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Sunday 14 October 2012

38th Farnham Expo

Initially I did not intend to visit this year. I did have a few modelling items to buy from specialist traders that I could have obtained via the Internet, but it was knowing that 'n' gauge Basingstoke was on show this year that caused me to visit so, a chance to buy as well.

Spread across 4 halls of the local comprehensive school was an outstanding display of model railways to suit all tastes. Traders were in abundance and there was no difficulty finding the items I needed. I do like being able to see the products in reality rather than make judgement from a web photograph so, I am grateful that these small traders put in the effort to attend exhibitions.

Can a model railway be too big?

Basingstoke was huge (for 'n' gauge) representing nearly a mile of the mainline station complex. I don't think I have ever seen such an expanse of track work on a model railway. This is a layout that could only be built by a team, to be operated by a team, for the pleasure of a team who wish to control a railway network.

The standard of modelling, especially the station building was very high. Set in the 1960s it was fun to spot landmarks that still exist today and are well known to me since Basingstoke is my hometown. But, for me, the layout overall did not hit the spot and I have been trying to fathom out why?

'N' gauge is an opportunity to show the railway in the context of the larger landscape that surrounds it. Here on Basingstoke the ornate station building was placed virtually at the edge of the board and because of this was protected from the public by a sheet of clear Perspex, which completely destroyed the illusion.

I lost count of the number of parallel railway tracks. This is a massive station complex with two junctions (three if you include the running lines to Worting Junction offstage), locomotive depot, and umpteen goods yards. The flat featureless railway tracks therefore, dominated the scenery. Greater depth of landscape would probably appeal more, or maybe the whole thing is just too big to absorb in this scale?

I don't want to take anything away from the builders of the layout. I can see the highly creative skills involved and can image it took some considerable time to build.

Other Highlights

I quite liked Portchullin (P4). The atmosphere of a sparse Scottish landscape was captured well and the blue diesels operated at sedate speeds through the station with realistic engine sounds emanating. A flock of free-roaming sheep approached the station with one of them sat between the rails of a siding. This caused great amusement as wagons were shunted towards it. "Anyone bring the mint sauce", cried the train operator.

Portchullin was fitted with a bright, white back scene. Whilst this focused attention on the modelled foreground the layout would have benefited, in my view, from a photographic back scene to give added depth. This worked amazingly well on Brookford, a small 0 gauge branch terminus with a back scene that gave the impression of much greater acreage. (The back scene in the video appears washed out, which is not the case if you saw the model for real).

The layout that appealed most to me was Wellbridge (00), purely for the attention to detail and craftsmanship. In one corner are shops and businesses of the local town with truly mind boggling internal details. The local garage workshop is a joy to behold.

In another corner was suburbia, comprising detached period houses alongside a concrete slab road with gardens full of vegetation and paraphernalia. Even the washing on the lines were billowing in the wind - an effect not easy to capture. Everywhere you looked a scene from daily life had been captured with precision.

Friday 28 September 2012

Have you seen this?

Occasionally  I come across a real gem of railway modelling that strikes a chord with me.

One that captures historical detail, has a story line, been created with feeling and presented in an entertaining way with a touch of humour.

Visit these links and be inspired.

More at http://www.farthinglayouts.org/  and  http://www.youtube.com/user/gwrmodelling?feature=watch

It's 00 gauge.

Saturday 19 May 2012

expoEM 2012

The first layout seen upon entering the hall was Clutton (P4). Just 24ft of magnificence. Yes, a model railway operated to prototypical standards, bells and all, but more than this. We see a vast stretch of rural England with undulating hills and no less than three farms. The railway itself almost incidental passing through it.

Photographs do not easily capture the expanse of it. In my snap shot the station can hardly be discerned in the middle distance. Interestingly, the curves into the rear fiddle yard are landscaped too so there are more scenes beyond the horizon and behind the photographer.

All the other layouts were of equally high standard, as can be expected at a finescale exhibition.

Society member's demonstration stands seemed to be greater in number than the 2011 show, all attracting interest from visitors.

From the specialist traders I obtained materials to advance my own modelling activities.

Saturday 31 March 2012

N Gauge Society - Berkshire Club Expo 2012

Simply because I'm taking an excursion into 'n' gauge modelling did I visit this exclusive 'n' gauge exhibition. It is always interesting and sometimes helpful to see what other modellers are doing.

This club has developed a modular approach to layout construction. Each member builds a section to a common standard to operate at home and connect with others for exhibition. a very large model railway is possible this way and it was exhibited together with 9 other N gauge layouts, demonstrations and a few trade stands.

It was expected this would be a small exhibition by current standards but the variety of layouts on display made it a worthwhile visit. If you like lots of track, or umpteen cameo scenes crammed onto the layout, or trains speeding by then your wish would be fulfilled.

Two layouts that I enjoyed were Kidmore Vale, which arguably was more authentic than the others, being based on reality to some degree with lots of fine, believable details. The other was perhaps easily overlooked as it was just a double track and station halt but, it was accurately constructed from historical photographs of Winnersh Halt in Berkshire.

I have always had a leaning towards authentic, historical railway modelling and whilst a model based on reality may be considered a boring exhibit to look at, if an understanding can be gained of the the time and place on which it is based then it brings it to life.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

ACE Coach Roof Destination Board - New Fixing

When I first thought about fixing the roof boards I wanted a magnetic solution but could not find anything suitable so I developed a plastic saddle arrangement. (I should mention that the objective is for the boards to be easily removable so that the coach can be deployed on other services). 

