Thursday 10 December 2015

A place to work...

Last month there were a few of us that turned up at the Cambs, Herts and Essex Area Group (CHEAG) in Newport for a natter about what modelling we are currently doing.

My good friend Carlos Vasco was explaining that his modelling time is rather constrained by the need to get everything out to use the kitchen table and then put everything away afterwards, as he doesn't have the advantage of a dedicated space that he can leave projects on. I thought that I'd post about a couple of solutions to this, before I hope to see him next at January's CHEAG meeting.

As I've mentioned before, I'm fortunate to have the space to have a converted bureau/writing desk to do my modelling on. If I want to be tidy, I push everything to the back and close up the front.

Bureau 08.JPG

Bureau 04.JPG

However it's still quite difficult to fit the "modelling bureau" in the back of the car for my semi-annual trips to

Something that I'd spotted was that the fantasy wargaming chain of Games Workshop had produced a portable workbench that they intended for gamers to paint figures on. Now these have been discontinued, but they do come up from time to time on Ebay. Here is an example of one in an auction:

They can be found on both assembled or unassembled form. I was fortunate to find an unbuilt example, so it was possible for me to decide if and how I wanted to modify it.


I've equipped it with a tufnol soldering area on the right and a cutting mat at the left hand side. With that is the mount for a vice. This is for one of the little (but good quality) modeller's vices sold by Eileen's Emporium. These have the advantage that you can buy spare bases for the vice unit, so I can swap it from my proper bench to this portable one.

The paint station comes with a variety of holes drilled for paintbrushes, although I use them for all sorts of tools. To stop things rolling around and to keep some type of order, I used a hot glue gun to fasten a cheap stationery tray to the board, which is useful for popping small parts in whilst working. On the other side is a glued down soldering iron stand, to stop that wandering around.


Two things that I should also mention are recommendations from the Missenden course notes. One of them is a wooden strip across the front of the underneath, to hold it square on a table and stop it sliding around. The other is to cover the underneath with some green baize to protect any surfaces that it is put on top of.

Now the thing that I mentioned earlier was that these paint stations are no longer produced, so they can be hard to find. So I was very pleased to find a new development at this year's Warley show. Whilst speaking to Grainge & Hodder, who do some of my 5522 etchings for me, I noticed that they had a laser cut worktray. They had produced it just in time for Warley, and had already sold several of them.

It's now a stock item, and can be found on their website:

Having examined it, it looks better designed than mine, and is also lighter. Obviously, it's also possible for you to customise it as you wish. If I manage to break/lose my original one, I'm sure that I'll buy one of these as a replacement.

I hope that this has given you some thoughts on what to do when space is tight...

Friday 4 December 2015

Exactoscale 1, Swann Morton nil...

Mystery of the day: how come I have just broken two different scalpel blades, on two different knives, just trimming a couple of Exactoscale check rail chairs to fit?

I haven't suddenly gained super-human strength or anything, and this is literally the last rail to fit in the entire turnout.



Sunday 15 November 2015

A finished hut...

After one hour and thirty one minutes of modelling, the platelayers' hut is finished.

The time wasn't recorded as a challenge, but simply a reflection to myself of being able to finish things in a reasonable time. My Y14 locomotive is approaching four years since I started it, and although there is only the lining and finishing to do, I still can't motivate myself to end the job...

Anyway, superglue was used throughout, I didn't glue my fingers together at any point, and nothing fell off when it was washed under the tap with Shiny Sinks.

So the next thing is to make a small base to place it on. I was inspired to do this little scene by this cropped section from picture in the Windwood Collection of the Great Eastern Railway Society:

GERJ 105 cover - PW hut.jpg

Unfortunately I'm not going to hit my target of finishing it by Friday night as work has taken me out and away from modelling for three nights this week.  Hmm... I have just cut this too fine!  It does give me the opportunity to make a proper job of the diorama base though :-)


Saturday 14 November 2015

This weekend's little project...

For reasons that may become obvious in a few days, this weekend's project is a non-rolling stock, non-trackwork related one...

Prompted by a certain Mr Brandreth of this parish, on Monday I ordered a kit from Severn Models. This turned up on Thursday. I missed it lying on the doormat, which meant that I was only able to chat about it at that evening's CHEAG meeting, rather than show it.


The intent that it is assembled with superglue rather than soldering, so that will be an interesting experiment. Expect stuck fingers at some point!


