Monday, July 25, 2016

No Such Thing As Bad Publicity?

Over the last couple of months my modelling has been featured, one way or another, in three different magazines. First up was the June issue of British Railway Modelling, then the July issue of Railway Modeller, and then the most recent issue, number 107, of Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Modelling REVIEW. The mentions have all been very different but they've allowed me to reflect on whether or not the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity is really true or not.

Let's work backwards through time starting with the article in the REVIEW. As you can see from the cover this was a locomotive builders special issue and the editor, Roy C. Link, asked if I could write an article about the Hudson-Hunslet model I built that became the Narrow Planet kit. In a slight departure from other articles I've written this one is essentially a set of photos with extended captions and runs over six pages. It's been beautifully laid out by Roy and I think gives a nice overview of the whole process from initial idea through to the release of the kit. The whole magazine is stuffed full of wonderful modelling (as it always is) and hopefully readers won't think I bring down the tone with my modern 3D printing approach.

Next we have the July issue of Railway Modeller, which included a short item, about a third of a page, on the Lynton and Barnstaple detailing pieces available from Narrow Planet, which includes the chimneys and finials I designed. We had sent the magazine some samples, and while the item was short it was very positive, and probably explains the sudden surge in orders for chimneys I've had to deal with recently.

Which brings us finally to the article in the June issue of British Railway Modelling. The story behind this article goes all the way back to ExpoNG last year when the Hudson-Hunslet kit first went on sale. One of the kits sold on the day (rather than as part of the pre-order) was bough by Ben Jones the editor of British Railway Modelling. I had a really nice chat with Ben and he took a number of photographs of my prototype model (the red one). No promises on an article were made but I made it clear that if he wanted any more information or needed any help with the kit he only had to ask. So when I heard that there was an article on the kit in the June issue I was full of hope. Unfortunately, as I alluded to in a previous post, hope turned to disappointment very very quickly.

Even before I'd managed to get my hands on a copy of the magazine I'd heard rumours that the article was problematic. Unfortunately this proved to be true, but the situation was a lot worse than I feared. In the magazine the article ran over three pages; one page of build photos and captions and then a double page spread mostly taken up with a single large photo and a column of text. Taking a model that is so small and printing a photo across a double page is always going to be rather cruel, but it helps if the model has at least been put together properly. Unfortunately the body and chassis clearly hadn't been fitted together correctly as the axle boxes and axles didn't line up; probably only a mm both vertically and horizontally but when blown up it was glaringly obvious. Plus the locking handles on the bonnet panels hadn't been fitted (even though they were mentioned in the text of the article) leaving odd holes in the model.

The article itself is fairly positive and the build sequence is nice and clear. Unfortunately, Ben admits to having "hit a brick wall" assembling the chassis and having to ask Phil Parker for help, and then states that the supplied figure is "too large for the seat". Yes the driver is a little large but exactly how to make him fit is covered in the instructions, which Ben suggests "reading thoroughly before you start". The issues with the chassis are then covered in a 3 minute video on the accompanying DVD. Essentially once Phil had got it working rather than writing an e-mail he filmed a quick video for Ben never expecting it to be published. Unfortunately it comes across as Phil simply listing things wrong with the kit:
  • Mounting pins in the wrong place: no they aren't I'm guessing when Ben added weight to the body he got it in the wrong place so the two halves won't mate properly. An issue highlighted in the instructions and which would explain why the axle boxes and axles don't line up in the photo.
  • Replacing the phosphor bronze wire as we only supply a tiny amount: we actually supply three or four times more than necessary so I'm not sure where the extra went.
  • That the etched brakes can't be fitted as they would interfere with the pickups: it's clear in the video Phil is trying to fit them to the mounting pins between the wheels not the ones on the corners of the chassis. Again covered clearly in the instructions.
  • A general lack of weight: getting weight into such a small model is hard which is why we supply a whitemetal driver figure so it's a shame it wasn't used.
Now I wasn't expecting a glowing review but as you can imagine, when you add all those things up, I was rather disappointed with the article. Of course the magazine is free to run the article as they see fit. After all it wasn't an advert as Ben had paid full price for the kit (he didn't even ask for a discount), and I'm not trying to denigrate either Ben or Phil's modelling; I read Phil's blog on a daily basis as I enjoy his modelling output. Mainly I'm disappointed as pretty much all of the issues come from not having read the instructions carefully, and I could have helped solve them with a single e-mail had I been asked.

The article raises a wider issue though. Having seen how misleading the article is (in my eyes at least) how can I, or anyone else for that matter, trust any other kit reviews in the magazine? If I'd read the article with no prior knowledge of the kit I'd probably have thought it was badly designed and wouldn't have bought one. Is every other bad kit review I've read similarly misleading? What about good reviews how accurate are they? Of course I'm not talking just about British Railway Modelling here but magazines in general.

