Saturday, 17 February 2018

From the village pump...

Where I now live is a village where Thomas the Tank Engine was born, albeit in better days. Thomas was an offshoot of the earlier Toby the Tram engine.  Toby used to trundle up to 40 full fruit vans along the rails at the top of my road. I could even have seen it from my garden at a squeeze.

The Rev. W. Awdry, teller of the above tales,was the village rector.  Most of the other inhabitants are the village RectUM.  Chavs, under class, pond life of various degrees who think nothing of tumbling down from their perches dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns, in big Bird Boxes.  You know, those Boxes on wheels that birds drive. I believe the manufacturers like you to call them SUVs.  Nothing else is even advertised these days.  And the ghastly, over-weight, ugly, slack jawed, knuckle dragging, aggressive, fishwife-mouthed dregs who infest this village all drive one.  Deciding which bedware to take their spawn to school in the morning, they leave their fat little sprogs in front of the telly, possibly watching the latest iteration of Thomas that Disney wants them to see, in order to keep them quiet until they shoo them off to school in those same Bird boxes, where they park in such a way that the bus can't get through that part of the village, even though the lazy sluts could easily walk the offspring so short a distance and do themselves some good into the bargain.

Thank God we live on the very edge of the village and only occasionally have to venture into the centre to buy essentials or use the Post Office.  Fortunately by the time I go to the Chinese Takeaway, most are gone, watching their favourite crap on the TV.  I have lived in other villages and know many more, all were very pleasant, but this one takes the biscuit. Thank heavens we can shut our front door and ignore that Chav Central exists just down the road.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Downsizing perhaps...

I apologise to my tens of followers for the long gap in blog updates.  I've been busy with the Vincent motorbike master and slot cars.  Yes, my huge collection of body shells for which I made the patterns going back years.  So, I joined various Facebook pages concerning slot cars and found them all to be so very friendly and helpful. OK, I was helped by one or two in the railway world, but I couldn't take all the kit snobs. The daft sods prepared to spend a King's ransom only to end up with the same pile of bits that anybody else could have.  THEN spend the same again on the extras like wheels, gears, motor, paint, decals, weathering, und, und, und....I hate all that nonsense.  And the fact that scenery still hasn't scored more than 3 out of ten on the necessity score chart.  Laser cut buildings costing a fortune, yet looking like they came off a robot with their horrible regularity and miss-matched corners.
Nope, life, I have finally discovered, is too damned short to have some old fart's better pension rubbed in my face, followed by their comfortably fat arse in the ticket queue at some cloned exhibition where the kit envy and kit snobbery reach spoken fever pitch and those who have wrangled online can finally insult each other face to face.

I decided that I actually rather enjoyed not merely making model car patterns, but moreso restoring some old Revell slot cars that a good friend kindly gave me for my last birthday.  I lapped up piecing bits of styrene and Milliput filler putty into previously chewed out wheel arches.  I loved that people on the pages would offer their spare bits to the project.  Getting it all primed and painted and decalled up looking pristine again.  And I don't even have a track!  Or a local club.  Doesn't matter. I now have a fleet of 50 year old model cars that still go like the clappers but look better than new.  Then I was given a spare Stingray body so I'm turning that into a Gran Sport, a rare version of the Corvette that was parked next to us in the paddock at the Goodwood Revival.  Boy were they LOUD.

I have a spare GTO body too, so that will become Sir Stirling Moss's lime green version, with lots of detail and probably a home made chassis from brass, or maybe the one my son has 3D printed for me on his machine.
Then it seemed to me that I ought to have the cars I had as a kid all those years ago.  I now had the Revells with their revolutionary "can" motors, so how about the Scalextric vintage Bentley and Alfa Romeo, the Airfix Lotus for which I'd paid 13/10d.  Or the gorgeous 1964 GTO that Monogram made and then licenced to MRRC, my favourite make.  Asking around the pages I found a GTO, a complete kit sent to me by a friend and a spare body he wanted me to modify into a different version for him.  A cheap Bill Thomas Cheetah came from Spain, another MRRC body.  That's gone on an ancient Supershells chassis courtesy of Tony Condon, who wrote the history of slot racing a few years ago and recently bought the entire stocks of SRM/Supershells.  The wheel inserts and tyres came for that today  Guess what I'm doing tomorrow.

