When an up sell backfires

Over one of my modelling benches I have an angle poise magnifier with built in lamp. It’s a little unusual being a larger format than most with a larger lens and wider coverage lamp. It’s a specialist crafters item and I think I bought it at a show. Can’t be sure as its been there awhile.

A short while ago it all went a bit dull on the bench as the lamp failed. The light was a square format compact fluorescent and you could see the ends of the tube had the traditional burnt ends of a failed tube.

As it helpfully had the lamp type on the label and the shop I got it from web address was there too I thought I’d show a bit of loyalty and whizzed off an e-mail to see if they had replacement tubes.

This is where is went a bit wonky.

The reply was “we’ve got the tubes” but then quickly skirted over that to sing the virtues of LED lit magnifiers and trying to sell me a completely new unit. Even went as far as offering a previous customer discount.  A second e-mail trying to get a new tube got more LED sell and no tube.

I didn’t want a new lamp as its sort of built into my workbench, but it turns out he was right LED’s work a treat!

After a bit of a rummage I found the remnants of an “LED’s on a roll” set that I had bought to do my layout wiring.

I stripped the lamp head down and then discovered a that the tube had clearly got a bit hot as it died. With the tube removed and the electronics for it stripped out I fitted four straight strips of LED tape in roughly where the tube had been. These were wired up in parallel on the marked connection points and wired back to the switch and a home made terminal. After a quick test the diffuser and head were reassembled.

The mains flex up the arm was re-purposed and connected to the LED’s at one end and the low voltage plug top power supply at the other.  This was fun as the spring loading in the arms without the weight of the head to counterbalance is a but like wrestling an angry snake whilst threading the wires.

Back on the bench it was time for the moment of truth.

LED’s off

LED’s on

Turns out he was right LED’s are better and this cost nowt as it used bits I already had.



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North West Narrow Gauge Show – There was Cake

Last Saturday was the first Narrow Gauge North West Show at Rainford near St Helens. A number of matters arose out of the day worth dealing with simply: –

  • I knew the battery on my Volvo Estate lived under the floor in back.
  • I also acknowledge that the only time access to either it or the spare wheel is required is when its fully loaded.
  • The battery is fine. Having been ill I just hadn’t driven it far enough to recover from the cold starts. It’s a diesel so the injector heaters come on every time you start it in the cold, and it has got electric everything, seats, demisting etc which it tends to assume you want on. A few hours on charge and a thrash round York ring road sorted it for the trip and Rainford and back has sorted it.
  • Storm Dennis didn’t really affect us. The drive there across the M62 had a bit of drizzle and the trip back had more rain and it was a bit breezy on the high bits of the M62.

The show itself was a splendid affair and reasonably well attended given that the news & weather forecasts were predicting the apocalypse. The only photo I have is a borrowed one of the splendid arrays of cake on offer. The bacon butties were excellent too.

I only managed a quick look round myself but I was impressed with the layouts. I did get waylaid for a fairly long gossip with Robin at Tonys Forest whilst we discussed 0-14 track, chassis and loco designs whilst watching Robins 0-14 version of our Fletcher Jennings kit running on the layout.

To get serious for a moment. Stan and his team are to be applauded for promoting a Narrow Gauge Exhibition and I will be doing what I can to support their efforts.  In the NG circle here in the UK used to have a decent number of specialist NG shows where spread around both the calendar and country. What that meant was that you could get a regular fix if you were prepared to travel, there would be one close(ish) to you if you weren’t and that there was a regular shopping opportunity for your specialist narrow gauge essentials.

In recent times we have lost narrow gauge shows at Chiltern, Telford, NG South West(Shepton), ExpoNG(Swanley), SWING (Littlehampton). Whilst these have all stopped for understandable reasons it is great to see a new one happening.  To highlight two classics from that list. We had ExpoNG in October and NG Southwest in February. Both excellent specialist narrow gauge shows roughly four months apart at which you could pretty much count on their being some excellent layouts and all the narrow gauge specialist traders. As a trader you could count on seeing the usual faces at all of them. Understandably, NG Southwest got to a landmark show, their 25th, and went out with a bang having decided it was better to end on a high as the organisers all got older. Now ExpoNG are missing this year due to their usual venue being “improved” with a bulldozer.

I suspect exhibitions might be a subject we return to but for now its time for a bit of therapeutic modelling


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A cunning plan – thwarted

So, I had this bright idea. Given that a) I have been ill for a couple of weeks and am still a bit lacking in energy and b) Storm Dennis the Menace is imminent and c) EDM Models is at a show tomorrow the bright idea was that I would make an early start on loading the car so that i) I could take my time packing stuff and putting it in the car and ii) I’d get it done before the weather turned foul.

