Percolating at Beamish

Nothing for months and then he gets the gift of the gab. Guilty as charged.

In this first installment its been fun playing trains at Beamish Museum for The Great North Steam Fair. This is the third year I have been involved and they’ve let me play with their trains. The first and second year I was sort of there looking after visiting Festiniog engines. This year I was either driving the home fleet or the visitor from Statfold.

This year the steam fair was 6th to 9th of April. Four days of things steamy and mechanical. If you’re used to the normal Steam Rally this will leave you dissatisfied with them in future. Five different railways all operating, frequent tram service, vintage bus service, steam lorries, traction engines, rollers and vintage lorries all moving about the site. Other engines working equipment as they once would have.

My main steed for the three of the four days was this contraption. It’s a Head Wrightson Coffee Pot of 1871. The steam fair was the first time its steamed for two years having been out of use needing a boiler re-tube. With the usual “in the deep end” training program i.e. “just get on with it, it’s a steam engine”. I got to drive it Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

It might be just a steam engine but its different. Its geared so the engine goes around about four times the speed of the wheels. Its parked out of gear so the first challenge to moving is getting it into gear. Its got no injector so you have a steam powered pump to maintain the water level. The regulator gets stiffer as the pressure rises and its a very wet engine making a hat a must. Continue reading

IT’S ALL THIS MANS FAULT!

Well, that was a bit of an EPIC weekend. The 25th & Final Narrow Gauge South West Exhibition. I’ve been to most of them, starting as a demonstrator and then as a trader. In all that time I have known Howard Martin, the organiser and fellow modeller, and we’ve been good friends throughout.

Anyone who knows Howard will know he’s had a few medically challenging years lately which make achieving the 25th show an even bigger landmark than the simple number would portray. For a few years, through the worst of it, he’s been determined to do the annual show and set himself the target of getting to the 25th show and making it a cracker. Now before I go any further I need to make the point that it isn’t just Howard that does the show, he has a loyal band of helpers but I think they would be amongst the first to say its Howards show.

There has been a thread on the Narrow Gauge Online Forum in the run up to the show promoting it. Another started after the show has loads of photos of the 65 layouts at the show along with lots of comments saying, basically, cracking show shame it was the last. I wanted to add my bit to that, and I have commented on the forum, but I felt the need to say something more. I felt 25 years needed marking.

What to say though? So, I sat back and thought about it for a while and then I realised something. Continue reading

Xmas, Coffee & Holes (lots of holes)

Christmas message time I guess. Lots of them about so I’ll try to be different. Once upon a time before I did EDM Models as a full-time escapade Christmas & New Year was a break from the day job but rarely restful. It usually consisted of the minimum time possible spent doing family Christmas stuff and the earliest possible escape to North Wales.

In the past I have driven the boxing day trains, rebuilt loco’s valve gear and organised epic working parties to build complete double engine superstructures in ten days flat. More recently it’s been a case of making and packing orders right up to the last minute for all those `proper blokes’ who’ve left their shopping to the last minute.

Bad news for `proper bloke’ this year, the old days are back. Its already too late for anything that’s not on a shelf as I am not doing any more installs or manufacturing before the New Year. Tuesday the 20th is the absolute last chance you have for `in stock’ items as Christmas in Wales beckons.

I will wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and I look forward to all sorts of new stuff in 2017.

OK, so now on to the coffee nonsense. Well it started with a picture on Facebook of this bit with just the caption `Sneaky Peaky’. Friends in the know then commented and the 2nd one was “Taken during your coffee break…?” which was quite a clue really.

Not for some though as the following guesses were way cold.

 

Due to a pressing appointment with a pub in Wolverhampton the guessers were left hanging for a day but were eventually given another clue.

 

This gave the game away and the first response correctly sussed the clues out.

 

 

 

The crankshaft is part of the engine fastened to the boiler of the Head Wrightson Coffee Pot that runs at Beamish Museum.

Last summer a boiler tube failed and to get the engine returned to service for this season the boiler was lifted and sent away to the Severn Valley Railway for re-tubing.

It returned on Friday 16th December collected by the lorry that has taken Glyder’s boiler for attention.

