Tuesday 7 December 2010

Making Tracks.

I've had a burst of enthusiasm and activity, the track on Morfa has been extended in two directions. As I build all the track from ply sleepers, individual plastic chairs and rail it takes some time to make little progress; at max chat I achieve about half a length a day. The one bonus, and it's a biggie, is that I ballast at the same time I lay the track. Here are a couple of photos showing something of what is involved.

Though it's a long winded process there's pleasure in the rythym of construction and I'm really happy with the look of the finished length.

Monday 29 November 2010

This is the Night Mail crossing the border ....

I've been playing with the camera this morning. The layout room is rather gloomy at this time of year, for part of its length Morfa is tucked along the back wall, and the result of trying some supplementary lighting brought out this 'night time' shot. My imaginary Pwllheli - York mails would cross the border in the night hours, just not the border the well known prose reffers to.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Cheaper by the dozen

On the workbench at the moment are the beginnings of a batch of small saloons. I've sourced six inexpensive German promotional tram models from e-bay, by dicing and slicing I can get two carriages out of each body. Here's what the donor and the donated parts look like.

Normally I dislike batch building, but there are advantages to be had. Here I'm progressing a couple of bodies to a relatively complete state. This allows me to cut out multiples of some of the added components, making templates for the awkward shapes like the vestibule end screens. I have ideas to vary the individual models, the most noticeable will be to have some to a UK style and the others to a more colonial pattern.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Sublime to the ridiculous.

Yesterday I headed off to Porthmadog to shop and to take a look at the Ffestiniog's vintage themed operations. I was struck that when it turns it's mind away from being a modern commercial enterprise to a guardian of history then it does a pretty fair job of it. Shame thinks I that this thought isn't uppermost more often.

It's a source of regret that their other operation, the WHR  (Caernarfon)  seems to have lost the heritage component of their DNA. On my way from Porthmadog to visit a friend in Cwm y  Glo, curiosity drove me to take a peak at the effective southern terminus of the WHR, Pont Croesor. It's a beautiful location with what has to be one of the best approaches to Snowdonia spread out in front of one, but man what an ugly wart of a station.

Monday 20 September 2010

The wetter the better.

At the beginning of the month I had a very pleasant couple of days at the Llanfair garden railway show. I don't think it's any coincidence that it happens at the same time as the Welshpool and Llanfair railways gala weekend. I managed to get to the station at Llanfair a couple of times each day and many of the faces appeared at both events. I took several photos on each day and whilst reviewing them at home I came to the conclusion that the better ones were taken when the weather was at its worst. Here's my favourite taken at the height of Sunday's deluge.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Something for the weekend sir?

The August bank holiday weekend that is. Once again the annual Corris Model Railway and Toy Exhibition will be with us on the 28th, 29th and 30th of this month. For the second year running it will be held in the school in Corris, just across the car park from the Corris Railway station. Opening times are from 10:30 until 5:00 each day; by my reckoning there will be up to sixteen layouts or displays and seven trade stands present over the weekend though some may change over the three days. I'll be there for the whole of the weekend with Chwarel Bach, do say hello.

Make the most of the weekend and combine a visit to the exhibition with a trip on the Corris Railway itself. A journey along the line includes a tour round the operational hub of the line at Maespoeth. I may be biased but I believe the Corris to be one of the most quietly beautiful lines in Britain, certainly you won't find a friendlier welcome anywhere.

Monday 2 August 2010

Also available in blue.

The ballast has now been sealed with dilute PVA, and while I was at it the scenery has had a work over too with the addition of more ground cover and trees that better break up the regularity of the circle. Killing two birds with one stone here's a photo of the second Fowler almost complete on an upgraded section of the layout.

Both the loco and vans won't be with me for long, the vans are already on e-bay, the loco will follow once works plates and safety valves are fitted.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Do as I say, not as I do .....

