A bit of a Spotter

Yes, it’s true.  I’d probably describe it as an interest in all things engineering as you will just as easily find me getting interested in ships (Navy in particular), trains or aeroplanes.

On this occasion its planes, specifically Tucanos and, more specifically RAF Linton on Ouse.

Now I’ll admit that despite living in York for many years, apart from seeing the road signs, I knew little of RAF Linton on Ouse and never made the diversion off the main roads to investigate.

That changed in a typically sideways move. A friend of Annie’s was Lord Mayor of York and as part of the charitable stuff they did there was a “good grub” club. We had a Ghurka curry night at Imphal Barracks in York and then a dinner in the mess at RAF Linton on Ouse in the RAF centenary year. This evening featured drinks in the officers mess, our own flying display by the Tucanos and then insights in the RAF and Linton on Ouse’s history during dinner.

This all got me interested and I got involved with the `spotters’ group. Despite the slightly derogatory title this group is acknowledged and supported by the base and the staff. It has resulted in some fantastic opportunities.

One was a display by the Red Arrows in April.  The display at Linton was something of a tradition as the first training display they do away from their base at RAF Scampton.  As their first display away from base it was a bit ragged, they were a man down and the weather meant it was the flat low altitude display.

Another  splendid  night was being invited on to the base when one of the courses was doing night flying and getting right on the flight line and finishing in the control tower

The base is home to 72 Squadron  which teaches basic fast-jet training on the Tucano T1

You might have noticed a bit of a past tense in some of the above. RAF Linton on Ouse is to close. Tucano’s get retired and fast jet training moves to RAF Valley using Beechcraft Texans.

Why am I going on about it now? Because the Tucano T1 goes out of service on Friday with the graduation of the last course taught on it. Grads usually include some formation flying and often some visiting aircraft so Friday would be a good day to go to Linton but I can’t – the weather forecast is poor anyway.  However, today, Wednesday 23rd October 2019 was practice day for the formation flying and the weather was superb.

I had loads I should have been doing today but its all still there whilst the Tucanos won’t be. When I arrived there were 14 Tucano and 4 Tutors on the flightline. ZF448, the anniversary liveried one went off solo early on. At 10:30 ten Tucanos started up, taxied out and took off.  Nine were the formation and the tenth, the boss I think, was flying around observing (and from his twitter – photographing).  As a nine they flew a number of circuits before splitting into a four and a five. The four, speculating that this was the four graduates, did some more formation stuff before flying directly towards us and performing a break in all directions.   They then joined up for another circuit before breaking into a landing pattern. The five then did some flybys before breaking to land. Lastly the boss landed. The last two in got the water salute from the base fire service.

 

Unless there is some magic reprieve or a disaster cancelling ExpoNG I think that was my last Tucano photo excursion and without the Tucs there isn’t going to be much to see at Linton until it closes next year

 

009 – New For Me (not really)

I don’t model 009!

So, explain how I seem to own three Manning Wardle 2-6-2’s, have two more on loan and have a Peggy hiding behind the pack?

Truth is I used to model in 009 but way back in my teens when it was rubbish with locos that didn’t run and was not very reliable. I exhibited a 009 layout when I was 17! I then got into finescale 4mm, working suspensions and all that jazz.

Why am I writing about it now? Well, after many distractions, some of which are explained below the sound project I have been promising for ages for the 009 Heljan Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Manning Wardle 2-6-2’s is at a stage where it could go ahead.

Paul Chetter recorded the sound quite a while ago. Lyd on a run up the Festiniog Railway was recorded as well as while it was shunting around light engine.

I was able to arrange this and drive the train as a regular FR driver. We had the microphone in a stick up by the chimney, another strapped to the injector feed pipe to capture motion sounds and a third in the cab. The cab one was also used to rove around for catching other sounds.  Lyd gave Paul a hard time with some of the sounds. The aim for a DCC decoder is to capture the individual sounds, store them separately on the decoder and let it assemble them as required dependant upon what the model is doing. That doesn’t really work with Lyd because its vacuum braked only which means that for pretty much any movement, even light engine, the vacuum ejector is on resulting in a roar of steam at the chimney.

Why has it taken so long? I don’t model 009 – did I mention that? – so the reason to do this wasn’t to match Heljan 009 delivery schedules but for my own 7mm scale kits (which are epically late but that’s another story).

The other reason is that I drive Lyd. Don’t get me wrong, its wonderful that its been built but there are a few things about working with it that make you treasure your days on a Fairlie or Penrhyn engine. It has an ability to kill enthusiasm (and as I write this I am driving it next Saturday).