The lorry carrying it is equipped with a Hiab crane which first lifted it to the ground where the transport cradle and other bits that stick out were removed before then being lifted into the frames. There’s quite a bit of commissioning work needed to put it back together but it should be running next season.

 

 

 

So why did I make the special trip to see this?

I’ll just leave you this clue

 

 

 

Finally, holes. Lots of holes!   The last episode of this blog showed our tacked together new body for the granite tipper with the comment “Lots of holes now need to be drilled”.  With me making a trip up to Beamish and Matt working in the evening driving a Christmas tram we declared the afternoon a mini BINGE working party and made a start on the holes.

The angles we tacked into the bottom of the hopper were marked for drilling in key locations and then removed from the wagon. Some dodgy maths sorted the spacing for the rivets and more positions were marked and centre popped.

The angles were then set up in the radial arm drill and drilled through.

At the end of the day we got the angle back in the body and clamped in place with some bolts ready for the holes to be drilled through into the plate work. 80 holes done, plenty more to do but hot rivetting gets closer.

On a BINGE

Once a upon a time a binge might have included excessive drinking but not these days. Not for me anyway.  So, “what are you on about?” I hear you say.

lillaBINGE in the way of needing an acronym for everything refers to Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers. BINGE is the volunteer group that works on the narrow gauge railway at Beamish Museum in County Durham under the leadership of the Keeper of Transport. Its not a tremendous coincidence that the majority of us are also Festiniog Railway Volunteers or that the Beamish Railway has operated, on loan, assorted examples of the smaller FR motive power.

Less well known, probably, are the restoration efforts of the group. Again these are a mostly a collaboration with the FR, this time with the Heritage Group. The FRHG vols have restored an impressive array of slate waggons for the gravity train with a load more wagons still to be restored. Having tired of doing some waggons more than one all their recent activity has been directed towards building a toy box to keep the toys in. This is a really impressive shed now approaching completion.

toyboxIt is a very splendid facility that should mean waggons get overhauled just the once and then, stored out of the weather, they should only need TLC for many years to come.

That said the line of un-restored waggons is long and will take a long time to work through the pending line.

As a result a deal has been done for four granite waggons and a ballast tipper to come to Beamish.

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The deal is something along the lines of “you do the upper works up and you can use them for a bit” [there is a formal deal in place for their restoration, loan and return] These two photo show you what arrived. In one you can see the four granite waggons which are slate wagons with boxed in bodies fitted so they can carry stone whilst the foreground of the other shows the very moth eaten side tipper.

As delivered they were only used very sparingly as a major area to be worked on is refurbished couplings. Moving them involved some avant garde innovation. It wasn’t quite blue hairy string but it was close.

granite-2

 

One wagon (978) has been tackled and completed so far. This involved completely stripping it down, removing the granite extensions and boards then then refurbishing everything bar the wheelsets and axleboxes.

We’re not doing the wheelsets because our line is proper 2ft whereas the FR is 1’11 5/8″ and the worn (knackered) profile suits us. The FR waggon gang has evolved from making the best wagon out of several knackered ones and has cast new wheels and has stocks of CNC machined axles so they’ll get a wheel overhaul on their return to Wales.

done

 

978 was completed in time for the 2016 Great War Steam Fair in April. Seen here in the workshops it was moved down to the railway for the steam fair and ended up carrying timber rather than granite.

 

tipper

With one granite done it was decided that the next one to be done would the steel bodied side tipper #830.

As you can see in these photos its looking a bit worse for wear as it arrived. Its now been moved from the running line up to the workshops.

[Beamish is a bit like a model railway with the historic public areas where we try to keep things in character but then off scene in the fiddle yard there are modern and well equipped workshops]

 

scrap

 

Like most things it had to get worse before it could get better!

Reduced to just the chassis and even on that bit several bits need patching or replacing. The floor varied from see through to non existent.

 

 

needle-gun-and-grinder

 

There was much needle gunning and wire brushing of bits as well as cleaning of parts ready to re-use. Plan “don’t touch the wheels and bearings” has gone out of the window with waggon #2 in the restoration. We’ve found that 830 has one bearing so worn the wheel flange rubs on the floor so, not wanting it to wear through our new floor it’ll be getting new whitemetal poured in and machined.

