Saturday, 30 May 2020

Spring Planting

Himself has switched to scenic work and put up the central section of Bron Hebog.

Over the winter he made up another batch of trees but it’s only now he’s got around to placing them on the layout.

Some have been planted around the Cwm Cloch lane bridge.

Others have been dotted in the area of the S bend in the middle.

Trees are not his favourite job but there’s probably a few more still to be made.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Maen Over Matter

I’ve been turning my mind to another challenge to tackle over the summer - and challenge is definitely the word.

Since I first saw it I’ve been captivated by the Maenofferen tank waggon, but the shape is like no other tank you’ve ever seen before.

Until this week how to tackle it was an academic question, but a passing comment to the FR GM that one day it would be useful to get some key dimensions for it resulted in him conducting an immediate security check on Minfffordd Yard, tape measure in hand.

So now I don’t have any excuses left.

I’m thinking that I may try to shape a slice of styrene to match the end profile, then cast it a few times and stack them to make a one third segment of tank, and repeat the casting process with that.

These larger sections could also be drilled hollow to save weight.

It all sounds like a lot of work but I don’t have any CAD skills for 3D printing, and anyway, that’s cheating, isn’t it??

Tuesday, 26 May 2020


Himself has so many projects on the go that I never quite know what’s going to be pinged across when I request a photo update - today it turns out he’s begun building the flat DZ wagon parts I supplied him with a couple of weeks ago.

These are required for our disassembled Garratt transfer train to carry the boiler, bunkers, cab and power bogie.

There’s some nice brass work being added such as the unusual vac pipe arrangements.

One problem he’s come across is that many of the flat wagons have been rebuilt into other kinds of wagon over the years and it’s very hard to know what to number them, so it will probably be the case that these will run unnumbered.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Halfway House

Himself is reaching the end of the arduous job of lining out a Pullman observation car.

I’ve seen quite a few models of Gwyrfai crop up on my social media - including brass body kits and 3D prints - but I wonder how many will be finished off to this exacting standard?

The transfers have been quite a challenge this time.

Our favoured Fox products appear to have been updated, so whereas before some were a little too big, but just about fitted, now they definitely don’t.

So we’ve had to mix and match and with the help of an FR friend have obtain a sheet of the secret 3mm scale decals exclusively produced for members of the 3mm society.

These are what we’ve ended up using for the crests and also the name.

This was a bit of a saga.

The Fox sheets of old used to give you blank borders and alphabet sheets to make up the name of your choice - nowadays you can only buy sheets with a selection of ready-made names.

Himself tried more than once to slice these up to create a blank box and individual letters but - unusually for Fox products - the transfers broke up as he tried to apply them.

Perhaps just a bad batch?

So he’s ended up using the 3mm versions, which turned out to be a tiny bit bigger!

As the kids say - whatever!!

It’s going to look fabulous, isn’t it!

Friday, 22 May 2020

Weather Forecast

Livingston Thompson is now lined and varnished, but sadly for Himself there’s still one vital step left.

Due to the rather ropey quality of the Langley white metal castings he tells me it wasn’t the easiest lining job but it looks pretty impressive to me.

The blank space where the nameplates used to be is looking quite effective too, and even more so when it is made to look more rusty.

With the darker green and the dirty black paint it certainly looks nicely dull, but it’s just too clean.

Himself’s challenge now is to weather it so it looks suitably rusty and forgotten about.

This is not the normal look for our locos so he’s mugging up by watching a teach-yourself-weathering DVD before he starts.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

10th Anniversary

We’ve reached a milestone!

I realised the other day that it’s now a decade since I began writing this blog, and for someone who’s never managed to keep any sort of journal going that seems like quite an achievement.

These were some of the first images of the layout I posted in 2010 when we were still in the foothills of an epic project.

I believe they were taken at a narrow gauge show at Sparsholt College but my memory may be playing tricks.

At the time we only had the station and its immediate approaches built, with just the most rudimentary landscaping, so it was just a shuttle service in operation.

We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years - quite literally in Himself’s case! - and it’s very satisfying to know the layout is now effectively complete and that the process has been documented here in thousands of posts.

Ironically, the very reason I began blogging was the realisation that it would be many years before we were taking a layout to exhibitions again - with Dduallt retired - and going online seemed the logical way to still be able to share our modelling and make sure we weren’t forgotten about.

Now here we are in 2020 with all exhibitions for the foreseeable future cancelled.....

Monday, 18 May 2020

In The Nick Of Time

We’ve just had our worst case yet of ‘Boston Lodge Syndrome’, which is what happens when a modeller gets caught out by the craftsmen in Wales not following the script.

Himself has been progressing well with the painstaking job of lining out the new WHR observation car Gwyrfai when he sent me an alarming late night message saying “Er, shouldn’t there be a window above the door at the back?”

A quick google search confirmed the worst.


But how did that happen??

I dug out the drawings and it became apparent it had happened again....

Between us we quickly concluded that the only possible remedy was to drill holes in the styrene panel and file to shape.

It was a high risk strategy that could ruin the whole model of it went wrong.

Fortunately, Himself has pulled it off (at least on one side) with only minor damage to some lining which can be repaired.

What puzzles me most is that no one involved in building the real carriage - who I know read this blog - warned me.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Modern Image

For perhaps the first time since we began modelling the FR back in the late 1980s we’re within touching distance of being up to date with the output of the carriage works.

I’ve begun building Welsh Highland saloon 2048.

The real carriage is far more advanced than this, being in the final stages when the Covid shutdown happened.

I’m making it using my long established “ladder technique” with styrene strip.

The basic idea is not to attempt to cut out windows but to fabricate the body side through a series of upright sticks topped by a long horizontal bar.