I do now have the bit between my teeth on the 7mm version with CAD now well advanced and the first new valve gear parts due shortly. There will be further news on that subject shortly with pictures, explanations and progress reports.

Lets keep the 7mm project as a separate item for now and get back to the sound for 009 loco’s.

009 Sound Project

I admit my distraction and delay may well have cost me a lot of orders. It may well have rendered the project to no longer be viable.

That last sentence makes is something I am not prepared to take a gamble on nor do I have the money to speculate.  The sound install kit for 009 uses speakers, decoders and interface boards that I don’t normally stock so I need to know of the demand before I order them.  I’ve already committed quite a lot of funds to this with commissioning Paul to do the sound project and buying three Manning Wardles with which to develop the sound installation and I have gone as far as I can go with the funds I have.

Orders to Make It Happen

Here is where I get some idea as to whether we carry on

  • The Website is now there to take orders Here
  • Your card will be charged the amount shown
  • I will set the monies aside until 20th October 2019
  • If we have twenty orders then I will use the money to order the parts
  • If we don’t have enough then the project doesn’t go ahead and all monies are refunded.

If its close I may stand the difference and have some for stock. If the project gets enough backing then I aim to ship w/c 27th October 2019. If at all possible I would like to try to have some for delivery/collection/sale at ExpoNG but that is tight with the delivery timescales for the parts.

So what’s in the kit

  1. ZIMO next 18 decoder – With a genuine Paul Chetter sound file on it recorded on Lyd
  2. Next 18 interface board
  3. A cube speaker
  4. Some very fine wire
  5. Instructions on how to do it in the knowledge that we’ve made the cock ups so you don’t have to.

 

The instructions will be Here shortly

Testors Dullcote – Myths & Legends

The following notes regarding Testors Dullcote were first written for the NGRM online forum which is a member only forum, so I thought I’d also put them on my blog and expand them a bit.

The Myth

They’ve changed the recipe and its not as good now and is different to the one you get in the USA

There is no US and EU version of the recipe. The difference is the labelling. Years ago when there was an EU issue with the makeup leading to a big hiatus in the supply the change to the formulation was to reduce the quantity of solvent and add an inert filler. The EU rules didn’t ban the evil solvent just controlled how much of it there could be in a can. Don’t blame the EU, squirting evil solvents around isn’t good how ever you look at it.

The EU labelled version is only made when its ordered by and EU distributor. In the UK that is Ripmax. Because of its nature they have to order it by the container load to get it shipped in nasty stuff containers. The result is that the supply can be intermittent.

The root of the current drought (summer 2019) actually goes back nearly a year. A batch ordered by Ripmax had the US labels stuck on them and wasn’t shipped and had to be made again.  When it did arrive, the drought had worsened and they sold out in no time flat, faster than they have ever experienced.  Now add into the mix Ripmax moving location and holding reordering of a lot of items until they had completed the move.

Drought Ends?

Possibly temporarily as new stocks are due into the UK at the end of October, but I suspect they may not last long as I tried to increase my order but couldn’t as it was all spoken for.

Having seen the horror story of spray on paint stripper above I thought a few hints and tips for using Dullcote might be appropriate.

  • Warm it thoroughly to at least room temperature (a temp where you are comfortable without your jumper on).
  • Making it a bit warmer helps. I have a paint drying cabinet heated by a 40w light. I put my Dullcote in there and retreat for a brew before using it
  • Shake it until your arm is going to drop off and then shake it some more
  • Make sure the paint on your model is dry and hard.  By that I mean not just dry to touch but properly hardened. That varies with paints. Acrylics a couple of days does it, Humbrol oils a week, Precision Paints (notorious for not hardening) a couple of years might do it.
  • You can speed the hardening with warmth. I have an ex electrical enclosure (a metal box with a hinged lid) with a light in it. It’s only a bit warmer than room temp but it sorts the paint in a few hours

When you spray your model with Dullcote

  • Wait until the other half is out and gone for a few hours. I still get “you’ve been using that stinky spray again” when Annie gets home from work.
  • Never squirt it directly at the model
  • Waft it into the sky so it lands on your model like a light mist and, importantly, is virtually dry on landing.
  • Multiple light wafts rather than drowning it.  Turn the model between wafts to get an even light coverage.
  • With it landing virtually dry you can add the next in a few minutes
  • Stick it in the drying cabinet when you’ve done

Some Safety comments.