All this destruction was our early November working party.

For the late November bash there were only two and a half of us (one doing half a day rather than a short person) and we managed to do something a bit less destructive

All the bits of the wagon that are being re-used have been grit blasted and primed and then given a further coat of paint. New steel has been bought for the floor and the hopper and we’ve started making the new hopper. In the pictures its been tack welded together and the angles temporarily bolted to it. Lots of holes now need to be drilled through these parts as well as a load of holes in the new floor which should keep the last WP before Christmas busy as we’re aiming for a hot riveting session early in the new year.

At the moment we don’t have an operational steam loco but that should change during 2017.  More about that in another post sometime.

Steam Trains – Lots of Steam Trains

If you’ve read this blog or get my EDM Models newsletters, you’ll have got a bit of an idea I do a bit of driving of steam engines. Here we are at the beginning of November and I’ve realised that I have done quite a bit of driving and have been too busy to write about it.

dsc_0499There’s been three lots of playing with the real thing but it started with some of the toy variety. September starts with Guildex, the O Gauge Guilds two day bash in Telford.

In my logic York to Telford, well that’s half way to Wales so I head for Boston Lodge after the show for some driving on the FR although I have learnt my lesson now and not booked to drive on the Monday. Some rest is needed. Continue reading

AMS Short Caboose

The new AMS 0n3 & 0n30 Short Cabooses (Cabeese?) came and went this week.

4-side

Only about four years after they were supposed to be ready but finally arrive they did. I had twenty arrive and nineteen of them were spoken for before they got here. The 20th one is the subject of this initial mini review.

The review model is: –

AM53-0133 Short Caboose in D&RGW Flying Grande Livery numbered 0501 and is 0n3 gauge

1-New_BoxFirst up is new packaging compared to the earlier releases with a plain white card box with just one end label.

Simple, plain and no frills but can be a pain if you want to get it all back in the box once you have part two of the packaging out.

3-Clam_shellGone is the expanded polystyrene inner of old in favour of the clam shell type clear plastic inner so many are using now.

It does hold the model really well whilst isolating it from shocks to the outer box. It is a real pain to get back into the card box and get all the flaps shut though.

4-sideFirst impression are that its a nice model and whilst I haven’t checked it to drawing it looks about right although one or two bits do seem a bit over sized but I suspect that is a manufacturing compromise.

 

4-Underside

One to watch for when you take it out of the box are the four bits of foam pressed into keep the bogies from rattling about in transit.

I thought I might have to slacken the bogies off to get them out but they pulled out with a pair of tweezers. Once out the bogies are free to rotate.6-threequater

When you look at it more closely you start to realise its too clean. I am sure that when it came out of the shops all that white work may have been shiny white and squeaky clean but that wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.

That said its the work of moments to tone it down

Now this is me getting nit picky. Actually maybe its just me expressing personal preferences but some parts of this model won’t survive if it does stay on my roster.

7_couplersCouplings:  0n3 and 0n30 couplers are quite different in size as the usual 0n3 item is properly scaled for the model and set higher than an 0n30 one whilst the 0n30 coupler is basically an HO one at the HO standard height.

The industry standard is the Kadee with a different one for each scale

AMS have decided to try and produce one coupler that does both and what they have come up with isn’t very good in either. It couples and stays coupled but doesn’t look right and doesn’t auto uncouple reliably. Its not very good at coupling either as the jaw and centering spring is way too strong. They also protrude from the end of the car to allow sufficient clearance on train set curves.

For reliable operation I’d change it for a Kadee 148 in HO8-ends or a 803 in 0n3. If it stays this one will get San Juan EVO couplers. The overscale and rigid representation of the air hose will be replaced with a San Juan rubber one as well.

Clearly this model has to be a compromise between fine scale model and practical survival on a model railway and to that end some of the details are a bit beefy and over scale.

