Friday, 30 January 2015

Any old iron...

Well, actually, no.  This is a very rare fibreglass '50s Special body, an Ashley.
In the 50s and 60s there were many fibreglass bodies made for the impecunious car fan so that he could convert his Austin 7 or (in the case of this one) his Ford Popular into a racy bird-puller.  A kind of parallel development to the American Hot Rod fad, but much lower key.  Ashley, along with Falcon and Rochdale were amongst the most successful. In fact this chap tells me he has 2 Rochdales as well, somewhere amongst his packed buildings.

In front of the Ashley is a pair of moulds.  The front one screams Frogeye Sprite, because of the curved bottom edge, but the back, I really can't decipher.  The owner thinks the front is a Lenham, but I'm not too sure.

And finally, a very odd machine.  This is a dock tractor, used for hauling barges around.
It seems to be mainly aluminium and is fitted with a 1500 cc Ford pre crossflow engine, a la Corsair.
Apparently it has a huge rear axle which contains a worm driven diff section.  One assumes this is to allow the quite small engine to develop some useful torque.  It was normal to see these things doing all of 4-5mph.
Of course, all around, under and on top of these is junk, iron and otherwise.
Fenland is full of such places.  Nobody throws anything away.  You should see inside the big shed they're all piled against!  Not every day that you can just alight upon an unused Eaton supercharger for a Mini Cooper (a proper one, not the BMW travesty)

But for weathering details and junk piles, please regard as simply good reference.  And if you can replicate that slightly translucent, mossy, filthy fibreglass mould look, please tell me how.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

L'ordinaire deaux...

As promised, a bit more ordinary stuff seen locally.  And once again, these buildings fanning out to the road have not been touched since I've lived here.
No mystery with this group as they were originally a nursery and embryonic farm market.

This, I think, was the shop
This is interesting in as much as the brick piers are fashioned from bullnosed bricks, something that I wouldn't expect to see on a simple rustic building.  Good old Critall steel window frames.

Then there's just a garage-like building in the centre

And finally a more interesting, bigger 2 story building of, I would venture, greater age than the other two.
I love the add-on at the end, but the top loading door and the piece of railway rail buried in this end wall must have a story.

The whole site is only about 100 feet square.
It would suit old cars much better than flowers.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

L' ordinaire...

It has to be said, I am a very vernacular old Hector.  I have far more interest in the lowly, the small time and the cranky than the grand.  Partly because I can't make models of the grand.  No time, no space, but also because I look at something that's ONLY intended to impress and I tend think "so what". Sticking another wing on the old palace is no more impressive to me than an Essex builder lashing a bigger outboard to his ski boat.  It's only when the palace becomes a rural shithouse or the ski boat becomes a Dispro or a harbour launch that I get interested.

Ever since I have lived in these parts (about 26 years) there has been a place on a tiny back lane near Pingle Bridge that housed, 'twixt sharp bends, a property whose business has never been remotely obvious, which has never shown the slightest hint of occupation, yet which has some remarkably fancy iron gates.
Look at those uneven bricks, Iain.  Fancy that?

I would imagine it was once a car repair shop.  I'm thinking repairs on the left, spraying, maybe and office on the right.  But then, there's not space enough to raise a finger lift in either.  Bodywork only, maybe?  The only difference in what you see from what was here all those years ago is that the van and Cavalier in the yard couldn't have been there then and that a Rover 75 used to be behind the gate.  They have come and gone, respectively in the ensuing time, still with no sign of humanity.

BSC??  Well made, but home made, gate signs.  Could it be an outpost of the all pervading British Sugar Corporation?  A major employer in these flat, beet filled fields.  A bit small for a bulk carrier to be fixed.
Barrington Septimus Corrigan?  Nah, never 'eard of 'im.  Those are proud, if unaeshetic, gates.  Three of them.  This place meant something to somebody.  Those tall outside lights speak of a need to sometimes work outside, or at least have security on something that was maybe left outside.

I really must enquire of some locals.  Except the nearest neighbours are a quarter of a mile away.
I'd love it!  So would my son.  Old cars!
I will report if and when I find any info.  I know you're all busting for an explanation.

