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

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


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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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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



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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

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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.


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