The handrails appear too thick and could be replaced with wire but I think some judicious weathering will do the trick

This last photo is a comparison between the AMS car to the rear and a San Juan version to the fore (which I should have dusted before taking the picture). The San Juan car is one of the limited edition ready to run versions of their kit.

So which do I prefer? Well, I think it would have to be the San Juan one for the finesse of the details but I spent a lot of time getting it to run reliably. Then they’re not available today and would probably cost a lot more. The kit would be about 85 quid at today’s exchange rate.

Price for the AMS version? The first batch arrived at £79 but that was the pre vote price (see my other post on exchange rates). We’re estimating the next batch imported will be £90.

So, will I keep this one? Probably. I am thinking, EVO couplers, decent brake pipes, a Soundtraxx SoundCar decoder, speaker and keep alive. That will also provide interior lighting and marker light and then a battered look paint job. I have no idea when this might happen though

9-compare

Credit Cards and False Ideas About Security

This issue is becoming a bit of a bugbear and its clear that some people have got entirely the wrong end of the stick. The conversation goes like this…….

“I’ve phoned you with my order because I don’t want to use my card on the internet. Its not secure”

Well I am sorry but if you’re paying by card then its going on the internet! Why?

Website CheckoutIf you order online at our website then you’ll see a form like this. You fill it in with all your name and address details and then press “Place Order” and at that point my website shunts over to Barclays website where they have top level security and its their system that takes your card details. This is secure as it gets.

I don’t see your card details. They never enter my PC. I have no record of them and I can’t access them.WWW

Barclays send me a `token’ which is basically saying they’ve checked you’re good for the money and that I am OK to pack and ship your order. When I have done so I process that token, again on their website and again I don’t see your card details. At this point they actually take the money from your card and, eventually, send it to my bank account. All this is done on the internet.

Web TerminalIf you phone me with an order here is what happens. You probably catch me away from the PC or without the PC turned on so your order and card details get written down. When next at the computer I fire up the internet and log on to Barclays WWWWeb Terminal and enter all those details just written down. I do it on a form that looks like the one to the right.

I am entering all the same details you could be typing in and doing it on, effectively, the same form you could have used and its all done on the internet 

If you see us at a show and pay by credit card then chances are you will be presented with a gadget that looks like thisCard Terminal. This is the Blielatest thing in card readers and its even more `space age’.

First of all the card reader is talking to my phone via Bluetooth which is a short range radio protocol.

 

WifiNext up my phone is connecting to the outside world via WiFi  which is a longer range radio protocol and is now often provided freely at venues but I also have my own WiFi unit that connects to the mobile phone signal.

WWW

 

After all of that the connection is made to the bank via the internet

 

Cash-machine-s

 

There is no escape. Even if you think, “I’ll use cash! That’ll show them”, you’re out of luck as the cash machine checks with your bank to see if you’re good for the cash via the internet

 

 

So I guess what I am saying is that ordering online is at least as safe as any other method and probably safer. There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Firstly only go to the payments page via the website you are shopping on.
  • Don’t go to any payments pages sent in e-mails from people you don’t know
  • Check in the address bar at the top of the payments page that the address start https://  [the S is the important bit as it denotes a secure connection]Secure Sign

 

I could probably have used bigger and more technically accurate words and left you bemused in the process but I think that is a reasonable layman’s description

Harping on about Switchstands

For some years now I have sold the PSC cast brass switchstand kits but they usually sell out at the first show I attend and then getting more and in any quantity is a bit of a faff to be honest. They have also been creeping up in price too. Harp Stand2For awhile I have been thinking there has to be a better way to supply these.

This is the PSC switchstand kit.

 

The next question is do I replicate it or design another pattern. Some googling then found images and drawings

Switchstand001Well, in the end I decided that as the known demand was for ones similar to the PSC ones my first effort would be something very similar.

First job was some 3D CAD.

Drawn in SolidWorks this is also a 3 part kit with two halves of the base and the pole. There is a clevis shown in the drawing but this won’t be included in the kit.

Clevis_imageThe reason for not including it is one of the pitfalls of doing this stuff in CAD on a 24 inch twin screen is that you can zoom in and the thing looks huge but then when you actually get a 3D print in actual size it is a) a credit to the 3D printer for being able to print it and b) too tiny to commercially reproduce in brass.

