Thursday, 30 June 2016


Himself returned from holiday last week to an unwelcome surprise.

It turns out that a layout which has seen 25 years on the road at exhibitions, many months in storage and a 400 mile migration to the other end of the country cannot survive 10 days with a home alone cat!

Not only has the moggy demolished the Up home signal he's also left a generous covering of fur all over the layout and, as you might be able to imagine, cat hair on flock and scatter sticks in much the same way as Velcro.

The local farmer is also going to be submitting a claim for compensation, no doubt.

Why was the cat anywhere near the layout, you ask?

Unfortunately the new premises have a major architectural flaw in that the cat flap is in one of the garage doors, so he has to have access 24/7 as a through-route for when nature calls.

Here is a snap of the culprit looking all innocent, by the way.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


I've been rather lax in letting my stocks of styrene strip dwindle, which means that quite often at the moment I'm finding I don't have the right size just when I need it.

Such was the case the other day when I wanted to add a big, bendy pipe which sticks out of the big box underneath 117 and disappears up into the carriage.

In fact, that's a lie. I did have a small piece of the correct size tube but it was old and brittle and snapped when I attempted to put a 90 degree bend in it.

So what to do?

Eventually I had a brainwave. Speaker cable!

I sliced off a section of one half of cable, stripped out the multi-strand from inside, leaving just the soft sleeve and inserted brass wire in its place which could be bent to hold it in shape.

The sleeve was almost exactly the same diameter as the styrene tube I was going to use.

Fixed in place on the model it doesn't look half bad.

And it was an awful lot cheaper than buying a new packet of the right size styrene tube.


Sunday, 26 June 2016

Boxing Night

Carriage 117 is at the stage where there are seemingly no end of small jobs to finish it off, such as the various bits and pieces which live beneath the frame.

It starts off simply enough with a couple of basic boxes which I knocked up in a spare hour the other night.

These will have to have various bits of pipework, large and small, connected to them.

The larger one, I believe, contains the diesel-powered carriage heater and the smaller one is the fuel tank associated with it.

I am always open to correction, however.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Seating Installed

I can report back on my rather pricey tube of glue and..

..I'm quite happy with it, actually.

I doesn't quite give you the full 60 second adjustment time 'like it says on the tube', but it's not a completely instant bond and I was able to shift the seats and tables slightly after I'd dropped them into place.

I think this may be the last knockings of the old mould for the seat units, however, because the tables came a bit taller than they should have done.

Well, 1mm or so, anyway, but it makes me think that perhaps the rubber has stretched a little as the parts have been removed each time.

This meant I had to go through the rather dull process of sanding a little off the bottom of each casting on a sheet of sandpaper before gluing it on.

Otherwise it all went quite smoothly.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Last Of The Big Spenders

I invested a small fortune in glue the other day.

A whole £6 on one tube!

I needed to go and lie down after that.

(I blame a glimpse of sunshine after a wet weekend.)

The reason is that I've been looking around for something to fit together resin components that offers the solid bond of regular 'Super Glue' and yet allows for some adjustment, but doesn't take at least half an hour to set like the alleged 5 minute epoxy I used last time.

Last year I did come across a gel 'Super Glue' that did just that but I was unable to find it in any of my local hardware stores.

Instead I found this, an apparently 'new' product - hmmmm - which promises 1 minute of wiggle room but with a brand name which suggests it will stick like sugar to a blanket.

Well, we shall see.

I shall report back on my findings.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Late Alterations

Whilst Himself was on holiday I sneaked into his study and liberated the Disco Car from the workbench in its half-painted state.

You may remember from a couple of weeks ago that I discovered that deep within his pile of research photographs was the perfect close-up picture of an end of 121 showing exactly what cables were dangling where.

Unfortunately this was only after I had 'finished' the model and some of those details had been added on a best guess from some very poor resolution images.

So what I had put on the left hand side was, as far as I could tell, a sort of disconnected, upright pipe arrangement.

The trouble is having seen this photograph in his study I find it very difficult to unsee incorrect details like this and so even though he was already well into the process of painting it I felt morally obliged to try and fix it, even if it means making a mess of what's already there.

Now, at least, there is some sort of cable hanging there, even if it isn't a tightly spiralled one like the real thing.

With a lick of black paint no one will know it was never there before.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Chicken And Egg

What carriage should come first?

That's the question I'm posing this weekend.

Harbour Station's pride and joy 150 and its more humble companion 125 come as a unit.

As grand as it is, 150 is no use without being marshalled in a train with a vehicle with a brake setter. (And essential comfort facilities for its First Class passengers.)

They're next on my agenda after I've finished the Superbarn saloon 117 but the question is which should I build first?

In reality it was the Obs which was the first to emerge from Boston Lodge, although it was not fully fitted out for over a year.

The Service Car, however, would be the more straight-forward project from a modelling perspective.

I have a few weeks to mull it over, so in the meantime I'll open it up to you to let me know which one you'd like to see me tackle next.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Allocated Seating

I haven't had much time to progress my latest Superbarn carriage since I last posted about it but I did have a spare hour last night to clean up and assemble the castings for the interior.

I always used to find assembling the seats and tables from scratch each time a bit of a bind, unless it was one of the more unusual carriages, so I've been very pleased that I hit on the idea of casting a combined seat and table unit which can be arranged together in multiple to fit out a carriage in half the time.

The units at each end have to be chopped in half to fit but that's the only alteration which is required.

