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.