Thursday, 21 October 2021

Too Funkey

This week Himself's been doing a bit more work on version 2 of Vale of Ffestiniog.

Most of it is stuff you don't immediately see, such as making sure the body is sitting level and square on the Farish diesel chassis, and matching it up against its clone to make sure the ride height is set correctly.

In this front view you get a good look at some of the extra details Himself adds to these Worsley Works body kits.

The most obvious is the light clusters down near the buffer beam abd in the centre above the cab windows.

He's also fashioned the lip around the hole for the coupling shaft as well as the handrails, vac pipe and - new on this version - the lamp bracket in the centre between the lights.

Unfortunately - I think - this version won't have the lovely big twin headlamps because in the form he's chosen, it now has a rather less impressive set of square LED lights, much the same as those on the recently restored Garratt 130.

At my end I have cast the large fake bogie side frames and I'll hand those onto him the next time I'm passing.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Multi-Shade Shunter

For a humble yard shunter the Dinas-based Baguley Drewry number 9 carries an exotic mix of colours.

Himself is making solid progress adding the green and orange sections to the yellow base on the body.

The very fine band midway up the cab sheets has been covered with a waterslide transfer and will most likely be picked out in the same darker shade used on the top of the bonnet.

The orange on the rods and fly cranks certainly helps them to stand out and will look great when it's moving.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Pegging Out

I'm always amused by how often common household objects take on a second life as handy modelling tools.

Last night I found myself raiding the washing line to use the pegs to hold together parts of the cardboard Metcalfe Models platform kit I was making up for my son's 00 side of the 'test track'.

It wasn't just the pegs.

I later stole the brass weights from the olde worlde scales in the kitchen to help keep the strengthening pieces in position while the glue dried.

These weights are regularly employed when I am resin casting to keep the clear plastic in place on top of the open mould and give the casting a nice, smooth back.

There isn't any more narrow gauge news to pass on this weekend.

Himself became separated from his magnifying visor during the week, which he left at my house after another wiring session on the test track, so small scale fiddly work was out of the question until I was able to return it to him.

Friday, 15 October 2021

The Vale Again

Himself has decided we need another model of the FR's Funkey Vale of Ffestiniog.

We've had a model for years, built from the Worsley Works scratch aid kit, and finished in the National Power livery it first appeared in after the magnificent rebuild by our much-missed friend, Steve Coulson.

In recent years, though, the loco has sported a two-tone green livery looking just like a 1960's class 47, and it appears Himself would like one for us too.

Unfortunately it's not a case of just building a new body to swap onto the existing chassis, because the 'blue brick' had a light grey underframe and bogies and the repainted one has those bits painted black.

I thought this might be an issue, because the Farish 91 chassis is like hens teeth to get hold of these days, selling for silly money on eBay whenever they appear, but I had forgotten that many years ago Himself invested in a spare, so that's what will go under this one.

He's been working on putting together the body, with it's very tricky angles, and correcting the errors in the kit such as the over-long roof.

My contribution will be to cast the new side frames for the bogies.


Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Englands Glory?

The appearance last week of images of decorated samples of the Peco / Kato FR England models has been greeted with almost universal acclaim in the online 009 community, so I suspect I am not going to make myself very popular by giving a more nuanced appraisal of what we've been shown.

Like everyone I am overjoyed to see the appearance of a ready-to-run model of my all-time favourite narrow gauge engines, and I have no doubt at all that these will be a terrific commercial success.

They look to be night and day by comparison to anything that has been possible with the many kits produced over the decades, and for that the designers and manufacturers are to be congratulated.

As far as can be seen from these images the finish looks to be superb, and there's no doubt they have captured the look and feel of these iconic FR locos, and I am very pleased indeed to see the very distinctive Small England wheels have been replicated, and the motion - although apparently not to the fish belly profile - looks suitably slender.

The lining looks crisp and the rivet detailing delightful.

Do you sense I'm building up to a but?

You're right, and more than one.

Judging from these pictures I'm left with a nagging feeling of frustration of what might have been if the makers had gone the whole way and striven to make the most accurate representations of the individual locomotives rather than compromise on a generic tooling.

Let's face it, if there's just one thing readers of this blog must have realised by now it is that identical' is not a word in the FR lexicon!