Wednesday 4 November 2015

Cracking on...

A couple of days ago, I wrote:

"However the real reason for the feeling of shame is that I've just gone to put out some materials to build a replacement turnout - and I found that I hadn't unpacked and plugged my soldering iron in since Missenden!"

Well, I haven't needed my soldering iron so far. My first task has been to salvage and clean up the rails from the ply-and-rivet built turnout that this new one is replacing.

That done, it's down with the template on a piece of board and start on construction:

This is the first time that I'm building pointwork using plastic chairs. I've done one of the Exactoscale turnouts in a box before, and found it quick and easy. So far this seems to be just as straightforward, and a lot less messy than soldered construction.

The one thing that I really like, and it's quite a childish pleasure, is that with the detailed plastic chairs, you finish a bit and it already looks "right". That gives quite a big sense of achievement.

I did discover that I'm dangerously close to running out of Daywat though, so I've popped an order through this morning for another couple of bottles, and some ModelStrip whilst I'm at it. That's for all of those wagons that I still need to restore.

Nothing for the next couple of evenings though, as I have to be out at work events and will have no chance to do any more modelling. I'm really looking forward to starting it again though :-)


Sunday 1 November 2015

Oh the shame!

How long is it since I last updated this thread with news on my own modelling?  I've been busy with work, but not that busy.

There has been an autumn Missenden that came and went.  Very enjoyable it was as well, with excellent company, and some very good modelling to be seen on a range of people's projects.  It's amazing how many variants of High Level Kits appear in the 4mm group at Missenden!

I took along a good couple of boxes worth of ratty wagons.  These are ones that either

- I built a long time ago, and my standards have now improved

- I have carted around with me from house move to house move and have been damaged through being bounced around in boxes

- Built or part-built models that can be picked up cheap on Well Known Auction Sites that are a candidate for finishing or stripping down and rebuilding.

At Missenden I had mostly the latter, and spent quite a bit of time with a set of Xuron cutters, a sharp scalpel, and some files as I reduced a fair quantity of GWR wagons to their bare bones, ready for rebuilding in a fully sprung and cosmetically detailed way.  As the weekend wore on, the pile of plastic shavings around my workbench (these were mostly Coopercraft models) increased substantially.

Part of it was also to work on a set of five LNWR ballast wagons.  One of them was an original of mine, where I wasn't satisfied with the paint job on it, and the other four are updates to secondhand purchases.  I've just finished the lettering of them with the transfers from the original Ratio kits, and these are them sitting on mats whilst the varnish over them dries.  I use Testor's Dullcote, which seems to give a super-thin and properly matt finish when I've previously used it.

These seem to be drying nicely, and later in the week I'll be starting on the weathering on them.

However the real reason for the feeling of shame is that I've just gone to put out some materials to build a replacement turnout - and I found that I hadn't unpacked and plugged my soldering iron in since Missenden!

Oh woe is me!  I must do better!

Monday 20 July 2015

Calf van finished...

And after a very good discussion over on the Scalefour Society Forum about the making and shaping of brass roofs, last night I soldered it into place:

That's the van now finished, and ready for the spray booth.  As I have a total of seven wagons and vans to paint now, I'd better find a spare evening to take all the kit out and do that.

However for the next modelling item that can be done in spare moments in the morning before work, I feel a spot of the 1960s coming on...


Thursday 16 July 2015

Making progress...

Well, after a lot of scraping of solder, and cutting and hacking, the Calf Van was reduced to a minimum. Every time I thought that I had reached a point of satisfaction, I found another element that I wanted to remove to improve it.

You may have seen the partly rebuilt van over on MikeH's Scalefour Forum thread about starter wagon kits, where it made a brief appearance.

Now it's finished apart from adding weight and a roof. I assume that the roof was originally etched brass, and included with the kit. However like many casting details, this wasn't with it when I acquired the part-built kit.

So tonight I've been out with ruler and set-square, piercing saw and files, and started cutting out the roof from a piece of sheet brass.


I've started squaring it off, and if I have time tomorrow I'll measure the arc of the roof and mark it out to size. I've already pulled the trusty GW Models rolling bars out of storage, and I expect that the actual rolling of it to shape will be the quickest and simplest thing to do...


Saturday 4 July 2015

Off again...