Travelling a little further round I couldn't resist this, the least grand building you're likely to find, but a real feature of the fields round here.  Probably because there is so far to walk to civilisation for the field workers to spend a penny and so little tree or bush cover for the more demure to squat behind.
The field-corner privvy
Nearly every larger field has one round here.  Clicking on this for a larger image will show a very odd effect.  Entirely due to the angle of the shot and the fact that the "bog" is made of thin tin or aluminium, it appears to have been drawn round and plonked on the picture of a field.  Not so, I assure you.  I wonder if these were bucket and chuckit loos or were they proper earth closets.  No means of digging it out behind.
I love how we cover such delightful bucolica on this site.  
Do come back!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

MRJ 236...

Okay, some are not going to like or understand this, but...tough...
Today I bought the latest MRJ as it appeared to have some good content at a glance in the newsagents.
Well, yes, it has more than a lot of issues have, but...
The main feature is of the layout known as Black Country Blues, a combination of various peoples' skills to represent the Black Country in the 70s.  Now, having canal boated several times twixt then and recently on the BCN I can understand why that might appeal.  Industrial dereliction, tatty environment, grime, wastelands, it all should appeal to scenic modellers.  I neither know nor care about scale operation or signals, so I'll leave that side of it.

To me, a very good layout overall is spoiled by basic errors of modelmaking that really DO matter to me, in a high end project by people who one would expect only the best from.  Firstly and completely avoidable with just a little care...the Cobble Question.  Long retaining walls of moulded brick sheet that sparkle edges at you like a wall of cobbles, all for the want of a bit of 240 or 400 grit stuck to a piece of wood and rubbed vigorously over the sheet before it is used.  Flatten the bricks until they barely show, PLEASE!  Then stick it on.  Bingo, no cobbles.  So many layouts that have achieved the accepted levels of greatness are guilty of Cobble Question, including Birmingham New Street.  That is P4.  All that trouble over track and wheel standards, only to have walls of modern buildings covered in cobbles, sparkling in the sunshine from rounded edged bricks.  Bricks are not round edged even on the oldest of buildings, except where they are worn that way.
Go beyond the cobbles and you meet Corneritis, face on.  How can people bother about mortar colour and brick weathering when they make no attempt whatsoever to create continuity of courses round corners?  At least blend the sheets and file the courses round, even if you ignore Queen Closers and Half Batts.  Nobody wants to see a vertical, irregular joint 'twixt two sheets of Slater's brick sheets. Come on, anyone should do better than that.  I've seen brick paper used more intelligently.
I have had my grievances with Andy York, Heaven knows, but his lonely canal cottage at the back of the layout is completely free of Cobblitis and is far and away the best building on the layout and would grace any scene, so credit where it is genuinely due, to my surprise!

The canal, which seems to be very well modelled, what I can see of it, has cracks all over the water surface like some Old Master.  I imagine that has happened subsequently to its construction, but it needs sorting, desperately.  Nice to see properly modelled ground paddle furniture though.  Some of those paddles are seriously stiff!  It would have been nice to see Caggy Stevens with his 'Oss standing by one of his day boats too.  Caggy was using an 'oss till the late 80s.  We have a report he wrote in barely legible English about our boat, Heather Bell, in which he says, "Oi ave knowed HB for 40 year..."

Alignment.  I noticed a lot of structures way out of line. Bridge piers, concrete panelling, bay windows and the like.  That really grates as you look through the photos.  It takes no more care to line stuff up as to leave it, well...pissed!

I make these comments only because I get a bit annoyed when something is supposed to be amongst the best and clearly isn't, especially in a £4-20 magazine!

Next up, Black Lion Crossing.  Well, I bought a recent copy of MRJ to see what the fuss was all about. I'm still waiting to find out!  It's all very "nice", but seems to me to lack atmosphere.  I know Geoff Kent has been involved in some real "classic" layouts, but this one?  I don't know so much. The crossing gate is cock-eyed, but is nicely made.  I haven't seen an overall view of the project so it's difficult to tell what it all should look like.  It is claimed that the model is almost 100% scratchbuilt, yet most of the vehicles are either kits or diecasts, the fuel pumps in the grossly overhyped garage scene are Dart castings, etc.  That ain't scratchbuiling, I'm afraid.  And most of all and possibly the main cause of the lack of atmosphere is the road.  No camber and FAR too clean.  I think the jury is well and truly out on this one.

Then there's a mighty 7mm scale Garratt, but blow me if it ain't from a kit.  I was so looking forward to a nice scratchbuild article.

