Thursday, 20 October 2016

Nah, nah, neeyah, nah, said the silly old model railway man...

Had to happen, of course.  I raise a thread on the 0 gauge model railway Facebook page, which had been friendly enough in the 2 days I'd been joined up to it, when some busy body starts crowing on about how wonderful Guy Williams was.  This geezer claims to have known him. In fact he claimed a lot of things I think he couldn't possibly know, but why on my thread about my cock-up with some nickel silver sheet, because I was rushing it.?
So I joined in with my assertion that the late great Geoff Pember was the finest model railway practitioner I'd ever met.  The interloper then launched into a very offensive tirade against me, because I wouldn't agree that his hero Guy Williams was the finest modelmaker ever without equal! Now that's a bloody stupid thing to say, because there are modelmakers who would run rings round him AND, at a pinch, Geoff Pember, push come to shove.  But neither of us would know who they were.  Modelmaking is a broad church.  Far more so than most hobbies and I have seen model railway locomotives made to a standard that my man would have trouble matching and Williams couldn't come close to.  I sat in his workshop surrounded by full sized loco drawings and some very fancy machinery, yet I couldn't now tell you who he was. He was youngish and did it for a living from his Mum and Dad's bungalow in Neatishead, Norfolk (which I recall him saying as "Neatston").
So, what is the point of playing "My hero's better than your hero"?  This silly old fool is clearly no youngster. He really should know better, especially as the thread was nothing to do with him.

I've seen and watched Williams' locos at Pendon and thought how the railway itself there is the very least of the exhibits.  Every time I've seen it.  But then a) I hate the GWR and b) I'm no fan of 4mm scale model railways.
Whereas...I am a fan of the Great Eastern Railway and I am a fan of 7mm scale and I have met, chatted to and closely studied the work of Geoff Pember and it was immediately obvious that he was a modelmaker of rare ability and a gentleman to boot.  Now maybe Williams was too. Dunno, never met him and probably wouldn't have liked him as he was a teacher, which, of course, gave him plenty of spare time to make toy trains, whereas I believe Geoff Pember worked for a living!

I recently got some magazines with articles by Geoff.  Just take a look at these....2 locos made at different times.  The darker one was started in 1928!!  He MADE the motor!
That's what a home made motor, done before the War, looks like.

Then later.
The chassis on both are made exactly as the real ones and the bodies have angles inside which are actually rivetted together!  The lighter loco has working inside valve gear as well.  The gearbox is home made and is ballraced with special thrust bearings.
I could go on.  Guy Williams?  Er, I don't know. I never held one of his models, but I very much doubt any of his GWR stuff could hold a candle to Geoff Pember's work.  Geoff also made superb lineside buildings and structures and wrote many books of learned research into the Great Eastern Railway.

Also in this batch of magazines I got hold of, was an article in appreciation of the great J.K.(Jack) Nelson, who was another early mentor of mine.  He ran the Ilford Junior Model Railway Club from his flat in South Park Avenue, Ilford, Essex.  My Dad, as a worried parent, checked him out and came home having spent an evening discussing hi-fi, Jack's other passion.  Jack made dioramas of the LNWR.  And I mean dioramas, not the more common but always miss-named set-piece.  A set-piece is a scenic piece to one scale. A diorama is a viewed scene using false perspective intended to be viewed from one position only.   
Jack made a diorama which could be 7mm scale in the foreground and end up at 1.75mm scale at the back.  Every Friday, I used to sit next to this very scene.
And others
Jack gave me my first piece of nickel silver sheet and a Skinley drawing of an LNER V1 to make with it, which I did at school using the Myford and Boxford lathes instead of that pointless waste of a lad's time, P.E.  'Tis my proud boast that I never did one PE lesson the entire 6 years that I tolerated secondary school.  But I did make a lot of boiler fittings!

Thanks, Jack, for believing in me, when I was just 13.  I've done it ever since.

Monday, 17 October 2016

With a name like that?...

You have to wonder why, don't you?
I mean Bummer...come on!  And a background at a Public School, well, I mean...

W.S. "Bummer" Scott was a racing driver who knew Sir Malcolm Campbell. Well enough to buy a 1927 Delage 1 1/2 Litre GP car from him, ex-works almost.  That was the car with possibly the most beautiful engine ever built.  Never mind the Italians. They don't come close. Nope, the Delage straight 8 and the Amilcar straight 6 1100cc were staggeringly lovely bits of engineering/styling.
This only 1500 ccs. A straight eight, too!

And the Amilcar 1100

Anyway, old Bummer had one and he turns out to be a distant relative of an old client of mine.  He wanted a model, a one-off, to celebrate that fact, with a brass scale chassis and a front motor, so here it is.