And I got that Airfix Lotus.  2 to be precise, in immaculate original sets for a great price locally.  So now, all I'm lacking is the MRRC vacuum formed Stingray body to put on my VIP Club Special chassis. That will leave just a Microperm motor which I built into a carved balsa wood Ferrari 158 in 1965 and won a big F1 open meeting against adult opposition at Runnymede.

I have quite a past in model railways, yes, but they're all dead or gone and it counts for very little now, but when the oldest friend you have (we met on the first day we ever went to school), Steve, goes to the trouble of contacting you via PMs on a slot car forum after 46 years AND makes the effort to meet up and have a drink and a chat, I think my days in slot racing are more important, so, I shall flog off what railway stuff I have that is saleable and my R/C gear which belongs to a now unaffordable hobby and I  will spend it on wheels and tyres, guides and gears.
All the huts and sheds I've made for model railways can be put on my son's 1/43rd scale hillclimb track pretending to be Marshalls huts and paddock cafes and I will build a track on one of his spare doors, hinged to the wall of my workshop.  One day there may be a club in this area like there used to be.
Me, second from right with that Corvette vac-form.  Steve (Uncle Albert on here) far left.  Note the ties, folks.  Around 1964.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Several orderly lines, now...

Have you noticed how apologists for modern technology get so very narky if you question their little babies?

I made the point, on a model forum, that all I ever see are wishy-washy, "Land of Grey and Pink", (pale blue and grey really) impressions of a model, not the actual piece.  Their excuse is they can't afford to have everything they design made. Well why design it then?  Am I suppose to buy something on the strength of a pretty if whispy picture created by the computer?
Well anyone can show a pretty picture of what they hope the thing will look like, but, of course, it never does. It's always covered in lines, steps, interference patterns and all the other problems with 3D printing which, one day, may be corrected, but which, currently, are no better than they ever were and yet they expect us to pay high prices (always in dollars) for this stuff and overlook the appalling finish just because it's "high tech."
Well, I have news for you techies. The highest tech thing you'll ever truly come up against is the human eye and even my old ones tell me all this 3D printed stuff is garbage, unless it's done on very high resolution machines, which take a LONG time and therefore cost a fortune for the finished product.  Heaven knows the ordinary rubbish is expensive enough.

Just because you can sort of do something, doesn't mean you should.

Stereo lithography is a different kettle of fish though, but only just beginning to be affordable.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Pull up a chair...

When I became acquainted first with the Festiniog Railway (old spelling) I just accepted what I saw.  It wasn't until later that I realised one of the reasons the FR looked so grown up and proper was that the track used Bullhead rail in proper chairs.  All the others (except the Penrhyn, which had already gone) used flat bottom rail spiked, with or without flat plates for the rail to sit on.
So, now that I find myself with some old GEM kits from the period when I first saw the railway, in the distinctive 5.5mm -1 ft. scale, I need to display them on a bit of correct track in a scenic set-piece.
So....I had to make brass masters of the two kinds of chairs the FR used, so my local chum can cast some up for me.  Very little is made in 5.5 mm scale.

The two types were S shaped and slightly smaller, rectangular, both 2 bolt.
They slide on some of the excellent Peco Code 75 rail and hold it well.
Someone suggested the railway had got rid of most by the 1880s, but a quick look on the 'net scotches that assertion!  I will NOT model the FR with modern flat bottomed rail with either spikes or Pandrol clips. It's hideous.  Bad enough that I have to use FB rail on the Southwold set-piece, but there I have no option, but on the FR?  Not a chance.  It's why, despite my liking for Tom Rolt, I would never model the Talyllyn. All spiked track...Yuch!!

See what I mean?...Proper track on the FR.  This the bit I'll probably model.  Known as Pen Cob . It's the end of the cob...a mile of embankment from the Harbour Station at Porthmadog. In front there is Boston Lodge, the company Works.  I used to wander round there at will in the 60s. Now, you can't get near it due to H&S Nazis.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

I don't care who lives there, it's mine, I tell you!...