Nice little article of tiny details by Geoff Kent.  Architectural mainly, well photographed and observed.  Good captions too.  Almost worth the cover price.

The article on accurate 5" gauge wagons (apart from the gauge, of course) is impressive.  I just wonder where these people have what is, in effect, a 5" gauge train set!  But I bet they have fun if everything is as well made as the wagons in the article.  And there was I, thinking 16mm scale is too big!

Drighlington/ Adwalton hit me with electronics and storage yards, so I flicked over.  Sorry, but nothing could interest me less, apart from Blue Diesels, money or football.

And finally, good ol' Gordon Gravett, obviously unimpressed with Lifecolour's Lichen and Moss Combo set.  Glossy fixers in lairy colours and what appears to be yer average chopped sponge scatter which has been given an extra wizz in the coffee grinder, makes neither moss OR lichen in any remotely convincing way!

Anyway, a nicely edited issue, by Roy Jackson.  Only some of the content was flawed.  But at that price I would want much higher quality content on a much more regular basis to buy it every time.

A quality day...

I managed to drag Chris and our grandson Owen out for the morning in the icy sunshine.

After meeting a customer in the Lamb Inn in Ely last week and glimpsing a nice looking market  in town I thought a return trip would be in order.
Once again, I got stuck behind someone in a black Merc. observing every speed limit to the letter.  I think someone was driving Miss Daisy.

Finding the last spot in the Short Stay Car Park, we strolled down High Street, taking in some wonderful old independent shops.
Then came the market and the quality side of things.  I didn't know it was a Farmers' Market.  And one the like of which I've never seen before.  There were stalls selling gorgeous food with a banner up giving the Farm name.  Almost immediately a stall selling pies made from local Longhorn beef and local Beaver Ale, with or without a bit of Stilton.  Chris isn't big on cheese so she opted for the basic Beef and Ale.  We're having pie tonight!  Then some big fat organic fruit scones.  A man was making spicy samosas in front of us.  And Ely Gin in every conceivable flavour, distilled locally.

Then there were the cheeses. Oh Goodness.  I had to have a small wedge of soft cheddar with grated Horseradish, but next time, I might go hog wild there.
The fish stall!  Oh, Lordie.  Chris bought herself a bag of cockles and I had two kippers for lunch tomorrow.
Organic artisan breads.

Little Owen got a tiny aeroplane with a watch in the front, from a quality second hand bits stall, "so I'm never late for school", he assured us.
The inevitable bag of fresh cooked doughnuts finished off the buying spree, whereupon Owen accused, "Grandad, you're spoiled rotten".  Then got a clear plastic, gold handled sword full of jelly beans from Nanny, which he immediately insinuated into parts of me I'd have preferred he hadn't!

I picked up a copy of Model Railway Journal, which I shall report on later when I've read it.

So, there we are.  A sunny but very cold day in the undeniably posh and expensive, tiny city of Ely, but a joy, nonetheless, visited just because it was there, finished off with a Burger King lunch because kids don't do tea shoppes for lunch, let me tell you.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

At last, a base!...

Indeed, at last. Clearing the storage caravan, I found a piece of wood the right size to get the garage and workshop on their own base.
It is high time.

Now, I'm not one for huge amounts of acute planning. I always have a good idea of what I want in my head anyway and after 20 odd years I ought to have an idea, didn't I?

So, with a clamp holding the smooth surface down with some white glue (I waste nothing!) I scribbled the details on the Melamine surface.  Passing the garage this morning, I noted the different surfaces involved.  They're mainly hard packed gravel in front of the workshop, going to ridged concrete in front of the office, where the pumps were.  There is also a brick built planter in front of the office and there used to be a panel fence of sorts to the toilet side of the office.  Then grass to a low wall.  In the early days there was a big Nissen hut built there which was the local Caff, called the Shack. Alas I have no space for that and few photos.
These two buildings are the extent of the diorama.

Behind the buildings the Well Creek is but a few feet away and indeed boats have often tied up for provisions.  The undergrowth is a bit wild there though, these days and will be shown as such.  I ripped through the board edge with a hand held circular saw set at its biggest angle, after this shot.  As you can see, the rear wall of the office is not helped by undergrowth and a broken gutter.  This was modelled on the building about 25 years ago!  I can't even get round there now!