Oh dear, I believe I've been the victim of a 'good' idea I had a year ago. When putting Chwarel Bach together it seemed like a good idea to ballast with a polyfiller, sand and powder paint mix. It certainly gave a quick result. The first time I used the layout in anger at the Corris model railway show all worked remarkably well. Since then it's sat upstairs in my playroom, pressed into service from time to time as a test track or somewhere to let completed engines run in by lapping the circuit. A creeping and increasing deterioration in the running quality began to make itself felt. After spending a lot of time looking at both loco mechanisms and the track I came to the conclusion that the problem was caused by the ballast. It seems that as well as the usual amount of airborne dust, the pollyfiller is also contributing to a fine layer that inhibits efficient collection of current from the rails. There may be issues with a fine layer creeping into the gap between fishplate and rail further contributing to the embuggerment. I think cleaning followed by sealing the surface of the ballast with dilute PVA is the way to go; meantime have a pretty picture of my latest loco to emerge from the paintshop on the offending length.

Sunday 4 July 2010

The return of the chipboard monster

Thanks to a chance trip up the Cambrian Coast  a couple of weeks ago I find myself with renewed levels of enthusiasm for Morfa and have consequently been attacking pine and chipboard with vigour. I'm pleased to say that as of today the baseboard decks are complete, the box beam trackbed is in place and the backscene fixed where necessary.

Of course there's still a long way to go but I'm almost at the stage where the bits I like least, butchering wood, are over.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Custom Etched Plates

Sometimes it's the little details that make all the difference. My pugbash looked pleasant enough in plain green, but nothing special. Once the lining was applied it started to look a bit tastier, but the final icing on the cake was fitting a pair of works plates.

I'd sourced the plates (they come in sets of three) from a fellow member of Narrow Gauge Railway Modelling Online. I'm now hugely pleased to say that Narrow Planet custom etched nameplates are now available to all through their new website. You'll see that name as well as works plates are offered; it's a venture that deserves to do well.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Double Vision

I've not spent that much time at the workbench, sunshine and a full list of outdoor jobs has got in the way. However a spot of steady progress has brought both locos up to the state shown in the photo.

Saturday 8 May 2010

On my workbench.

Taking shape on my workbench is a Fowler 0-4-2. It's based on the drawings and photos in NG&IRMR issue 10. The prototype was an eighteen and seven eighths gauge loco built in 1891 for Figueros Co, Spain. My model assumes that a two foot three inch gauge example was built and fitted with tram plates for road side operation. This expedient fantasy means allows the use of 009 standards and yet another of the superb running yet stupefyingly cheap Kato mechanisms to be deployed. It's seen here in the company of my Pugbash just to give some idea of size and proportion.
Actually I'm building two, one for me and one (with an all weather cab) to sell on e-bay.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Ffesterbahn Ffollies

Here's a few quirky little numbers spotted at Harbour Station as part of the may bank holiday Ffestiniog ffestivities. Enjoy.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Lined Out

The lining out went remarkably well. I'd not been looking forward to it, but the Modelmaster waterslide transfers turned out to be one of the best fivers I've spent in a long while. I found it surprisingly easy to get a good finish and an accurate register at the joins. Once dry I wafted over with a blast of Testors Dulcote, and fixed the builders plates in place with Araldite. Job done I think, though I will have to provide a crew so that it doesn't look weird when circling round Chwarel Bach.

Friday 9 April 2010


"...  and the winner in the most bilious livery category goes to ...."

It won't look quite so green when I've finished, well I hope it won't. 

I found that the hardest decision was what colour paint to slap on. With my so called finescale EM models it's easy as I just copy photos of the real thing, but what do I do when confronted with a fictitious loco that will run on a fictitious line purporting to be owned by a fictitious company? As I have a notion that the new layout will be set before the war to end all wars, I sought for something that would hint at Victorian opulence or Edwardian sophistication. My late father in law came to the rescue, one of his old books contained a selection of colour paintings of British locomotives, the majority showing the glory of pre-grouping colour. In the end it was the North Eastern livery that appealed to me most, hence the vibrant green. Once  the lining is applied I'll tone down the loco, trying for a cared for but hard worked look. 