  • Do make sure you are working in a well ventilated room.
  • Do wear a mask with a filter

On that last point I would comment that I used to think, `nah, it’s only a little squirt’ and didn’t bother. Then I got more proficient (with practice) with an air brush and despite having an extractor fan filtered painting enclosure was shocked to find I had maroon snot just from spraying one 7mm NG coach FR Maroon. That spraying was a lot more controlled as to where the spray was going than the wafting technique proposed above.

At £3.57 they’re not exactly going to break the bank

Get a Mask

I actually use one of these with replaceable filters.

 

 

 

 

 

If you wish to order some its on the Shop here

What will now probably follow is a load of “I don’t do it like that, and it works for me” comments and they’re right.

The above will work and get you good results but there are all sorts of cheats that come with experience. In the rush to get jobs completed I often put it on not fully hardened paint but to do that you really do have to make the first light coats of Dullcote really wafty and light. Once you have a couple of coats on twenty mins in the warming cabinet harden those coats enough that they now form a protective barrier between the paint and any further Dullcote

A BIT OF A RANT IS CATHARTIC

<rant mode – on> Bear with me here. The following may mean nothing to you. You may not want to read on but, then again you may learn something, but mainly its about me feeling better for a bit of a rant.

I should have seen it coming. I mean, for gods sake, who thought `Woo-commerce’ was a good name for business software!  Then, it seemed to provide what I needed so I went with the flow but it grated.

Now I should perhaps explain that I am one of those people with a strong allergy to management speak. One mention of `low hanging fruit‘ or “Put a record on and see who dances ” and I am done with the meeting and probably well on to plotting the untimely demise of the speaker. This allergy wasn’t very helpful when I worked in an engineering consultancy and, if anything, it heightened my reaction rather than curing it by exposure.

Having explained my allergy you can probably understand my having a proper meltdown when I found that a software upgrade enforced by Woo-commerce had buggered up the integration utility, which WooWoo had also authored, that connected my website to the payment gateway (I was pretty cross by this point……) and that for a resolution I was now in the hands of their `happiness engineers’.

Well that did it <rant mode – off>

So what have they done? Time for a graphic.

This shows what is supposed the happen.  The website (in Woo-commerce) contains the primary database for stock levels and prices, manages the orders and all that stuff. When someone buys something its all in Woo-commerce up to the point where you press the payment button at which point you are transferred to Square Payments and on their super secure website you do all the stuff with cards and when done, assuming your card coughs up, you are transferred back to Woo. As the admin all I get told is you have paid and that I need to send you stuff. Meanwhile the website also knows we have less of what you just bought.

The clever bit, and one of the reasons that we chose this is Square POS. This provides the till function we use at shows. As the arrows show the Woo stock database is now transferred to my iPad which acts as a till and allows us to scan and sell you stuff with a direct link to payments if you’re using a card. Meanwhile, it also tells the website what its sold so it can reduce the stock.  Everyone, Staff and Customers, at Guildex were impressed.

So what have they broken?  Well, the first thing we noticed was that whilst Square POS was trying to report what stock it had sold the main database wasn’t now listening so much of Monday was spent manually reducing the stock. Then we found out thanks to a customer letting us know that whilst Woo was telling Square a total to charge it was telling them that the already VAT inclusive price was VAT exclusive so Square added a second lot of VAT onto the the total and overcharged the website customers.

Once you are aware of the issues it doesn’t take long before your blood is boiling again….

  • Two days of back and forth before they accept its their issue
  • Two days of then answering the questions you didn’t ask to avoid the one you did
  • Several times repeating and resupplying the same information
  • Finding out you were dealing with a `happiness engineer! and fighting the urge to shake him warmly by the throat

Now we’re: –

  • waiting for their mark 2 fix (not just me, they have apparently buggered up many sites
  • have installed PayPal as an alternative payment whilst Square isn’t available via the website
  • may leave PayPal as an option in the long run but that needs some negotiation on rates as it costs me twice as much to take a payment via PayPal

As the disruption this has caused to this week has now turned into a waiting game there will be a more interesting update shortly

Townsend Hook Update

Apologies that this is a bit later than planned [see end of previous article for the reason].

In the last episode I detailed how the new prototype castings were coming from two sources. One a complete CAD to brass package via Shapeways and the other printed waxes via Precision Wax and then on to C Harding Castings to be turned into brass bits.

 

Both have, in my opinion, produced acceptable results with some of the bits coming out better in different methods.