A recent dialogue on a model railway Facebook page has uncovered somebody else who used to stay at my favourite B&B in all the world.
This is Bryn Mawr, a "Gentleman's Residence" to the much grander Plas Tan y Bwlch, down the road. Built in 1843 by the Oakley family, massive mine and land owners in the area of Maentwrog, North Wales.
We stayed for two holidays with the redoubtable Mrs. Roberts in the village of Maentwrog, a charming old lady we found by chance, the first time we just took off for a holiday to Wales.  My Dad never booked a holiday because he never knew when his work would thin out enough for us to go away.  So he'd come in one lunchtime and tell my Mum to pack....we'd be leaving that evening and driving overnight to Wales.  He fancied Wales. We went up via Lake Vyrnwy and Bala and ended up going past the then new Trawsfynnydd Nuclear Power Station to Maentwrog.
Mrs. Roberts fed us like royalty, put us in feather beds and assumed we would be going to church (chapel!) on Sunday.  Only time we ever went to a normal service in our lives.  Mum had to borrow a hat, which she never usually wore.  The thundering bloke up front (what do they call Welsh chapel vicars?) gabbled on for what seemed like hours in Welsh and no doubt had a good dig at the English while we were there.  The following year we were told with near apoplectic apologies that she was full for the week and all she could suggest was a "nice Liverpudlian family who planned on opening Bryn Mawr as a B&B having just bought it in a bit of a state."  We left Mrs. Roberts to her guests and chapel and found an imposing Victorian pile up a steep entrance drive. Dad pulled the Westminster round in a lazy arc and almost immediately a shiny sleek Red Setter bounded round us and peed on every wheel. This, we would come to discover would be a ritual he never forgot, every time we stayed.  Some years we went up three times a year. Sometimes just once.  In those days you just went away with a cursory call to the school or maybe a note if you had time. We never did and, of course, I never missed a thing, such was the snail pace at which anything happened at Romford tech.  And anyway, if they wanted professional PA equipment for their damned sports days, they'd button it and wish me a nice holiday.
On fussing Rex the Red Setter sufficient to allow access, we were welcomed by George Brake and his wife, who explained that we could stay in the one room available if we didn't mind the smell of paint.  So captivated were we by the house, the dogs (don't forget Pepe the untrimmed poodle who never moved from the threshold when people appeared) and the Brakes, that we agreed to anything he asked.
In fact, over the length of that holiday we helped paint three rooms, which Dad then plumbed safely, as he did the kitchen.  He then found that the Lister Autostart generator needed a good going over, so he fixed that, mechanically and electrically.  All this and we still got a holiday.  When we left, George refused to take a penny.  Subsequently, we stayed another 12 times, always working on the house in some way and always never being charged. Only on the final occasion did we actually pay as the Brakes had decided it was all a bit much and they'd had their daughter's wedding to pay for and were regretfully moving on.
As soon as we realised we would be unlikely to stay again, we missed it. Because of the weather that last year, my Dad refused ever to go again to Wales!  We went once as a family when I now had kids the same age I was then.  I couldn't even get up the drive as they'd fitted gates and they were locked. I couldn't do more than show my family old cine we'd took of our holidays there. Of Dad's constant efforts to take a picture of the place, but he could never get a view from a distance, unlike now.  Apparently the grounds lost 450 mature oaks in a storm of 2013.
Long before that, "MY" house had been bought by that effete, fat, stargazing mincer, Russell Grant.  I was told that by the manager of the Oakley Arms in the village when I decided to ring him off the cuff one day.  I emailed Grant, but of course, someone like him would never answer.  Now he's trying to flog it, or maybe he has.  Had to drop the price too.  Apparently the daft sod spent half a mil on a bloody kitchen!  Chances are he don't even cook!  The Lister Autostart must have gone too.  
We always started the day by running round switching lights on until the familiar wheezing noises resulted in a pulsing light and dim effect until it all smoothed out to a rythmic chugging. At night, the last light switch would have it slowing down to a final wheeze and all would be calm.