Bummer liked to paint his cars black with an emerald green chassis and wheels. A dull as dishwater scheme if you ask me, but you ain't, I'll warrant, so I'll tell you anyway.

The body came to me as a shapeless mis-cast blob of resin off ebay somewhere, so had to be completely remodelled.  Then the chassis was made in brass and soldered up.  The funnel thing around the radiator area was made in very thin brass shim and the driver was an amalgam of three with some Miliput remodelling.  The wheels are a set of RS Slotracing's new skinny 19"s, which I designed for just such a model.  For too long slot racers have not had pre-War cars for want of a decent skinny 19" wire wheel.  And, what's more, they've needed not just some spindly thing for Austin 7s, but a selection for everything from that A7 up to an Invicta, with Amilcars and Delages in between.  So, here, at last after being messed about by a Scottish etcher, is an example of the 48 spoke wheel.  A7's, GNs, etc. have a 36 spoker and the bigger boys have a 60.  £15 a set of four seems to me to be the best value since Woolworths'. £20 with tyres, as seen here.

Tomorrow, this goes to its new custodian along with a Brabham BT33 F1 car.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Could it really be?...

When one is facebooking, there are little ads for other peoples' pages, some of which are intriguing enough to click on, some you merely gloss over.  I was quite pleased to see there was a reasonably subscribed-to page about finescale O gauge model railways. I clicked and had a gander and it seemed really quite good, so I joined and, so far, have had a surprisingly good banter with a widish selection of model people, some keen amateurs, some even doing it for a living!

I thought I'd risk it all with a typical one of my questions, asking if anyone actually scratchbuilt anything any more. I said that I didn't mean a difficult kit, but real "get a Skinley drawing and a sheet of nickel silver, an Antex, a piercing saw and a pot of Fluxite and actually make summat from nuttn.

After all, I'm a man who still regards John Ahern's Miniature Locomotive Construction as a bible.  I met, several times and learned a lot from, the great Geoff Pember.  I was a member of Jack Nelson's Ilford Junior Model Railway Club.  Les Hoffman was a member of the Ilford and West Essex and nobody did EM LNWR stuff like Les. I've crawl-shunted one of his Coal Tanks for an entire weekend exhibition without the slightest failure. Entirely scratchbuilt, including the wheels and home-hobbed gears!

Well, bugger me if I didn't get a very pleasing response from a goodly number of scratchbuilders, WITH pictures in many cases, one even showing his Skinley.  Amazed I am.  And, of course, delighted!  Blimey, I thought they'd all died out and gone to kit bash land, but no, we are not an entirely dead race yet. Of course the terminally tight wads like me are truly one-offs, nearly all the scratchbuilders also doing kits, but it does show that some COULD, when pressed, actually fashion something with their own hands. Praise de Lord!
The big problem is the outrageous cost of wheels!  Ye Gods....over 20 quid for a pair on an axle. Over 15 notes for a pair of bogie wheels!  That means that if I wanted to do my favourite M&GNJR 4-4-0 tank I would have to shell out 72 quid for plastic spoked wheels!  A few quid more if I wanted the much nicer steel ones from Walsall Model Industries.  Add I suppose about £6 for a gear. That, I suppose, is the price you pay for doing O gauge and not the wee ones for which there is a much larger choice at less money.
I have motors coming out of my ears. None of the modern things, of course, but lovely old open framers, like Romfords, Zenith, Pittman and KTMs of all sizes.  I have K's too, but they're earmarked for slot cars.  I won't use Jap cans if I can possibly avoid it. If I can't I'll use a Mashima as I know they're hand made, but in an O-Gauge model loco they're not necessary.

But the wheel costs?  That may stop me doing anything. I don't really want to approach my modelmaking in terms of what my widow will get for every little item!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Went the day well...

Isn't it good when , up fairly early, you have a leisurely breakfast while doing e-mails, fewer than most days being the weekend.
Then, a nice poodle over to a quality garden centre for a few packets of seeds and some stuff to equip the new greenhouse.  It's possible to spend a lot of money at this particular garden centre because next door to the gardeny bits is a food hall. I'd completely forgotten this. I had thought it was just more garden stuff, perhaps the smaller kind of thing, but no.  Every kind of posh nosh you could think of.  More little jar covers of red and blue gingham than you could throw a pair of pinking shears at.  Fortunately in some ways I had gone in wearing my driving glasses which ensured that I couldn't read a damned label for love or money.  Money probably being the operative word.  But even I couldn't miss the deli.  The meats were of a quality you never see in a supermarket, but the cheeses?  Oh, Lordy.  I settled for a piece of Harlech. I have been to Harlech many times and like the town and its castle.  The cheese has a fruity almost wine-like finish and lingers. I am looking forward to a piece more on some crackers for supper.
Also of interest to a fan of Woodforde's excellent ales, an area where large barrels, cut into shelves contain local brews.  Woodforde's have their own. I chose a bottle of Wherry (of course!) and a bottle of Norfolk Nog on a two for a fiver deal.