Saturday 27 March 2010

Bashing the Pug

I'd like to think of myself as having a calm and rational head, even when provoked. Sometimes this image doesn't reflect reality. I hugely enjoy the internet forum ngrm-online it's an absolute goldmine for anyone interested in modelling narrow gauge railways, and I can not recommend it too highly. A few weeks ago the pros and cons of 'pugbashing' became the focus of debate; pugbashing being models hacked out of the old Kitmaster/Airfix/Dapol kit.Amongst all the comments were a couple of rather negative posts that questioned the value of this particular strand of model making. Having done a few bashes in my youth I thought the best response was to give it a go again and see if something worthwhile could result.

Having two and a half pug kits and three Kato mechanisms I took the tram loco route. So far I have the basic loco pretty well finished and in primer, I leave you to judge whether it's thumbs up or down for the model, but I'm happy with it. Loads of fun has been had, the mechanism runs like a dream and I'm planning a small layout that will use this loco and some other items I've got on the stocks.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Journey Through the Past.

Thanks to my good friend Martin, I've finally got hold of a copy of Model Railway News featuring the gorgeous Ynys Gwyntog. Though built more than forty five years ago I reckon it could still hold it's own in the company of some of today's top models. Though the models in themselves are crisp and tidy rather than outstanding (there's a debate to be had that show stopping excellence could get in the way of reality) I've not seen the composition bettered to this day. The creator of this slice of loveliness is Cyril Burch, a nom de plume I believe for Jack Shortland, the editor of MRN.

If you fancy a first hand look at Ynys Gwyntog, and I urge you to do so, then it's the September '64 edition to look out for. The article refers to others in the series, March and May '63 for coaches with July '63 for signals; it also alludes to planning and track laying also being covered previously, but without specific dates. I will be keeping my eyes peeled.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Morfa Moving Again

Progress on Morfa comes in fits and starts. As the plain track is handbuilt from individual components these fits and starts happen in slow motion, however thinking that little has been achieved ignores the power of small increments gradually stacking up. A milestone has been reached now that the head of steel has progressed of the original 17x8 board and onto the extension. There's two more yards, in actual lengths that's four half yards, to go before I need to build the remaining section of baseboard to close the gap and allow the circuit to be completed.

With each fresh half yard of track, I celebrate by running a train up to the end. Though there's a worthy reason, to test my work, it's really just for the fun of it. Though the achievement is small, the motivation I get is disproportionately large.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Size Matters?

Recently I've been on an e-bay facilitated nostalgia trip. Outgunned by those willing to pay silly money for Egger Bahn, I turned my attentions to the Airfix kit. Here are three of the objects of my desire, all rather mundane and still on the market thanks to Dapol. I set myself a spending limit of a fiver for each piece including postage, and though I could buy Dapol for about that price, I get the benefit of the glorious box art. What surprised me was the way the packaging grew over the years. Whether it's for the psychological effect of getting more for your money or to increase shelf presence I don't know; but it does show that the seeds of over packaging were sown a long while ago. I may not be typical, but looking at the three examples here it's the earliest and smallest that I find most attractive.

Friday 8 January 2010

Not just the trains.

Sometimes life brings surprises, occasionally that's a very good thing. Most of the railway books I enjoy tend to be at the more specialised end of the market zeroing in on a particular line, station, locomotive class or aspect of model making. Earlier this week at the library I found a publication that well and truly bucks this trend.

Though it looks like one of those books aimed at the casual interest, the sort that misguided but well meaning aunts buy for birthdays, I've found it to be hugely inspiring. Though it's scope is broad the quality of the photos is stunning, each one bristling with interest and atmosphere, some happen to be beautiful works of art too. The straight record shot that most of us modellers are used to is all well and good; clarity, correct focus and exposure help define details which we can incorporate in search of greater realism. Looking through the book it shows us what all too often is still missing, that intangible atmosphere that railways have. How do we get hold of it, and reduce it to a form we can render to scale in 3-D. I'm not sure I know the answer, but the first step must be to recognise its prescence.

The book's by Paul Atterbury, publisher David and Charles, ISBN 13 978-0-7153-2876-7. Do try to find a copy.