I had a play with cracked paint techniques a while back and these are the buff coloured folding doors and the grey pair that go in the two workshop entrances.

The base will have layers of 1mm Foamex stuck down to represent the different finishes.
And that'll be about it for this weekend as the sun is starting to leave what has been a glorious bright if chilly day.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

New signs for an old garage...

I am sticking like glue to my decision to not do customer work at weekends.  Even on a freezing day like today, I resolved to stay indoors and if I went in the workshop it would still be stuff for me that I did.  Then I got comfy and played some cards with the know how it is.

Then, that appalling piece of corn who really should be pensioned off, Harry Hill, came on and I had to make my excuses and leave the room or the flat screen would soon have been considerably flatter.

I've had some prints of garage signs from my son for a while. I got them off the net, but he had to do the compiling and printing.  I don't even have a printer and have no idea how to do compiling.
Anyway, I thought it was time to get them on the old garage model that's been kicking around for ages.
So I started by cutting them out and spray gluing them to some 10 thou. styrene.  Then I gave them a sealing coat of Mr. Hobby UV Cut Flat, the best spray matt varnish I've ever used. Stupid name, but wonderful stuff.  Once that had set, I scraped some of it and the print away to get small areas of scaly rust, which I touched in with a couple of browns from Vallejo.
This was an excuse to try out my new coffee grinder for making my own powders.  Why on earth does anyone waste time and money with all the ready made stuff, when all they are, are ground chalk pastels?  Been doing that for decades.  But in a coffee grinder, the pastel turns to something approaching smoke and takes about half an hour to settle.  I only had a dark grey pastel handy so whizzed that up and when settled poured it via a folded bit of gloss paper into an old spice jar for safe keeping.  A slight flickinf some of the powder over the signs' brighter areas took the new look off them.
More spray glue fixed the signs to the building and that was it.  When I have some more colours I'll touch up the attachment areas, as they will have been there for years.  Odd bits of greens round the edges, that sort of thing and a wee streak off the edges on the underlying brickwork.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with them.  Long overdue.  I do think people sometimes overdo the weathering thing and so these are obviously old but not wrecked.  I have some original enamel signs on my shed and they're like new!  But then, I do wax them...more than my car!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Current projects...

People often ask me what I'm working on at present.  It's always more than one thing because I like a bit of variety.
The main thing on the bench, on and off, thanks to the time it takes PVA wood glue to set is this narrow boat.  It's for a chap I usually do rally cars for.  But it's a gift for his friend who is having this boat made for himself and his wife.
This is the basic framework in the process of being planed to shape, ready for the main panels.
Rough as a rugby player's arse so far, but I don't waste time making invisible parts pretty.  It'll be beautiful when it's done.

Then there's the Pilatus PC12 master.  Fuselage halves being engraved and filled.

Wings having flap fairings added.  More filling!

And finally, the two last slot cars for a very good customer, but there really isn't any money in making and super-detailing kits, even if I did make the masters.  At least these two (H-16 BRM and Ferrari 801) have proprietary chassis that fit well.

And this miniature is where it all gets done, except for the lathe in the shed.  Just too damned cold over the shed.

Numbers, statistics and damned...

Many of us have blogs these days, but how many of us check the stats facility?
I had a quick click around today and found that the page vies were at 47,000 odd.

Now that surprises me in itself, but what alarms me is why anyone from China, Taiwan and the Ukraine would have any interest in my blog and it's a considerable number.  Are these the places from whence comes all the spam I receive?

I suppose we can't help who looks, but I'd wager they ain't model enthusiasts!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Another year begins....

Think back to when you were a kid.  Such a date as 2015 would have been in the depths of Eagle magazine's future archives.  It would have been a projected date for something shown by Tomorrow's World's Raymond Baxter, bless him.  The old, posh Spitfire pilot telling you of things to come.

2015...sheesh.  We'd all be wearing roll-knecks in fabrics that needed no washing,  wearing communicators on our wrists and flying around in personal hovercraft that made a noise like the opening track on Moody Blues' On the Threshold of a Dream.
So far the roll-kneck has come and gone, sweaty armpits still need washing and we have only just got a wrist phone, my son has one.  Personal skycraft like cars?  Dream on.

Damn, it's over 50 years since I first heard the Beatles!

Happy 2015.