This first image is the Shapeways collection which are a bit harder to photograph as they insist on coating the castings with a gloss coat as they seem to think everyone is doing shiny stuff.

If I were building a model these could be used directly on it but this method is too expensive for supplying production – ie these cost more then the we’re charging for the kit.

 

This next group is the wax from one source, cast at another method. Some of these need some work before they can be used as patterns as they need the casting runners cleaning and altering.  I have two set of these so I will be using one set to complete a model and finish the instructions.

I do have a dilemma though. I think I have decided what I am going to do but I will run it by you here just so that you know some of what is involved.

Here we have the Salter Safety valve castings from the two methods. One of the risks with the wax route is that the waxes this process produces are very brittle (the ones i can print aren’t but we won’t go back to that just now) and both the examples were broken up and cast or broken as they came out of the ceramic mould and whilst they could be assembled to make a model they are pretty useless as a pattern. The complete one piece casting is the Shapeways example that has been lightly abraded in my grit blaster to take the shine off. This is how they should have all looked and how the waxes looked when I mailed them. I think the Shapeways part gets to to be the pattern for this bit!   I would make the observation here that the photos are cruel enlargements and that the actual parts are pushing the minimum thickness limits of the process.

Now What

Probably by the time you read this the example of each part selected to be a pattern will have been cleaned, prepped and tested on a model to check the sizes and is probably on its way to the casting company. What they do now is: –

  • Make silicon moulds around the patterns sent (I think they use a third party for this)
  • Cast wax copies of the parts from these moulds making as many as we order
  • Add runners to these and assemble them in tree shape
  • Pour a fine ceramic moulding liquid around the tree and cure it
  • Heat it to remove all the wax
  • Pour in brass and wait for it to cool
  • Break up the moulds and clean the parts
  • Ship the parts

How long this takes I am not sure but I will be having a conversation about that tomorrow. I suspect it will be two to three weeks. Meanwhile my plan is to use the second set of castings I have to complete the instructions and to have the kits packed and ready to go just needing the castings dropping in and the lid putting on.

An added bonus. You may have seen previously that I did cast parts for and NGG16 valve gear. I never got as far as using them on a project but Nick Dunhill did to make a superb model with my parts.

I never really intended them to be a sales item but having been asked several times it looks like they may become one. It won’t be a cheap set and it will probably be done to order given that the supply of NGG16 kits has now dried up with the demise of Backwoods Miniatures.

However, whilst getting a set for a customer a little upgrade happened. In the original version the expansion link was simplified to provide a pivot hole in the middle but this meant that the valve gear could be set in forwards or backwards but couldn’t move between the two.

Well, with a bit of CAD work the expansion link has been redesigned to feature the prototypical pivots allowing working valve gear.

There is still some fitting work to do of the fiddly and frustrating variety to fit nickel silver wires as the pivots but then if you are fitting working valve gear on an NGG16 you are probably certifiable already.

 

More progress reports will follow when there is something to report

 

A Little Train Driving

A Townsend Hook update will follow shortly.

Back from two weeks in Wales in which I drove Linda, Blanche & David Lloyd George adding 543 miles to my driving total miles, did some cycling and sight seeing and, well, buggered my right ankle.

It was always going to be an “interesting” time as Merddin Emrys decided it needed a summer holiday and retired to the engine shed by the sea. With only one double Fairlie of the two we usually have (or 3 we really need) there was some interesting double heading in prospect.

Continue reading

Progress

Due to an unexpected evening off (should have been driving the evening train tonight) I can do a Townsend Hook castings progress update in between the excitement of defrosting the freezer and reading Felix the Huddersfield Station Cats latest best selling book.

In the last update I explained the two sources and the two processes being used to get the castings for this project back on track and the slightly different routes being followed.

Method One was to get the items printed as waxes. These arrived today via Royal Mail and internal FR mail. I had arranged for them to be sent to Julie, the works administrator (& Garratt fireman) rather than to me.  This was a shrewd move. In the past I’ve had mail addressed to me handed to me whilst I am on an engine. Yesterday was the hottest for a long time and I was driving a double Fairlie, not the best place for heat sensitive parts!!

I took the parts out of a mass of cotton wool to mark them for where they need runners attaching and took this photo at that time. All is looking good and they will go off in the post tomorrow to the casters in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.

The second method was to send the CAD files to a company that will both print the waxes and cast the items in brass.  As well as dual sourcing the slightly different production methods may mean that some castings may be better by one method and other by the other.