Back home, via a local centre, for lunch. At the local place we saw hanging baskets that were perfect for us. We have two brackets on the front of the house, but until today had nothing hanging from them.

Then back to our old residence to pick up more garden and greenhouse goodies, which I spent the rest of the afternoon installing.  Cleared up just in time for dinner.  A very good day.

This gardening has got us hooked for sure.
It has its paraphernalia, like fly fishing.  Whilst I have always liked gardens I have never had the slightest interest in actually doing fishing of any kind.  But as a kid I had a book called Evening Rise, which described one man's attitude to his pursuit.  I read it over and over, still without any interest in doing it.  I had a wonderful leather book of finely tied flies, which fascinated me.  When I bought my barn in Suffolk, there was a pair of Hardy fly rods in split cane in the storage end and a wooden Hardy reel. I sold them to a chap who mounted them all on his downstairs loo wall just to look at and admire when on the throne.  Paraphernalia you see?  Can't beat it.

And so, the greenhouse is full of propagators, mesh shelving rescued from a soft skinned greenhouse that a Fen wind shook to pieces.  A proper hang up thermometer, trowel and fork with nice ash handles, a packet of wild flower mixture, seed packets kept in a nice biscuit tin.  I even replaced yesterday's rough bench tops with some wood from the rebuild of our old canal boat. Clean, smooth oak planks.

Now it's up to my wife to do her stuff. She has the wherewithall.  Sweet Peas and Garlic bought today needs a-planting.

Friday, 30 September 2016

It WILL go, it MUST!!!...

The last time I mowed our reasonably sized lawns (nothing like yours, James!) I used the electric cylinder mower.  Now if I were to cut them every few days, I would be fine with the lack of grunt from the electric, but I'd still have to put up with the damned cable dragging around and catching on the plants, taking the flowers off them.
So, I resolved to get a cheap petrol mower. It had to be a cylinder type because I like my stripes and I find rotaries to be vulgar.

Well, I hunted around and was sent to see overpriced broken down things, or no price forthcoming or even rotaries when I'd specified cylinder, so I gave up and resolved to continue with the electric thing.
Then, a new chum rung and actually gave me a decent price for his.  It turned out to be an earlyish Suffolk Super Colt.  Not sure what's super about it, but it is all made in England including the little 78cc sidevalve engine.
I knew it needed a new petrol tap due to leakage from the old one, so I ordered a new one which is a better rotary style tap, rather than a push-pull. The new one comes with a sintered brass filter which sits in the tank and a couple of feet of clear pipe.  I also had to get a new exhaust gasket as the old one fell to bits when I removed the exhaust can for a clean.  Put all together, new fuel from a new can and pulled.  And pulled, and......then I realised I hadn't turned the nice new fuel tap on!  Did that and pulled.....and pulled.....and.....Ah, I haven't tickled the carb., so I tickled till it leaked and pulled and pulled and....Nothing, not a peep.
So I removed the plug and tried spark, the Suffolk complaint.  This requires removal of the flywheel to clean and adjust the points.  I have neither three hands or a flywheel puller.

So, I ring up son-in-law and ask for his help for half an hour.  No problem...heart of gold, young Ian. He brings a gizmo that lights up if there's any chance of a spark.  It didn't.  It stayed dark.  This is where the third hand came in.  Whilst Ian gave the removed and lightly re-fitted crankshaft nut a sharp crack with a copper faced Thor hammer, I twisted a stubby screwdriver in the convenient gap behind the flywheel. Pop!, it just tumbled off.
All reading on forums had led me to understand that the Suffolk engines used a coil and condenser. Knowing how unreliable those components had become these days, I feared the worst, but on removal of the flywheel we were faced with a large black blob with magnets sticking out of it!  We had a magneto.  The whole thing was satisfyingly clean, but clearly hadn't turned for a long time. Magnet shaped marks were on the inside rim of the flywheel and some powdery crud was all round the points. Using a feeler gauge to further clean the gap, after we'd ascertained the lobe that operates the points, we then slid a folded piece of 1000 grit wet and dry twixt the points and gently sanded this way and that.  Checking the admittedly rather tapered gap we decided that the average gap was, more than likely 20 thou. on the feeler gauge, so left it well alone.
Put everything back, tightened nuts and bolts, turned on fuel, tickled, choke on and pulled the cord.  It fired and ran!  In fact it nearly went off across the lawn on its own!  Very shortly it ceased to turn its cutting blades and then stalled.  We checked it for stiffness.  Much too much effort to hand turn things, so off with the guards and we found the chain from engine to cutters was way too tight.  We loosened it and oiled the chain and things felt much better. Started (no problem) and off it went, but kept stalling.  It transpired that my efforts to find a motor mower had resulted in the grass being a wee bit higher than ideal.  So we adjusted the front roller down and the machine finally trundled along cutting a beautiful fine grade of cuttings.

