Sunday 11 December 2016

Through to the continent ....

.... by British Rail.

Quite a lot of things have happened since my last post almost six months ago. Matters have been mainly driven by a decision taken even longer ago to sell our current home and move a few miles to somewhere less remote and a bit flatter. To cut a long story short Morfa was dismantled earlier this year, a few buildings saved and the rest tipped or burned in our boiler. Thoughts turned to its eventual replacement and those thoughts have been coloured by nearby friends who have adopted a common standard of OO gauge, dcc control and tension lock (preferably the latest Bachmann pattern) couplings. 

So the opportunity to make a break from my previous Cambrian Coast theme has presented itself. At the moment this has only been manifest in the gradual accumulation of stock. The latest items to have passed by my workbench have been a pair of Triang Hornby ferry vans bought for a bargain price no doubt on account of the unsuitable liveries; white with Transfesa and Fyfes markings.

To get from here to where I wanted to be with the model involved lowering and fixing the axle/spring assemblies, arranging for pivoting, smaller couplers, getting rid of the lower door runners so that they were flush with the solebars, fixing the door in place, ridding the roof of the circular moulding in its centre, applying paint and finally transfers. It was pleasant, reasonably undemanding work which spread out over a week or so. I'm pleased how a little work has unlocked the potential of a model which basically looked right though compromised by the pivoting wheel sets and sliding door.

There's still some detail painting to do and a spot of weathering as well, but my thoughts are already turning to another stock project which should also align with my Europhile tendencies. Here's the rather ropey starting point.

Saturday 23 July 2016

All over bar the shouting

My latest project, the 0-16.5 Kerr Stuart is finished apart from couplings and final paint. However this will not be my job as the loco is destined for use on a friends layout, so I can pass it on in its current state.

Though I felt the model looked promising in the earlier stages it didn't gel for me until the addition of the exhaust. Though the real life examples had a variety of patterns, the model seemed to need the bulk of the horizontal exhaust to balance the proportions.

Thursday 14 July 2016

A temporary change of direction

This week with modelling mojo in the ascendant I've been putting together an 0-16.5 narrow gauge loco for a friend of mine. It's a plasticard scratchbuild on a sweet running Bachmann HO chassis. Based on the Kerr Stuart diesel which spent some time on the WHR before being exported to warmer climes it deviates from strict prototype accuracy in that it has a more typically 'British' cab which is itself stretched a touch to accommodate the motor. However I think it does a pretty good job of representing the characteristics of the real thing.

Though it's been a pleasurable build, there have been times of head scratching partly/mainly because I'm not used to working in the larger scales and I have no instinctive sense of the size of things.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Gloom lifts

While matters in politics-land still seem both confused and unsatisfactory, the world of trains has brought some joy back to the world. The first being a day of fun on the Corris Railway topped off by the chance to drive the new O&K diesel up and down the line from Maespoeth.

Today I've made a little progress fettling and repairing some items of HO stock, a van and a tanker.

Though neither was a big job there was a good deal of satisfaction to be had just by repairing something broken.

Saturday 25 June 2016

As the dust settles

Well, I appear not to be terribly motivated by model railways today. Though maybe I'm  not shocked by the referendum result I am disappointed and perhaps a little cross too. There has been much talk about betrayal of the young by the old (who by and large are sitting comparatively pretty) but perhaps the biggest betrayal has been in the lies of politicians and the collusion of some sectors of the media. If I had been foolish enough to vote leave I'd be livid that the two main planks of the Brexit argument, a reduction in immigration  and an extra £350m a week for the NHS will not happen. The cynic in me knew that these promised 'benefits'  wouldn't happen. There is strong suspicion abroad that a good section of those who voted to leave are now regretting their choice and that the same applies (despite what they may say in public) to some movers and shakers in the leave campaign. I believe that we can directly trace the referendum back to the Tory promise of a cap on immigration, but indirectly further back for years of government blaming unpopular decisions they have made on the EU rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. Whilst on the subject of responsibility, it also strikes me that immigration has been the scapegoat of those who have done less well out of life. Some of this scapegoating may have been self generated, but a lot has been at the instigation of the less responsible media, both print and tv.