Who owns it now I neither know nor care.  They will NEVER appreciate Bryn Mawr like we did.  They simply wouldn't have the ability or reasons to love it as much.  They will have shelled out 1.25 million for it, with everything sorted, done and dusted.  George paid about 4000 for it back then and had all the fun of simply making it work, with our help.  Alison's Welsh fiance told us where to find the best beaches (Borth y Gest) and how to get into Portmeirion for nothing down the side of Bertrand Russell's house or round the headland from Boston Lodge.  We took the Festiniog Railway from Bryn Mawr's own halt, took Rex up the hill for walks or over on the river for a swim.
It will always be MY HOUSE.  And bollocks to Russell Grant and his kind.

Monday, 13 November 2017

More than a shed...more than a hut, even...

I have been unhappy with the modified Nissen hut I made as the blacksmith's son's workshop lately, so decided a new one was required, especially since finding a picture of and modelling the office, so here it is. The basic shell of the car and mainly 'bike repair workshop.  Based on this one:-
Thanks to whoever put it up.

I didn't quite have the width for this one, so reduced it a little, but it'll take a very good model of a Mk. 2 Cortina with the doors slid shut, so will be just fine for the kind of vehicle he's used to.
Once again, made in Foamex, but this time I have played with impressing a stucco finish with coarse sandpaper, rolled over the surface.  The roof is styrene and will be done as sheet Asbestolux.  No gutters as there's overhang enough to drain off into a ground gulley.

I also have a petrol pump which I made years ago from my own etches, so that can go on there and be used for the trains and the boats.  Being red diesel it'll not be used for lorries. 
Believe that, you'll believe anything!
Doors are made to hang from a girder so they can be shown slid open or kept shut, so a little interiority may be necessary.
Here seen with the new Yard Office.  The beginnings of a point can be seen being set up with PCB sleepers.  I hate making track.  I have no idea how to wire it or operate it!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Frank Lloyd Wright built canal yard huts?...

I'm sure all you intelligent, well read souls know that the American architect of mainly big posh houses, Frank Lloyd Wright was known for a couple which had the mountain as the back wall.
Imagine my amazement, when I saw this on the 'net:-
Whoever put it up, thanks.

Lantern Yard has a rock formation at its back edge and I wondered if there might be a chance of building into the rock for a Yard Office to go with a new workshop.  I never thought for a moment there really was one!
I put this up on a forum and was told all about copyright crap...AGAIN!  So, because I can't be arsed with these turds anymore I deleted it. No bugger was interested anyway, but then, no bugger's interested with what's on here either!  I don't care. I don't give a toss about locos, kits, playing trains, all that stuff. It's just showing off by people with fat pensions.
Anyway, I liked it so much I made it.  OK, I had to trim the roof back a bit, which is a shame, but the larger wagons would be rather close to it. I might be able to extend what I've done a bit. As you can see, the roof's a mess anyway.  My version has to be a bit degraded to be real-looking.  I'm assuming the extra corrugated where it's a bit saggy is over an afterthought of a small privy for the Yard Manager.  Just the gutter to make and fit now.
The enamel paints are mainly in the office of a primer, as the gouache or acrylics I detail with don't stick well to the neat Foamex.  The roof is hand pressed aluminium foil from Chinese takeaway tubs, which can be bought in piles, cheap from supermarkets.  I press them with a modified coffee stirrer in a "mould" I made of styrene rod. It makes a single, scale sized sheet of corrugated tin.  Here, they have been assembled and trimmed to fit the rock behind as have the Foamex end walls.
The Foamex has been impressed with the back of  scalpel blade and a thick steel rule.  Corners are mitred so the blocks can appear to be going round the bend, as am I.  The blocks are scale 440x 225x 100Napoleons.
Window frame is to represent an old Crittal steel framed job with opening lights in the middle and is made of Plastikard Microstrip.  Do they still call it that?  To go with the steel window, I've used more ally foil bent into an L shape for the cill.
I think the difficult part will be getting a grubby white finish, bearing in mind there was no brilliant white before PEP came on the market.  So I have to make this off white whitewash, gone grubby.  Wish me luck.  
I really am becoming Mr. Hut.  My neighbour when I was growing up really was called Mr. Hutt!