Then 'First4Magnets' knocked on my blog door showing their vast range of neodymium magnets, many targeted at model making. Neodymium is a very powerful magnet material so we need to be careful that in delicate situations it is not overly 'sticky'. I selected First4Magnets F321 for this application. 

At only 2mm diameter by 1mm thick it is strong but at this small size is manageable and also not too conspicuous (once it is painted to blend in). Of course, it needs either another magnet or metal to create the adhesion so, what to do about the coach plastic roof? One solution is to fix the magnet to the board and remove the roof to fix a magnet or metal strip underneath it. But I could not see how to remove the roof and did not want to mess about finding out in case I caused damage. 

What I opted for was some metallised paint. Out to the garage with a file and sheet of steel to create some metal filings. These were mixed into a blob of Humbrol enamel paint same colour as the roof and a small area, about the size of a magnet, covered between the dummy board brackets. It is hardly noticeable. Once dry a magnet was offered up and it stuck with just the right amount of adhesion. But this revealed a problem. The angle of the roof differs to that of the board brackets and since magnets tend to lie flat to a surface the board followed the angle of the roof and not the bracket! (Bear this in mind if you choose to fix a magnet under the roof and make the board in metal to totally hide the fixing method). What is needed is either a magnet shaped to the same angle as the roof bracket or some packing between it and the board. The packing was achieved with a blob of epoxy resin glue placed between the roof board and magnet whilst in situ taking great care that it did not run onto the coach roof. Finally, a test drive on the layout proved the method works and it looks great too. Off to paint the magnets now.

Saturday 10 March 2012

BNHMS 2012 expo

Armed with a shopping list for our 'n' gauge project Cliddesden, our visit this year was focused on the trade stands, which happily met most of our immediate needs. We have sufficient stuff to move the project forward over the next few weeks.

I hardly paused at the 4mm layouts (my main interest) as I sought out the 'n' gauge layouts to see how Cliddesden may look when completed.

Recently I built from scratch a row of four terraced cottages in 'n' gauge, which was demanding enough. I was taken aback by this scene on Meacham (photo) of an entire urban estate of 'n' gauge terraces. A mammoth building project for someone I guess!

Before the show I checked out the exhibitor list and found a name that rang a bell - Flockburgh. This is the layout of Phil Parker, who's blog I regularly follow. Just had to seek him out and say hello. He gave a boost to my ego as he knew of me and followed my/this Blog. All I need now is to bag Chris Nevard and I would have met the two most prolific and influencial UK commentators in the Blogasphere. (In my opinion).

Unfortunately, had to cut our visit short as my grandson (age 2 and a half) decided enough was enough (He does like trains, honest - one of his first words was choo choo).

Monday 5 March 2012

DIY Static Grass Applicator - Health Warning

Want to make your own static grass applicator? Static Grass is a plastic flock type material that accepts a static charge. The electric field of the device makes the grass stand on end. There are two published methods of making your own applicator. One uses a negative ion generator and the other an electric fly swat conversion. I choose the latter as the parts were readily available from my local hardware store. 

Search in YouTube for a video on how to make your own. The conversion of the electric fly swat is straight forward. Apart from the fly swat you need a metal tea strainer, croc clip, wire, two batteries and some initiative to connect the tea strainer to the electronics. The parts for mine cost about £8 all in. 

On the fly swat handle was the warning shown in the photo above. This is no joke. I inadvertently put my skin between the croc. clip and metal tea strainer with the thing turned on and gave myself a belt of electricity that felt as strong as a shock off the mains! 

Thursday 12 January 2012

DIY Polystyrene Hot Wire Cutter

There is something strangely satisfying about cutting polystyrene blocks with a hot wire. There are a number of advantages over other cutting methods. Complex shapes can be cut more easily, quietly and without mess. Just have to be aware of toxic fumes that can arise! There are several guides and videos on the web on how to make your own cutter and I was excited to discover that the power source can be a car battery charger, which most of us have tucked away in the garage. I also read that a steel guitar string can be used as the cutter. Both items I had available but needed to find something that could be the yoke without much fabrication being necessary. 

After searching my store of artefacts I saw a length of flexible plastic curtain rail. Now this variety is supplied rolled and the spare piece I found still exhibited the curvature of the roll. Isn't it great when you find something that is screaming out to be used for a different purpose you have in mind. The guitar string (E 1st) was looped at both ends and held with nut and bolt to the ends of the curtain rail. The string is held taught by the springy curtain rail - and that is all there is to it. 

The battery charger I have was clipped onto the bolts and set for 6V motorcycle mode. The wire gets hot enough to melt the polystyrene but not hot enough to melt the plastic curtain rail. In the picture I have used the baseboard of a new 'n' gauge project as a work bench and the wire of the cutter overhangs the edge. The yoke is resting on some insulating foam so that the electrics don't come into contact with the railway track. Polystyrene to cut is simply offered up to the wire and carefully pushed through it, which requires no force whatsoever. Why do I need to cut polystyrene? Well, it is the foundation of the landscape for the new railway. The contours of the land can be formed quickly and easily with polystyrene blocks.
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