You’ll have to settle for making your own or just having bent wire.

Switchstand002From the 3D SolidWorks drawing STL files are created. These are the format that the 3D printer uses and they are e-mailed to the 3D printer of choice and then you sit back and wait for a week or so.

Eventually a tiny box arrives with the postman which you open and realise that what looked huge on the screen is in reality tiny.

Switchstand-assembled600Prints tend to come in a translucent sort of colour which makes is difficult to see any of the detail so I usually just give them a waft of spray paint so you can actually see the thing before trying a test assembly.

As long as you are careful you can build the model up and make any minor alterations you want. If major alterations were needed you’d just get it reprinted having made the alteration in CAD.

So here we have the 3D print assembled.

What next? well the 3D patterns have gone off to the brass caster of choice and we await their efforts. They will use the parts to make a cold setting silicon rubber mould of the parts. With the pattern removed the mould is then filled with moulten wax which is allowed to cool. This can then be done many times to make lots of waxes. Waxes can be joined by sprues to make on pattern. These joind waxes are then suspended in a mould frame and a ceramic type mould in liquid form is poured around it and allowed to set. The mould is then heated so that the wax runs out or burns off leaving a void in a mould capable of standing high temperature. Moulton brass is then poured into the moulds and allowed to cool after which the mould is broken away and the casting cleaned up.

Battle of the Somme Commemoration

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The Motive Power

Beamish Museum held a commemoration of the 100yr anniversary of the Battle of the Somme over the weekend 8th, 9th & 10th July. There were many exhibits and events on show with the theme of both commemorating and explaining the first world war and the Battle of the Somme.

As you’ve probably gathered by now I drive on the narrow gauge railway and, occasionally, the standard gauge colliery railway at Beamish and was there for the whole weekend. We ran the narrow gauge railway with ww1 equipment to demonstrate and explain the logistic support the railways provided.

We were very fortunate to be able to borrow three items of motive power from the Festiniog Railway, effectively hijacking their world tour (France and Staffordshire), along with three wagons from the Moseley Trust at Apedale. With a Simplex (Mary Ann when not in uniform) and A & B four wheel wagons plus a Baldwin Gas Mechanical (Moelwyn in civvies) with a Pershing wagon loaded with a couple of Model T’s we could show a British and an American train.   We did mix them up through the weekend though.

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The British Train

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The American Train

The railway at Beamish is now a triangle with additional sidings so trains were operating around the triangle leaving wagons on odd places then collecting them in a different order.

Just for added interest Moelwyn wouldn’t go round the tightest part of the newest bit of the triangle (to be honest, we were to scared to try it not wanting to have to re-rail it) so we propelled the wagon on to the tight bit and then went back around the triangle to the other end.

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Buster in picnic table mode

There was one other interesting conveyance. A Fairbanks Speeder (Buster in civvies). These were used for officer transport (probably decided they were expendable) at high speed and in one direction only. To go the other way you pick it up and turn it round.

Buster

Buster in a rare working foray to the extremities of the network

It was a bit temperamental through the weekend so it doubled as a picnic table in between occasional runs. A full run with four officers on board on the Sunday finished it off. A new gearbox awaits it.

On our small railway you could walk the entire line in the time it took to get it started but that wasn’t the point.

Below is a collection of other photos from the weekend with some more words beyond them.

On both Saturday and Sunday there was a parade starting at Pockerley and marching round to the town. Each day we took all the NG equipment to the Pockerley end of the line to be on display to those gathering for the parade and so we could see the parade.

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The only way you’d trust this pair in a model T

 

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Captain Wilkinson and his driver Private Collins

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Parade gathering

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Lancers ready to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was lots to see around the event. The album below has a selection of other peoples photos of the various happenings. These, and more, can all be seen on the Beamish Museum Facebook page.

So, why no steam? We did first world war steam operation as part of the Great War Steam Fair in April for which we borrowed engines from the Festiniog and Moseley Trust. Our own engines are not currently available although we are working on it.