I'll admit it's not the most finescale solution, looking more like something you'd find in a Triang carriage from the 1960's, but once it's in place inside the model and running on the layout you really can't tell the difference.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Aaaand Stretch!

One of the hazards of casting is that the rubber moulds deteriorate sometimes at unpredictable rates.

This was brought home to me again this week while I was turning out a small run of Superbarn castings.

The carriage sides are mirror images so they require separate masters and moulds for the clock and engine side (to use FR parlance).

As you can see, however, one side has turned out noticeably longer than the other.

This is because one of the moulds has stretched.

(I did check and, yes, the masters match perfectly, and so too does the smaller side which is still the same length as the original.)

It's possible that it has been through more casting cycles, perhaps as a result of some mis-casts? - or perhaps there was some variation in the ratio of catalyst in the rubber mix so affecting the density of the cured rubber?

Whatever, the only solution was to make a brand new mould, delaying production by at least 24 hours.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

White Heat

I'm trying out a new resin.

My previous supplier has decided to drop it from his range so I've searched around and ordered a similar product from another firm.

They charge an arm and a leg for delivery - a flat fee which works out at around 30 percent of the cost of the product - but the actual resin itself should be better value for money.

I've rather pushed the boat out and ordered in bulk - well at least in my terms - but the bottles I have received contain four times as much gunk as the size I was using before.

To give it a try a couple of evenings ago I decided to cast a few table and chair sets for me new Superbarn.

The first thing that struck me is that this chemical combo has a much reduced 'pot life' compared to the previous stuff - it was going opaque inside the mould within a minute of being poured.

Some of that may have been because it was a very warm and slightly humid evening.

It also dries to a bright white colour whereas my previous resin set to various shades of cream depending upon how long it had been in the bottle.

First impressions, however, are that it will be an adequate like-for-like replacement.

It needs to be given that I am somewhat over-stocked with it!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Rubber Time Again

I'm about to cast another handful of Superbarn body parts after receiving a couple of requests.

I don't sell them as a regular kit, like the wagons, because it wouldn't really be practicable to cast a floor chassis.

The way the parts fit together and the nature of open back casting means that each carriage has slightly different internal dimensions.

We're talking tiny fractions of mm but enough to make it easier to shape your own styrene floor rather than alter the harder resin.

Anyway, I thought it would be better to make some new moulds for the door and end parts, and the bogie detailing, as the previous ones were a little tired.

They should be ready to use by the weekend.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Spot The Difference

Once again 'Waller's Law' - which states that no two FR carriages are identical - has been proven to be true.

I have found the difference between Superbarns 119 and 117, but I had to do it the hard way.

The prospect of a couple of hours modelling time over the weekend was the perfect opportunity to tackle one of the jobs which requires a lot of concentration and, ideally, no interruptions: bending and fitting the truss rods.

I've been expecting to be caught out ever since someone - who should know better - told me the two latest carriages (117 & 118) would be identical - that was the word he used - to the previous one (119).

And in most respects this appears to be the case, but if you stare closely at underframes, as I do (that's underframes) then you'll see that 117 is a new hybrid Superbarn.

The truss rods, in terms of the point at which they disappear behind the frame, are the same as the first series (103, 121 & 108) but the design and position of the supporting posts is the same as 119.

As you can see in this photo below.

I didn't realise this, alas, until I had spent an evening making up a set the same as 119 with the ends of the rods staying below the frame and being anchored in boxes at either end.

So I had to spend some of the following afternoon ripping off the old ones, re-bending them, drilling yet more holes in the floor and fitting them.

And now a well-placed source tells me that 118 is going to be different again.

As the kids say these days: Sake!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Parlor Game

Quite frequently I find my attention diverted to a wish list of carriages I would like to get around to making models of.

Around ten years ago this carriage might have featured quite heavily.

Once it left the FR for its permanent home on owner Adrian Shooter's private railway my fever faded and it was relegated from my Fantasy Ffestiniog league table.

Since it returned this year for an extended stay in Wales, however, it has been appearing in my modelling daydreams once more.

The body sides and the ornate interior would be an interesting challenge but the big question is whether I could summon the talent and the technique required to tackle that clerestory roof?

How would you go about it?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Boring Structural Bits

There's been some unspectacular, but nonetheless important, progress with my current Superbarn project.

The frames on these carriages are very obvious feature and I represent these by adding thin extensions onto the underside of the floor piece.

The extra thickness gives more support to the bodyside and makes the structure more robust as does the false roof I've made to support the top of the carriage which is the flimsiest bit of the body shell.

Normally I employ the false roof to mount the ribs which support the styrene roof skin but it's not strictly necessary on these carriages because we use a brass roof on them.

However it is still useful help keep the top edges square and straight and when glued in place it goes a long way to preventing any twist occurring.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


It isn't only Boston Lodge which has a problem producing identical carriages.

Left to my own devices there's every chance my latest Super Barn 117 would turn out rather differently from the previous one, 119.

Fortunately, now that Himself lives just a few miles up the road, it is easy for me to raid the stock boxes and get hold of a previous model to aid my memory.

Although the body sides have been cast from the same moulds there's lots of potential for deviance when it comes to things like the depth of the frame which sticks out of the bottom or the detail of the bits and pieces beneath.

So it's invaluable to have it on hand to refer to and cross-check against, the only challenge is to make sure that it doesn't sustain any accidental damage which is all to easily done around a workbench full of sharp tools, bottles of solvent and a house inhabited by young children and a periodically psychotic cat.....