To begin with let's look at the most obvious example on this pair: the nameplate on Prince.

It's the same length as the one on Princess.

Since when? 

Anyone who has cast even the most cursory glance at the real locomotives, or any photos of them, surely cannot miss that the plate (and mounting block) on Prince is so obviously shorter.

I'm sorry if this seems harsh, but when they've gone to the effort of fitting different smokebox handrails on the two models to not find a way to alter the nameplates is a poor show.

The slidebars and the mounting bracket also look a little toy-like from this distance - a bit too much like what we've got on the ancient Ibertren chassis under our existing Langley white metal kits.

Other reviewers have picked up on the whistles and the lining around the rear of the cab.

These may seem like trivial complaints, especially in the context of the decades we have waited for manufacturers to discover 009, but the reality is that now that they have these compromises on models such as these are not where the rest of the market is.

(They'll still fly off the shelves, though...)

When this project was announced there was great anticipation of the Kato chassis, but I see now this model will be fitted with a traction tyre - is this the 1980s? - and I have seen conflicting reports about whether or not it will be DCC ready or even DCC compatible?

Let's not pretend that it's because the model is too small.  Bachmann have found a way to make room for decoders in their Quarry Hunslets which are tiny compared to the capacious saddle tanks on an England.

That won't affect whether or not we'll buy some - we surely will - because our layouts are DC, but some of the translated literature suggests the prototypes have hauled 3 (!) Peco carriages on level track, even with their rubber tyres.

That's a little worrying if, like us, you have a layout with gradients. Hopefully something was lost in translation there.

Ultimately, I know what is at the route of my comparative disappointment at this model.

It was an open secret that another manufacturer was intending to make 4mm models of these locomotives - indeed, had gone so far as to measure them up - and it would appear that these models were announced as a spoiler.

Well, I guess all's fair in love, war and business, but I believe what we have ended up with, in this very pretty, slightly generic England, is a far cry from what we were likely to get (eventually) if the other firm had been left to it.

And that's a shame.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Showtime Again!

A very exciting email arrived in my inbox at the weekend confirming not only the return of the Model Rail Scotland exhibition in Glasgow in February, but also an invitation to bring Bron Hebog.

Needless to say we jumped at the opportunity to show the layout for the first time in nearly two and a half years.

(I don't mind admitting that there have been times during this pandemic when I wondered whether we ever would again?)

On a personal level it seems quite weird to be thinking about returning to those giant SEC halls for something as frivolous as a model railway exhibition.

For most of 2020 the place had been transformed into an enormous emergency Covid-19 hospital, and right now the place is in the process of being turned into Fort Knox as the venue for the Cop26 climate change summit.

Come February, all being well, our Backwoods Garratts will spend three days coffee-grinding their way around the S-bends with what must be the longest and heaviest 009 trains you'll see running on any layout in the UK.

It's a great show, and Glasgow's a great city.  It will wonderful to get back to exhibiting, and we'd love to see you there!

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Covid Safe Carriage

I'll never get tired of making the argument on the treatment of the FR's modern relics - such as Earl of Merioneth and the tin cars - that things which happened yesterday will one day become tomorrow's heritage.

This is probably what lies behind my decision that our model of the replica carriage 21 should be made with the temporary plywood 'covid safe' compartment dividers in place, rather than its 'historic' - and future? - condition with fresh air between the seat backs.

Horrible and traumatic as it has been, I think it's important that in our relief at getting back to 'normal' life we do not discard the memories of what we've all been through.

The FR's response at the height of the crisis, and the operating model which was adopted, will, I believe, become seen as a very significant moment in the railway's history.

I'm not privy to the thoughts of the railway's management beyond what is shared in public communications, but I can see the sense in retaining many of the aspects of the way the business has been forced to operate for the last two seasons, such as the use of pre-booking tickets to match operating capacity (and costs) to demand.

Who knows if public sensibilities will change permanently, and whether from now on passengers will prefer to have a solid physical divide when sitting back-to-back with strangers in a narrow gauge carriage?

But presuming that these temporary panels will eventually be removed, I think it's only fitting that we have a reminder, in model form, that represents just one of the many changes we all had to accept as a society to get through this.