There isn’t a lot to show yet for this method beyond an online graphic that shows that most of it is in production and a few items have made it to packing.

I get home from messing about with steam engines on the 5th August and I expect that both these processes will deliver at about that time. I’ll do the next update around then once they have arrived.

Castings Update

After a lot of frustrating reworking, testing and then more reworking all the revised CADS are complete and have been submitted to the two sources for the next stage.

  • Set one: Printed Waxes, should catch up with me in Wales next week so I can review them and mark on them my preferred location for the castings sprues. (if you don’t tell them they stick them anywhere and obliterate the detail).  I’ll then send them to the caster who will cast from them to make patterns for mould making.
  • Set Two: My alternative source will be printing and casting parts that will be fettled and then used to cast replica parts. These should be waiting for me when I get back from Wales on the 5th August

Now with that out of the way can I put my feet up? Not a chance. Just a day left to get the VAT quarter returns done, a heap of orders to send out and to projects to finish and get shipped.

 

Grrrrr!!!!! – A Townsend Hook kit update

How to explain how p!ssed of I am without resorting to a page of expletives may well be beyond my writing capabilities.

Try this. Imagine you are walking barefoot through the house and you stub your toe on the end of a door right between your big toe and its neighbour. It hurts like hell but as you’re hopping up and down on your good leg you land on a Lego brick. Unable to stand, over you go and, on the way, down you bang your elbow (whoever named it your funny bone deserves a flogging). When you can eventually get up, you bang your head on a shelf. Think of all the bad language that would create, (if you’re not unconscious) and you’ll be getting close.

If you can take a moment to consider the good swear that would engender, I’ll try to explain where I am at with Townsend Hook without the bad language. We left the story full of hope that we had a solution to the castings from home printed patterns. That hope has, for now, been dashed.

The responses from UK casters has varied from not replying, to answering all the questions you didn’t ask in an email whilst not answering the ones you did, lecturing about the subject but quickly revealing they’ve got the topic wrong. I suspect their stubbornness may result in their Kodak moment in the future.  Truth is the majority of them are past the first flush of youth and don’t see a need to change in their lifetime.

The hope was the Polish caster recommended by the printer manufacturer. His response to my enquiry was “I print, cast and show You result.”   This seemed positive and his website showed results from prints that were encouraging.  There followed an exchange of e-mails discussing details with annoying gaps between communications. After awhile I started to realise we were going round in circles with the same questions being asked that had previously been answered but that there was nothing to show for it.  One of the discussion points was over whether to do them in bronze instead of brass as the harder material would fill the small cavities in the moulds and be easier to handle. This question was asked on the 20th June and was replied in the affirmative and with the request to get on and cast a full set as a demo.

This would be the first time I assumed he was getting on with them (and to be honest I was distracted issues with the new website).  When I received another e-mail on the 8th July asking the same questions I discovered that this was me being optimistic.

I replied to this one again saying to use bronze, asking him to confirm that he was getting on with printing them and asking for a date when I could expect them.

I heard nothing back but had to give him a day or so to reply but late last week concluded that we were on a hiding to nothing and that a Plan C was necessary. Continue reading

The Waiting Game

I am conscious that after last weeks almost daily updates its all gone very quiet this week but things are happening behind the scenes – I hope.

Silence will probably be misinterpreted so here is a bit of a recap followed by an update.

When we left the story on Thursday the first brass castings had turned up and were horrible. Investigation revealed that most likely the caster didn’t follow the different burn out procedure required by these printed resins. At that point we had to concentrate on getting ready for the 7mm NGA Convention. The show was a massive success with some cracking layouts, more then usual due using the AGM room and no lull in the afternoon caused by the AGM. I can’t help but think that we should sack the AGM off to the back room of a pub somewhere and just have a cracking narrow gauge model show each year.

Anyway, on our return to York investigations started on finding a caster who would work with these resin waxes. With the help of the printers support three were identified for initial enquiries. There were two in the UK and one in Poland. The responses so far have been: –

  1. No response
  2. Grumble, Grumble, waxes, don’t burn out properly, no we don’t do the burn out differently. Net very helpful.
  3. Yes we use a Form 2 Printer. Use it all the time with great result. Best thing is you send me the STL file and I’ll show you what I can do

I let you guess which response goes with which company but I am looking forward to a parcel from Poland.

For the trial they are using their printer whereas for production I would be sending waxes I have printed but the whole process takes several days with print time, mould setting time, burnout time and so on but I am hoping for some results next week sometime.