First blog entry of 2018, so we’d better start with Happy New Year to any readers. We start with an image to get your attention. We’ll get back to the toy train sort of models soon but for this installment its more on photography.

In the last episode I mentioned making more of photography as a different hobby to every flavour of trains and that I’d had some tuition in doing the close up macro photography. The interest in actually taking photography has actually taken a hold and has become absorbing.  Continue reading

Photographing Models

Well, that has probably got your attention but that’s not the sort of model I am going to go on about here today.

I have had an interest in photography for years and have done the same as many, nicked my Dads camera, got my own Practica then Zenit E (that might have been the other way round), the a pair of Yashicas and finally a Canon. All these were film cameras and I did photos of model and real railways. Never really did people or the really small stuff. I did a bit at school and I did an evening class which worked its way up from the bowl of fruit to, for the final lesson, a real live model.

I sort of lost interest in the proper photography and my proper cameras as the cheapo digital age dawned. At that time `cheap’ DSLR’s were several thousand pounds and I said I wouldn’t get one until they became affordable. Then compact, bridge and mobile phone cameras all got pretty amazing and the photography I was doing then was basically snaps documenting what I and the volunteer groups I was involved with were up to, often just for websites so portability was more important that how clever it was. Cost also proved to be important when I dropped a camera whilst stood on top of a loco which happened to be stood on an inspection pit. I was going to say, “it didn’t bounce” but it did, on pretty much everything it could find on its way down. It didn’t work at the end of it.

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A month, or so, ago I was going on about sticks with glimpses of a carriage on my Facebook page but at that time I couldn’t say a lot more. Well I suppose now all can be revealed.

It was a retirement gift for a friend and colleague and is a model loosely based on coach 106. For that reason I couldn’t say a lot until after the presentation. The retiree is Jed Perks who retires from the FR as the carriage maintenance electrician. This all gets a bit scary as I remember when he first volunteered at Boston Lodge. Jed took over maintaining the carriage electrics that I designed and installed after I moved back to working on bigger trains.

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Heretic BINGE

OK, for the sake of a title this is really two items in one post. If you want to skip to the Heretic part click here

Our First Granite Restoration

The first item is news of a Binge Weekend. Before you start worrying about excessive drinking and my health I’d better remind you what BINGE is in this context, Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers. We are slowly building up the stock for the narrow gauge railway at Beamish with a mix of new wagons were creating and the restoration of some Granite Wagons on loan from the Festiniog Railway.

The first of the FR waggons we did was 978 which is basically a slate waggon boarded in and with higher sides to allow it to carry stone. That was done over the winter of 2015/16. Continue reading

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


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.


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.








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.



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.



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.



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]




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.





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.


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.



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