My apologies, pictures of trains may have to wait a while longer.

Monday 13 June 2016

Brexit and model railways

Over at RMweb there has been much discussion regarding Hornby's financial situation. Perhaps too much I thought, with the risk of becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. If they are going through a difficult patch it seemed unhelpful to have so much speculation on the UK's most widely read web forum. I also offered the opinion that we should maybe give them a break particularly with the unsettling effects of the imminent European referendum. 

This got me thinking about the effects on our hobby if we left the EU. If there is the financial turmoil that the experts predict on leaving then I'd guess that hobby spending will shrink as enthusiasts up and down the UK concentrate on the necessities of life. Most of us will have kits and components put aside which would allow us to keep on pursuing our interests for a while. However the rtr chaps, cottage industries and retailers will all feel the pinch as Joe public reins in his spending.

What happens if  we don't experience a financial shock on exiting the EU, however unlikely this scenario is, will it be business as usual? Unfortunately I don't think it will; let me explain. Thanks to the internet and e-bay the world is our shop, we can buy from every continent. Over the past few years I've bought things for my model railway from Japan, China, Australia, America and various European countries as well as the UK. This could be said to lend weight to the leave campaign's  assertion that we trade with the world and that if we leave the single European market we will still be able to trade with Europe in the way that we trade with the rest of the world. However at the moment there is one crucial difference in buying from Europe compared to the rest of the world and that is import duty. Though HM Customs seem to ignore small value items, they are keen on collecting duty owed on medium and higher value purchases from outside the EU. This duty is compounded by the collection fee charged by the Royal Mail who collect duty for HM Customs. Purchases from the EU carry no duty and no fee from the Post Office as there's no duty to collect. The result of this is that I look to the UK and continental Europe for my modelling requirements, before I think of widening out my search. If duty was payable on EU imports I would buy less even if my total spend were to remain the same. Imagine the effect on the trade if this effect was repeated in every modellers budget.

Manufacturers like Heljan, based in Europe but with a significant UK market would see their prices raised by the duty payable on them, and by extrapolation fewer sales. Leaving the EU wouldn't make life easier for Hornby with its extensive range of European brands. Presumably duty on sales to the EU will similarly hinder companies selling to that market; while there may not be a big market for UK outline trains in Europe, the peripherals of track, control and accessories seem to have a reasonable market share.

I'll should put  my hand up as an instinctive 'remain' voter, but the above has helped me marshal my thoughts on trade and economics, albeit on a small scale.

My apologies for the lack of pretty pictures, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Dust to dust

Earlier this year I had cause to exhume Shell Island from it's coffin, a chipboard box with a screw fixed lid. I had problems with dust settling on Morfa, its size prohibiting any sensible form of covering, but I had hoped that Shell Island would be dust free. Not a bit of it though, while not as bad as Morfa there was still a thin layer all over the surface. Fortunately it didn't take long to clean up with a soft brush and vacuum cleaner. 

Tuesday 7 June 2016


With the need to dismantle Morfa and a desire to keep my playroom reasonably tidy I can't say that I've done a lot of model making recently. Odds and ends have crossed my workbench, the latest being to motorise a couple of die cast Lisbon trams. Inspiration came from a trip to Lisbon last October. It's a beautiful city with fantastic architecture, agreeable climate and an exquisite tram system. Here's the real thing .....

.... and the models.


HO scale die cast Lisbon trams are sold widely in the city's tourist souvenir shops for about ten euros. They're a cut above the usual tourist tat and are easy to transform into a working model. After dismantling a suitably sized aperture has to cut in the brown underframe unit to accommodate a Kato 11-104 mechanism. The underside of the cream seat unit requires abrading away flush with the bottom of the seat squabs. Then its a case of careful reassembly and crafting a couple of chassis retaining lugs from plasticard. Total cost a touch under twenty quid and an hours work.