Well, the lead sheet went in, and was left for half a day for the Araldite to go properly off. Yes, I have vans where there is a distinct "clunk" from the weight inside moving around as you pick them up... Then it was on with the roof and this is the result:

As before, the camera exposes something that the naked eye did not. There was a sliver of flash between the roof and the top of the side at the far end that is highlighted by the camera. Fortunately ninety seconds with my finest scalpel blade and it was no more! How I missed it first time around when assembling the sides I have no idea.

So on to the next thing. I have a succession of projects tucked away in those small Really Useful Boxes that I have a real addiction for. The one that has been tempting me for a little while has been a part-built etched van that I picked up from somewhere or other. It was basically the completed body, plus underframe built rigidly and in all honesty not very well. None of the fittings like axleboxes or coupling hooks were with it.

The Kit was originally Jidenco, and the core body is really nicely proportioned and nicely etched. The rest? . The prototype is described in the extraordinarily brief and confusing (how would you build this if you didn't have a good knowledge of how the prototype went together?) instructions as an LMS Calf Van. It actually looks to be the Midland Railway Calf Van, which is nicely illustrated on page 5 of Volume 2 of "An Illustrated History of Midland Wagons".

I neglected to take any pictures of the "before" version, but what I found when comparing it to the reference photo was that the builder had added extra strapping fitted in LMS days, the buffers were all wrong, and what was below the solebars was pretty horrendous and totally unsuitable for P4.

So over the last couple of evenings I've been busy with a slitting disc in a Dremel and a pair of stout snips, removing most of the underpinnings in preparation of replacement. And this morning I cranked the soldering iron up to full to remove the extra strapping, and also the buffers to replace them with correct Midland pattern ones. The soldering braid also came out as well, as all of this was fixed with an excess of the shiny stuff.

This is how the stripped down model looks:



The next steps will be to clean up the remains of the solder with a fibreglass brush, and solder up any dodgy joints and fill in the gaps.

I've started collecting the replacement components to rebuild it in the aforementioned RUB. As usual, it will be sprung suspension, although whether it's Bill Bedford or my own home-brewed etched version remains to be seen.

More as it happens...


Friday 3 July 2015

Doing something...

It's been rather busy on a number of fronts recently. Modelling has only had the occasional ten minutes when I can pick something up and do it quickly. To make the most of that, I've been ploughing through a few things that were part-built and had stalled for some reason.

One of those was a Slaters kit for a Midland ventilated van - I can't remember the exact terminology. It had stalled because I wanted to build the fitted version that ran on coach-size wheels, as I quite fancied the look of the bigger size of spoked wheel as something out of the ordinary. Progress had halted because I didn't have in stock any W-irons suitable for the larger size of wheel.

So rather than wait any longer, I checked the reference books and changed the plan to the diagram that had the same body style but ran on conventional wagon underpinnings and was through-piped. So in the last week, it has progressed from a bare plastic body to this:



The plastic undergear of the kit is replaced by some Bill Bedford sprung w-irons, a Bill Bedford brake lever, a v-hanger nicked from another fret, some old whitemetal brakegear that is still finer than the plastic version, and some safety loops made up from scrap fret waste.

I'm rather pleased with it at the moment. It needs some lead sheet placed inside to bring it up to my preferred 50g weight for four-wheeled wagons, and then it can take it's place in quite a lengthy queue for the paint shop.

Like James Wells said only a couple of days ago in another place, it's good to be modelling again!


Thursday 9 April 2015

Sticky business...

Sometimes things just don't work out... 

As usual, I have three or four different things on the go at the same time.  This mostly explains the slightly random order of progress displayed on here.  I pick one thing up, do a bit, put it down, rinse and repeat...

Over the Easter weekend I had the opportunity to take out some of the "big toys" that I don't usually have the time or the space for in the evenings after work.  I had a good session of mouldmaking on the Centricast machine, and took out the spray booth to make some progress on the Buckjumper.

The next stage in the chassis construction is to paint it black (now try and get that tune out of your head...) ready for the mounting of the wheels.  To spray the wheels themselves, I masked off the tyres and the axle holes with Humbrol Maskol.  My bottle of this must be over a decade old, yet by keeping it tightly capped, it's still gloopy and can be easily applied with a cocktail stick.

For the chassis itself, I thought that I would spray it with the hornblocks still in place as they were held securely by the CSB wires and I didn't want the faff of taking them out.  On the other hand, if I used Maskol, I'd spend an age picking bits of rubber out of them.  So I reached for the paint box and a roll of masking tape in it.

