera, is to mix different types of light. Daylight does not mix with tungsten, it being very blue and the latter very orange. The same problem occurs when trying to mix fluorescent lighting which can be very green. Keeping to just one type of light gets around this, the camera can only correct for one type at a time.

What makes a good picture?

Try photographing your trains against a simple back ground.
A large print was used here with the light coming in from the
garden. Note the tin foil to reflect a little light into 
the shadows.
If you’re photographing an item of rolling stock or engine which isn’t on a layout, try to place it in front of a background which isn’t too busy or distracting. Its simplest form can be placing the subject on a length of clean new track in front of a large sheet of curved paper.

Fill the frame, there’s no point in having a picture which needs to be enlarged at a later stage. Rather than zooming into your subject from far way, keep the zoom wide and fill the frame, you will get a more natural perspective.

Make sure your subject is totally dust free – I’m mean totally! The smallest amount of dust or fluff will really spoil a model.
Digital is a great tool, you can analyse the photographic progress as you go along, adjusting brightness, colour and focus then deleting sub standard images and correcting errors as many times as necessary. These cameras can also be very useful for checking progress of model making, sometimes errors and blemishes only show up when you see them on the back of the camera or computer screen. Because the camera is totally unforgiving, it can help us become more critical and better model maker - hopefully!

Useful camera purchase tips
• Buy a camera that has proper ‘aperture priority’, ‘scene modes’ are unlikely to offer enough flexibility.
• 5 mega pixels should be your minimum resolution.
• Mobile phone cameras are no substitute for a proper camera.
• Get a decent sized memory card, the one often supplied is too small when shooting at the highest resolution and picture size.
• Check out camera reviews online prior to purchasing. is a favourite, for not only can you download full size image files, you can also compare specs and performance between models.

Sharp tips for sharpshooters
• Fill the frame!
• Keep the camera totally still, rest it on something, tripod, bean bag? Use the ‘self timer’ for hands free operation.
• Select ‘macro’ for close up work.
• Turn that flash off! Light your subject properly, daylight is free and ideal! Experiment with your layout’s own lighting too.
• Check your white balance, ‘auto’ may not always be best – experiment with other settings.
• Use the lowest ISO to minimise noise.
• Always use ‘superfine’ and ‘large’ – size really does matter!
• Get rid of that dust and thumb print on the lens!
• Make sure your subject is clean dust free!