I understand from talking this through with some other people that the REVIEW avoids mistakes like this by often running a copy of the article past the kit manufacturer before publication. This probably explains why it's such a well respected magazine. Maybe the main high street magazines should follow suit?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Whistle While You Work

Unfortunately there hasn't been much time for modelling over the last couple of weeks, but yesterday I decided to find a few minutes to produce another of the small detailing parts for the Skarloey conversion, specifically the whistle. On the prototype the whistle is mounted on top of the dome, but the plastic moulding on the model is very coarse so I decided to replace it with something knocked up from styrene strip, phosphor bronze strip and a turned brass whistle (I already had this in stock, a purchase from 3mm Scale Model Railways when I fitted one to the Quarry Hunslet, so didn't feel the need to turn my own)

There isn't really anything complex or interesting in the modelling here, apart from the way I shaped the styrene strip to be a tight fit into the hole in the casting. I used some 0.8m by 1.5mm strip which is just a little too big in both dimensions for the slot in the casting. Instead of trying to file it down, I simply flooded the hole in the casting with plastic weld, and then gently pushed the strip against the top of the hole. The plastic weld essentially melts the styrene and so I was able to gently work it deeper and deeper into the hole adding a bit more solvent with a brush as needed. Once it was all the way in I left it alone so the plastic would harden then gently pulled it out and trimmed off the flash that had formed. After that it was just a case of fitting the bit of strip metal trimming everything to size and drilling a hole for the whistle to fit.

In the photo all the parts are simply resting in place, which explains the gap between the cab and the casting, this will disappear when everything is properly screwed together. I think the only thing remaining now is to decide if I need any pipework around the dome, otherwise I might be able to move on to painting.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Chimney Turning: Take 3

I can't believe it's been over a month since I last wrote a post. I had everything ready to write a new post on another attempt at turning a chimney and then my enthusiasm for modelling suffered a bit of a blow. No I'm not talking about the referendum (although as the result directly affects my job which I might well loose within the next 18 months it didn't help) but some rather public feedback on my modelling. I'm still figuring out if I want to talk about it, but having been away on holiday (which included a railway related day out) I'm feeling a bit better and so on with the story.

Last time I'd managed to turn two chimneys neither of which were usable; one broke and one didn't have the right profile. The third attempt basically followed the same approach as the first two, but once I got to finishing and drilling out the turning I switched from the 3 jaw chuck to using a new purchase; a ER16 collet chuck. The chuck is a genuine EMCO part but the collets themselves are cheap Chinese parts; the entire set cost me less than a single collet often does and they seem accurate enough.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos while actually using the collets but, as I said before, the approach was the same as last time, just with a different way of holding the parts. Once I'd turned the chimney (photos of it on it's own appear not to have been taken) I moved on to preparing the body casting by removing the old chimney and drilling a mounting hole.

This involved another new addition to the Unimat 3; a milling table. If you remember, I previously had to hold the casting using the 3 jaw chuck which wasn't particularly stable or safe. I started by extending the existing hole in the chimney down a long way using a drill of roughly the same size to help ensure it was vertical. I then cut the top part off the chimney off with a razor saw and tided up the casting before opening out the hole ready to take the turning.

With the casting prepared it was easy to simply slot the turned chimney into place.

It's not a perfect match for the drawing I have but it's very close (close enough for me at least) to a number of old photos of Tallylyn and more importantly I'm much happier with the turning than the original cast version.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chimney Turnig

Ever since I first held the model of Skarloey in my hands the chimney has looked wrong. Mostly I think it's that the band around the upper part stands to proud and is too far down. After my success turning buffers and spectacle plates I thought I'd see if I could produce a replacement. Unfortunately thinks didn't go quite to plan this time.

From a drawing of the prototype I worked out all the main measurements and set to work reducing a piece of 6mm diameter brass rod. The first stage was to reduce it down to 4.6mm which is the diameter of the cap, I then reduced most of it down to 3.25mm which is the diameter of the band around the chimney.

I then fitted the top slide to allow me to turn the taper for the cap; I went for a taper of 45 degrees which seemed to match up with the drawing. With the two parts now joined by the taper I cut into the body of the chimney slightly (0.2mm) to produce the top edge of the band, and then turned the rest down by 0.2mm leaving a 1mm wide band. I then worked out where the base of the chimney should be, made a witness mark, and then turned the rest down to 2mm to act as a locating pin.

Next I parted the chimney off from the rest of the bar leaving a few millimetres above the chimney cap, before turning the part around and remounting it with the locating pin in the 3 jaw chuck. I then faced off the top of the cap until I almost met the edge of the taper, I then faced off just the edge leaving a raised section in the middle. The final step was to then drill out the centre of the chimney. I started with a 1.5mm hole but it didn't look big enough so I changed to a 1.8mm drill which is where things started to go wrong.