Neither do you need to bother about pre-cutting the pillars to length - get them all in place then mark the height, lay a ruler along the top and chop them to length.

You’ll also notice I build it on a sheet of glass with a scale drawing beneath to get the positions right.

I’m the case of 2048 it also has toplight windows which are added in after the cant rail has been fixed on.

This does require some hyper-accurate cutting to get the pieces to be a snug fit inside the gap but you can slice incredibly fine slivers with a sharp scalpel blade.

This is only stage one. Next I’ll be adding the beading detail on top as we built the laminate structure.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Backhead And Bunkers

Progress on the unknown Garratt has been rapid.

Himself has rebuilt and detailed up the bunkers which have been given a coat of dirty black all over.

They look not unlike some of the parts of Pete Waterman’s 109 while it was stored in bits at Dinas, but this deconstructed loco does not have a formal identity.

The boiler has had its cladding bands fitted and treated to a coat of red oxide.

It’s lost it’s chimney but has gained a backhead.

The original white metal casting has been lost along the way so I made a copy in resin of the part from our last unmade NGG16 kit, along with some cylinder covers.

Handrail knobs complete the look.

Himself has been able to salvage one bogie from the wreckage and used some ingenuity to attach pony trucks.

It will have no coupling today but those huge cylinders and the big fly cranks are there for all to see.

 We’ve definitely made something out of nothing here I think.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Fairlie Colourful

Himself is in the early stages of painting Livingston Thompson

The challenge with this one is to make it look convincingly neglected as if it has spent 15 years in Minffordd Yard.

At the moment it has been given some initial coats of dirty black and green and posed in its train formation with Earl of Merioneth and bogie wagon 63.

This time Himself is using Railmatch standard loco green in place of our usual Humbrol number 3 and it does look a lot duller.

The nameplates are just tacked in place because the finished model won’t have any - just rusty oblong patches where they used to be - so they are just there as a marker for now.

I think it’s going to look very effective and hopefully quite a conversation starter, whenever exhibitions resume.....

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Splitting Up

It’s time to reveal more about our plans for the rather sad looking Garratt we showed you a few days ago.

Himself has dunked the various parts in paint stripper and cleaned off a lot of the excess solder which has a remarkable effect.

As I wrote before, the power unit chassis are beyond any attempt at repair so this will be a static model, and to make it more interesting why not show off the unique thing about the Garratt design - the way you can spilt it up into different bits!

We’ll most likely mount the boiler, cab and bunkers on flat DZ wagons and have the central cradle resting on ambulance bogies which can all run as a train transferring parts from Boston Lodge to Dinas, or the other way round.

How we explain the lack of braking on the cradle combo I haven’t quite worked out yet....

Friday, 8 May 2020

The Green Van

A little progress update on Van 51 which Himself has been finishing off.

It looks good with the FR crest applied on the side but until it is sprayed with satin varnish it obviously looks too shiny.

I’m still not convinced by the current infrastructure livery, and although in this livery it apes the plain green which some of the four wheelers spotted in the early years of the revival - including new Van 1 as was - I always thought the red suited it better.

Still, regardless of the colour, another brake van is always a handy thing to have in a fiddle yard, the challenge will be to make sure our 3 different versions of number 1 / 51 don’t appear at the same time....

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Building Maintenance

It’s strange sometimes, isn’t it, how the simplest jobs are the ones that take you the longest to round to doing.

I can’t remember how many months ago it was when Himself asked me to repair the window in one of the farm buildings which he’d put his thumb through.

Ten minutes with some strip and Mek Pak and the job was done.

Monday, 4 May 2020

When A Garratt Goes Wrong!

Those who know me know that I tend to be one of life’s glass half empty people - neither am I much of a gambler - so I’m not really sure what possessed me to take a punt on a very secondhand Backwoods NGG16....

Pete always said he knew that a proportion of the kits he sold would end up in drawer and never get built, and unfortunately it's the case that there are also a few that never get completed, either.

I knew when I was offered first refusal, and sent some pictures, that it was never, ever going to be a runner, and my interest from the start was only to see whether it might be useful as a potential source of donor parts should something catastrophic disable one of our fleet.

This was never going to be a narrow gauge Galatea, but what I couldn’t know until it turned up was how much of it would be salvageable?

The answer is not a lot!

The modeller who first tried to build it (not the person I bought it from) clearly got themselves into a bit of a pickle with it.

For example, it would seem that in soldering on the fly cranks they succeeded in melting the plastic wheel centres.

(For a tip on how to avoid that read back through our posts about building 130)

Perhaps that was the reason they subsequently attempted to fit a Farish 08 chassis in its place, obviously without success,

You might be wondering what possible interest we would have in acquiring the remnants?

Well, for a start there's the two Mashima motors, which are now out of production and so always very handy to have.

A lot of the gears on this kit were unused, and you may recall that when we bought the very last Backwoods NGG16 ever produced we discovered two of the crucial double gears were missing.

In the end we got it working after discovering identical gears on an old Ibertren chassis, but it illustrates the value in having a stock of spares.

Finally, we can used the body to make a some fun features for Bron Hebog.

My initial thoughts are to have the bunkers placed in a DZ wagon - perhaps with one of the power bogie chassis units minus valve gear - and even the boiler unit and frames could be mounted on ambulance bogies to be towed around the layout at slow speed?

It's only usually done to move bits of the Garratts around the site at Dinas, but we're allowed to have a little fun sometimes aren't we?

Saturday, 2 May 2020

First Class Job

It’s the turn of Gwyrfai for the paint shop, starting with the interior.

Something to note is the way Himself has tried to replicate the panelling on the ceiling and the lush carpeting and exposed framing of the armchairs.

The exterior has also had initial coats of plum, and cream on the doors, and soon it will be time for the painstaking task of applying the Pullman lining transfers.