Partly Loaded Volvo

Mission mostly accomplished. Car full, fuller than in this library photo, and its only just started spiting with rain. Just a couple of things to pack tonight to add to the load and stupid O’clock in the morning. Last job was to move the car down the drive ready for the off. (the last storm had a couple of ridge tiles off so I wanted to move it away from the fall out zone in case Denis got started early.

In the car, turn the key, WRrrrrr_____   Nothing! Battery Flat!  Current theory is that because I have been ill I have only gone very short distances a couple of times in the car and that, because its been cold, its had the injector heaters on before starting. Out with the battery charger.

Anyone want to hazard a guess at where the battery is in a Volvo Estate?



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Well, we’re a bit rubbish……

Well, we’re a bit rubbish……

……… this post should have been full of pictures showing what a great time we had at the Trent Valley Group open day. Just one slight problem – no one took any!

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day. There were at least seven layouts, several demonstrations, some trade and a copious amounts of tea and coffee were drunk, Bacon Butties and Cake consumed. The day just whizzed past and everyone forgot to take any pictures until it was too late. I even took my posh camera but forgot to use it.


A sad part of the day was it was the first open day we’ve done since we lost our mate, co conspirator and prolific modeller Tim Allsopp. Annoyingly, he was a prolific taker of things to bits then starting yet another new project. He left boxes and boxes of dismantled locos, part done projects, bits and bobs, parts, supplies and a mass of books.

It fell to us in the Trent Valley Group to re-home this lot. I should add that there was also a load of parts for our new layout and many completed locos. The building supplies, appropriate completed models and stores items have been retained for use on the new Henmore Dale layout that will arise once we finish sorting this lot out.

We often worked together on many of the projects and therefore had a vested interest in them so of the items not retained for the layout we all chose something we worked on together as a memorial, although most of us will have to finish them first!

One feature of the day was that all the rest of Tim’s stash was for sale, and there was lots of it. At least ten boxes of books, two bits of an 0-16.5 layout and lord knows how many locos and coaches in various states of undress. There were some gems, like boxes of Porters that he’d acquired `just in case’ but there was also a lot of tat that we thought we might the lumbered with. The results surprised and pleased us in two ways: –

  1. One of Tim’s projects was an 0-42 (or something like that) model of a Portage Railway sold as a complete package of boards, stock, projects, books and research to someone wanting to complete it. This was more important to us than any monetary value it might have had.
  2. Whilst prepared to accept offers of “I’ll take it away” for some of the items, we hoped to raise a few hundred quid but still have a load left that was, in all honesty, going in the bin. What actually happened was we raised around £2k and had very little to take home. In line with Tim’s and our wishes that money will be a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support.


I may well feature some of the treasure that I inherited in future blogs but for now I’ll just leave you with this. It’s not what it at first seems.







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To get there I wouldn’t have started from here!

First post of the New Year and I’ve come over all philosophical with nonsense like “if I knew what I know now I wouldn’t have bothered” and “if I were going there, I wouldn’t have started from here”.

What’s brought this on? Bloody Heljan 009 Manning Wardle’s that’s what.

They have dominated my Christmas and whilst I started with the view that they were just difficult to install sound in because no provision was made for sound I have now developed a nervous twitch at just the sight of one and become convinced that someone set out to deliberately frustrate the attempt.

I’ve been up a number of blind alleys trying to sort this install out with all the features I want which includes the sound decoder, speaker and keep alive.

I am writing this having achieved a partial victory in my quest. As I type TAW is going round and round my test oval being noisy on DC having previously done all its tricks on DCC. All I have got to do now is get the body back on which may be easier said than done.

Why is it so difficult? The first thing I’d say is that they are unnecessarily fragile. Bits drop of just as you look at them and they have a reputation for running problems, poor pickups, valve gear that falls off, pony trucks that hate point work and bits of body detail that just drop off. Continue reading

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Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Well, this saga started simply enough. I started to build a 7mm scale NGG16 from a Backwoods Miniatures kit. It didn’t take long before it started to annoy me and before I started modifying it.

The things that annoyed me were that it wasn’t a particular NGG16, it was trying to be all of them whilst being none of them. It also suffered big time from having been designed for 009 with hand drawn artwork to 8mm scale reduced to 4mm. When hand drawn artwork was still a thing the idea was that you drew it to something like 6 times full size and then photo reduced this to the size you wanted. The idea of this was that it reduced down your wiggly lines to the point where you can’t see the wiggles. Also a pencil doesn’t do cut and paste which is a bit of a bummer where there’s lots of repetition. Reduction from 8mm scale to 7mm scale doesn’t do it. Also details that look OK in 009 don’t cut it in 0-16.5. Continue reading

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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



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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


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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


I actually use one of these with replaceable filters.







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


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<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


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