IMG_3459

Edward Sholto: Stored on a standard gauge wagon. Out of traffic pending a re-tube of its boiler so it will eventually be moved to the engineering workshop for this to happen but not until our other engine is done

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Glyder: Well Glyder’s boiler ready for the tubes to come out. Glyder was exported to the USA from Penrhyn Quarry, returned recently and displayed in the colliery engine shed at Beamish. Late last year it was moved to the workshop and its return to service started.

 

There is always plenty to see at Beamish Museum although not all the railways operate everyday. The narrow gauge only operates at events at the moment as we currently rely on borrowing loco’s.

A visit is highly recommended. For more information on Beamish try these links

Beamish Museum Website

Beamish Museum Facebook Page

Beamish Museum Transport Blog

Economic Suicide (short term I hope)

So here we are, two and a bit weeks past the EU referendum. Since then as EDM Models I haven’t done a newsletter and haven’t said much publicly about the result but I feel the need to say something about it from the point of a business in an optional leisure sector.

Firstly, I think we need to get this bit out of the way, yes, I voted to remain. However, the thing that I need to make clear is that it wasn’t because I thought the present arrangement was perfect or that I don’t think our relationship with the EU needs to change but that I was, and remain, convinced that the option to leave offered way too many unknowns all talked down by rhetoric and damned lies. The other side weren’t much better but didn’t drive round in a bloody great red bus with a lie painted on the side.

Secondly, in the long run (very long run), it may well be the best thing we ever did but a) I am not sure I will live to see that and b) I am not sure mine and many other small businesses will ever see the benefit.

Right with the generalities out of the way let’s talk some specifics as they apply so far to my model business.

  • Immediate:  People have stopped spending!  Understandable really as everyone is now worried about the future and the first thing you do is reign in expenditure. Survivable, I hope so, but toy trains, even specialist narrow gauge toy trains, are a luxury. However, they are my livelihood so if people stop spending and continue to do so I don’t have a business.

2016-07-07_12-19-05

 

  • Very Soon:  Models are going to get more expensive. This is down to the immediate plummet of the pound against the US dollar and that some items are out of stock now and need replacing. I did some examples of now and next delivery pricing when the rate hadn’t yet reached its record low

Price Comparison

  • Longer Term: Models are going to get even more expensive. They were already headed that way with costs rising in China but they’ve just gone up again because of the exchange rate, shipping costs will rise as fuel costs go up. Yet to come are any impacts from trade deals or the lack of them – that bit is crystal ball territory but it’s not often (if ever) prices fall.

One YearThe unpredictability is the real killer. In recent years whilst the exchange rates have always fluctuated they do so in slow increments and over a long time which allows a business to plan and take them into account and allows them to forecast a price in GBP that they can stick to. Sure, the graph for one year shows ups and downs and a steady decline but it has an element of long term predictability over the short term ups and downs.

Already in the two weeks that have elapsed so far as well as my own observations of what its going to do to prices there have been two communications from UK suppliers of products made in Europe (paid for in Euro’s) and China (USD). The former sell currently available products so that was an immediate price increase. To some extent that is at least manageable because it says the price is X, take it or leave it and a trader can pass that message on. The second was an immediate small increase on some imminent items and a “we reserve the right to, but will try not to, pass on cost increases due to currency fluctuations as a `currency escalator’ adjustment”. Here we are talking reservations for production due over the next year to 18 months. Hard to see what else they can do, they’re basically saying “we haven’t a clue what its going to cost” which is a hard sell to pass on to a retail customer, “dear customer, please commit to buying this fifteen hundred quid locomotive due next year but, sorry, we haven’t actually got a clue what its going to cost!”

I have seen many `experts’ (and what do they know) saying small businesses need to have a plan so here is mine: –

Plan

What is it going to take to fix it? Well there are all sorts of things yet to be resolved such as our relationships, business and otherwise, with other countries. None of that is going to be fixed real soon but the exchange rate reacts quickly to major world status changes. The current plummet results from the UK saying `stop the world we want to get off’ so another world sized change may be needed to get it to swing the other way. I’ll just leave this image here………….Trump