A quick waft of the spray can - no need to fire up the airbrush for something this simple - and it was done.  I used Games Workshop Chaos Black as the colour, having heard good things about the coverage, finish, and its ability to adhere without using a separate etch primer.  After it had dried overnight, I went to remove the tape and this is where I found a minor disaster...

The glue/fixative/tack/adhesive (what is the right name for the stuff that makes Sellotape stick?) had gone all gooey and was now leaving a sticky residue wherever it had touched the model.  There was no alternative but to remove each hornblock and clean it and the corresponding guide up carefully with a fibreglass brush.  I didn't want to use solvents, as that could have lifted the paint finish and I'd be back to square one.  It took some time, but all has now been restored to a good state of order.

I bought the masking tape a couple of years ago.  I have a recollection that it is either Tamiya, or from Precision Paints.  I can't be more precise than that as I wasn't really paying attention to the possible consequences.  Suffice to say that I won't be using it again, and I'm very glad that this happened on a plain chassis, and not whilst I was painting or lining a locomotive body!


Monday 6 April 2015


Clearly not my strong point...

Having carefully measured the thickness of all six of the driving wheels of my Buckjumper, and produced an average from them.  Then taken various readings of the thickness of my standard back-to-back gauge (and this time scribed the number on the outside face of it to avoid doing it next time) to determine what that needed to be. 

I added them up and started happily cutting down my split axles to length.

I was just cutting into the third and complex one for it has two splits to isolate the gearbox when the penny dropped.  Locomotives have a wheel on each side...

So the axle length should not be 2.46 + 17.78 = 20.24mm

It should be 2.46 + 17.78 + 2.46 = 22.70mm

Oh well, it's a good job that I made up a batch of spares whilst the glue was out!


Saturday 7 March 2015

Missenden Spring 2015 is go!

Last night saw the clans gathering for a virtually full capacity Railway Modelling Weekend at Missenden Abbey.  The maximum capacity of the Abbey is 70 places, and we have 69 attendees signed up.  It's a tribute to how popular these courses have become.  Note to self - book for the Autumn course as soon as it is available...

After an excellent fish and chip dinner, the main room was filled for the ritual Health and Safety briefing.

David Brandreth has just explained to Tim Shackleton how to avoid paper cuts...

Some of the assembled masses.  This room is used for the 4mm modelling cohort, so there are 19 of us happily filing little bits of brass.

My own workstation.  

I'm aiming to use the weekend to (nearly) finish a Connoisseur Models GER J65 Buckjumper that I started at Missenden last autumn, and basically haven't touched since.  It's being built with CSB suspension, which I'm comfortable with.  However it's also going to be my first attempt at split-frame chassis, so watch out for the fun and games!

Until later...

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Happiness... opening an old locomotive kit box to see whether you fancy taking it to Missenden for the weekend, and finding an unused Portescap in there.

That's going to be going on Ebay after I've checked that it runs properly, so mentally is offset against the course cost :-)


Tuesday 13 January 2015

Gathering winter fuu-uuu-ell...

Although it's been quite mild over the last couple of days, the Christmas period had seen us lighting the fire in our living room almost every evening.  That usually meant that there was a constant round each morning of restocking the coal scuttle and firewood basket.

So after a bacon sarnie, I was hard at work lugging logs and coal in from the garage to the house ready for the evening's warmth.  Whilst I was doing so, I remembered that my stocks of model coal were running low.  Yet here in my hands was an entire new stock...

A quick rummage in the kitchen produced an assortment of metal colanders with holes of different sizes, and a stout plastic bag.  A return trip to the garage produced a hammer!

Unfortunately we don't have access to Welsh anthracite, to use some proper steam coal, but I selected a lump

This is the result:

Three different grades of coal, ready for use.  The largest will be to finish the weathering on my Great Eastern Coffeepot.

As can be seen here (Y5 image on Wikipedia)  these locomotives often had lumps of coal stored on every single possible surface.  As they were generally only used for the very lowest of speed shunting duties, I assume that they didn't have the problem of the coal being bounced off when they moved!

I've been meaning to finish weathering my own Coffeepot for a while now, and this has given me a kick up the posterior to get on with it.  Like CraigW found on his excellent wagon building topic here: (link to Scalefour Forum) I am far too easily distracted!