One of my pet hates on models is chimneys where the central hole is only a millimetre or so deep so I made sure the hole was nice and deep. Unfortunately I forgot that the mounting pin was 2mm wide and my drill was 1.8mm and when it got deep enough the chimney snapped leaving me with the locating pin in the chuck. Worse was to come though when I went to open the chunk only to snap one of the tommy bars.

Fortunately the tommy bar is still useable, if a little short, and in retrospect a number of things were wrong with the chimney. Not only was it too short (I wrongly measured the drawing) but the 45 degree cap looked silly. So I set to turning a second chimney following the same stages which produced something that looks a lot better.

Initially I was happy with this one, but on reflection, and after looking at some photos not just the drawing, it's still not right. I'm happier with the height and the angle of the taper for the cap, but the band is too high up the chimney (there should be more straight section above it before the taper), so I'll have to have another go at some point. I'm still calling it a success though, as it's by far the most complex thing I've turned yet and it's all good practice.

Monday, May 16, 2016


My work-life balance seems to be all over the place at the moment, and even when I'm at home modelling has ended up fairly low down the list of priorities, but I did find some time this weekend for a little bit of modelling, including a balance pipe!

Due to the chassis block the pipe had to be made in two pieces that put up against the chassis but once it's all painted I think it will do the job. I also added the small pipe from the saddle tank into the drivers side of the cab. This isn't on the prototype now, but is clear on old, pre-preservation photos. No idea what it does but I thought it was worth adding.

Not sure what detail will be next, although I'm still trying to figure out if there is any pipework across the boiler in front of the dome during the early years of the loco. None of the photos I've found are particularly helpful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More Brass Bits

Yesterday I finally managed to clear enough space (by temporarily dumping things elsewhere) to setup the lathe to turn a full set of spectacle plates. If you remember I ran out of brass after making one last time.

Armed with some new brass rod I set everything up and made a start on turning the 6mm rod down to 4.25mm for the outer diameter. My plan was to turn down quite a length of rod so that I could make four or more in sequence ensuring the outer diameter stayed the same. Initially I must have got the tool height wrong because as soon as I tried to take a small cut the tool dug in which tried to lift the front of the crossslide. While a little bit of pressure on the front of the crossslide stopped that happening the surface finish was terrible. So I stopped, made coffee, and then set everything up again. This time it was fine so I carried on.

The sequence was essentially to turn down the rod for the outer diameter, drill the central hole to 3.5mm (I would possibly have preferred this to be a little bigger but I was limited by drill sizes), face off and then turn down the end to 0.75mm to 4mm in diameter. This leaves me with a frame on the end of the bar which I then parted off. At that point I could just repeat the process from the facing off step to cut more frames.

I decided a photo of just four rings wouldn't be very interesting so instead we have a group shot of the main brass bits I've made for this model.

I actually made six parts, even though I only needed four. The first one I parted off badly which distorted it, and one pinged off never to be seen again during parting off leaving me the four I needed. This does mean that my success rate is climbing since I turned the buffers as two thirds of the parts were usable; it might even have been as high as 80% if I'd been able to find the one that got lost.

There will likely be a bit of a pause again as I'm getting ready for a work meeting next week that won't leave me much, if any, free time but then I have some annual leave so hopefully I'll be able to crack on with the final detailing and some painting...... although that would mean I need to settle on a colour scheme. I'm also not sure yet if I'll fit the window frames before painting, and then paint them brass coloured, or polish them up and fit them after painting. Anyone have any thoughts on which would look best? I'm thinking painting them might help me make them look worn and dirty as I don't want an ex-works condition loco.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Footplate

So far most of the work on making Skarloey look less like a cartoon character and more like the prototype it is based on, has revolved around detailing above and below the footplate. I have, however, been working for some time on the footplate itself. Specifically I've cut it into two pieces!

As you may remember, I've been working towards a model showing Talyllyn not as it is today but as it was in it's earlier pre-preservation life. So far that had meant moving the blower pipe to the drivers side, but I've now made a more drastic change by altering the footplate. Currently the locomotive has a footplate that runs along both sides of the boiler and encloses the tops of the wheels. Originally though there was no such footplate, with just a thin strip on the fireman’s side to give him somewhere to stand when topping up the water tank. To model this I've cut away the plastic footplate and added a thin metal strip which results in this.

It still needs some tidying up and a little filler in places but I think that looks fairly promising. You also notice that I've remove the box (I assume toolboxes although could be a sandbox I suppose) from the front right as again originally there was only one on the front left.

I think the main things left now are the remaining window frames and possibly a replacement chimney, but both require me fully reclaiming my desk again so I can get the lathe out. Hopefully that won't take too much longer.