Problem is.....the engine needs maximum choke to run, then it runs fast, but won't answer the throttle. Close the choke and fiddle with the throttle lever and it dies.  Now, apparently this means that the settings are lean, potentially dangerous, so all that remains is for experiments in further, deeper cleaning of the carburettor and adjustment of it's needle valves until we have a smooth idle and some degree of control from the throttle lever.

BUT....we have a mower that now starts, runs and mows.  Once I can do the whole lawn it will look wonderful!  But before that, I have to pick all the mushrooms on the front lawn and carefully get rid of them without spreading their spores further still.

Older mowers, with English bits are a joy. The engines, once adjusted and looked after are bullet proof.  The rest of the machine will have been made of Sheffield steel and therefore will last forever.
Over Winter when, I assume, the grass will give me a break for a while, I will strip it and repaint, so it looks better than new, next Spring.

And then I will start looking for a British Anzani Lawnrider.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Super Colt or Lawnrider?...

It will, by now, be fairly obvious that I am more gardening than I once was.  Indeed, I wrote a long blog entry about our greenhouse only 2 days ago, but it has not appeared and I can't be arsed to do it again.  Up yours Blogger.

Today, a relatively new acquaintance delivered a petrol mower to me in his lowered, blacked out, re-mapped Transit van.  Don't yer love a lairy pensioner? A score (20 quid) changed hands and we barrowed it round the back for a look.  As far as I could tell, the leaky petrol tap needed replacing and after I'd taken the exhaust off it needed a new gasket.  Together I have shelled out all of 6 quid off ebay!  I await their delivery.  By the weekend, I hope to be mowing our considerable lawns with my 60s Suffolk Super Colt.

And whilst I am I try to find, and will continue to do so,a British Anzani Lawnrider. I'll settle for an Eezimow if I have to, but only as an eventual stablemate for the ultimate mower, previously mentioned.  I mean how could you NOT fall completely for this:-
Be still, my beating heart!
Turns on a sixpence, sounds good and will be the nearest thing to a Frazer-Nash I'll ever own.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lantern Yard back on the horizon...

About 9 years ago, when we first came off the canals and back on the bank, I had a fancy for making a mini-layout.  I actually did 2.  One was a 1/32nd scale narrow gauge effort called Havengore showing a little fisheries supply line. I loved it, but it was going to be too big so I gave it to my friend, who then died shortly afterwards. I imagine his disinterested son-in-law burned it.

The other, Lantern Yard, was the earlier effort and was intended to show off some of the model cars and locos I'd made for various customers.
I have a strong dislike for 009, so was half disinclined to use 9mm track at all, but then I did rather like the 09 stuff I'd done for N-Drive and there was no getting round the fact that I'd done a large number of 0 scale model cars too.  I also like the scenic side of 0 gauge, so I knocked up a likely base to include a canal wharf and lock and a little bit of 9mm track, to be well buried, so no evidence would remain of its Peco Crazy Track origins, which is where I think my hatred of 009 began.  Also, I don't believe in "playing trains".  I.E., nothing moves on my layouts.  They are, indeed, set-pieces...little invocations of a time and place.
Ergo...Lantern Yard.
Bear in mind this is already 9 years old and damp has not been its friend!

Canal wharf on the left, then a canal lock, for which gates are already made.
The well buried track will be part of the foreground to the buildings, which are a workshop in corrugated iron and a blacksmith's house. At the other end is a cafe, already made.  The boat will be the all pearwood model I have half made of our old boat Heather Bell, working as it normally did, as a solo motor, saving me the hassle of making a butty to go with it.  
The fact that this is coming out of hibernation tells you that despite some unseasonably late hot weather, Winter is a-comin' on, one way or tother and that's when I start to have scenic thoughts.
In the years and damp a lot of the road surface has fallen off and the hot glued card strips which form a base for the contours have also loosened.  I normally epoxy coat them, but hadn't done that this time.  They need to be changed anyway as the buildings demand a different sub-base now.

More anon.