Archive for the ‘Shows and Exhibitions’ Category

Revised Website and Bristol Show

18 May 2017

If you have been trying to look at my website over the last few months you will have noticed that there have been numerous problems.  It started with anyone doing a search for P G Models using Google.  If you searched there you would have the link to the P G Models site, together with the warning “This site may be hacked.”  This did not come up on other search engines such as Yahoo, which just showed the site as normal, but it was off-putting to say the least to anyone doing a Google search.

I was in contact with the company who administer my website for me and I was told that the version of the software that was used on my site was now out of date and needed to be upgraded.  What started as just an upgrade ended up as a complete re-build of the site with the new software.  Whilst this was being done, I then found that if you clicked on P G Models, you were taken to a completely different site, so everyone was re-directed by some dear little hacker with nothing better to do whilst sitting at his laptop in his bedroom.  I am grateful to my website administrators who closed down the site completely as soon as I told them, and to Martin for telling me about this in the first place.  Luckily the new site was nearly completed, which I finished off by re-entering all of the pictures of my models.  550 pictures downloaded in a day!

When you now click on the site you get

New Header

New Header

Which is largely similar to the old site, but now with most of the pictures a bit larger.  This is particularly noticeable if you look in the Categories

The new Armour page

The new Armour page

Where the images are now a lot bigger and clearer. although they are still the same photos that I took many years ago.  If you hover your mouse over the image you will get “QUICK LINK” pop up, which if you click on it take you to brief details of the model, or of you click on the name of the model it takes you to the full-page as before with all of the details about the model.  I have cut back a bit on the pictures.  As you can see above, I’ve tried to get a good three-quarter front view for the main photo for each model, to be consistent.  I have now just one photo for most models showing them in bare pewter as I think it is made quite clear in the text for each model that they come as bare metal unassembled kits.

This process will have cost quite a bit, but it’s one of those things where I had little alternative but to do it.  Luckily the end result is a better site than it used to be, and if you do a Google search you now longer get told that the site may be hacked, because it is NOT hacked any longer!

 

Bristol Model Railway Exhibition

Bristol Model Railway Exhibition

On to some pleasanter things.  Nearly three weeks ago I went along to the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition which was a three day show in the last weekend of April.  For about two months before the show I worked solidly casting and cleaning models to build up my stock.  This year, for the first time, I had both my P G Models stand and I was also exhibiting my Haverfordwest layout and so the week before the show I went over all of the track and dusted down all of the buildings, trackside and trees .  Whilst getting ready for the show, I cleaned all of the locos and gave them a light oiling.  Much to my horror, I dropped my CJM Class 66 loco.  Sod’s Law at work, this of course was/is by far the most expensive model on my layout.  I managed to pick up the bits that had broken off, then removed the body shell from the chassis, re-located the broken off bits, and put it back together.  I don’t know what I did to the loco, but it, and all of the others ran better at this show that they ever had.  In the photo above you can just about see the blur of the CJM Class 66 hauling 18 wagons (which is about twice as long as I used to be able to do), consisting of 10 Warwells with Warriors, and 8 Warwells with my Armoured Ambulance train.  I put a lot of this down to the help I had from Neal Mansell who helped me out at the Didcot Model Railway Exhibition last October where Neal helped de-bug a number of things that weren’t quite right about the layout.  His expert eye to find them, and undoubted experience at curing them has made the layout run better than ever before.  And I admit that this idea of running all of the Warwells together was my friend Mike Gill’s idea rather than mine, but it worked!

Another photo from the Bristol show

Another photo from the Bristol show

My thanks must go to Mike Gill (who looks as though he is about to be decapitated by the banner in the photo above) who helped me set up the P G Models stand on the Thursday night, and then helped me load up the layout in a hire van on the Friday morning, then set it up, run it for three days, and help me take it apart again and unload back home on the Sunday evening.  Quite a marathon.  Thanks too to Dave Burton who helped man the P G Models stand on the Friday and Sunday, and to Mike Johns and his grandson who helped on the Saturday.   Sales were non-existent for most of the Friday and Saturday, and Mike’s grandson was eager to make a sale.  Another case of Sod’s Law,  I covered the stand whilst they went for a wander around the show, and whilst they were away, I made the one sale of the day!  I’m pleased to say that things were completely different on the Sunday, and I ended up covering all of my costs for the show.

Whilst at the show I took some video of the layout that my friend John Paulding has cleaned up and removed the worst of my shaking.  He has now posted it on You Tube as a MAFVAmovie.

Looking at the Goods Yard

Looking at the Goods Yard

One thing that really pleased me at the show was that I was finally able to show my layout to my friend Ron Weatherall, who is the person who gave me the idea in the first place.  These days, many people regard my Haverfordwest layout as simply a show place for my range of P G Models, but that was not why I made it.  I made the models because no one else made what I wanted, so I made them myself for the layout, and then after making them decided to see if anyone else would be interested in buying them. So P G Models started after I had begun work on the Haverfordwest layout.

I met Ron, who is a superb 1/76th scale civilian truck modeller many years ago (sometime around the year 2000) at  the British Model Soldier Society (BMSS) Bristol show that was held in Bath (now in Nailsea).  At the show I was exhibiting some of my small 1/76th scale dioramas of a tank transporter with tank and a support vehicle.  Ron told me that he had photographed armoured vehicles being loaded and off-loaded from railway wagons at Haverfordwest Goods Yard, behind the station.  Would I be interested in seeing his photos?  Does a fish swim!!!

I saw Ron again a few months later at a South Wales Model Show in Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre where he showed me his album of photos and he very kindly let me borrow it.  My first idea was for a small static layout in 1/76th scale using Genesis Kits white metal kits of Warwell and Warflat wagons, using armoured vehicle kits that I had from Cromwell Models.  This developed into a larger static layout and then I had the idea that if I went down in scale to ‘N’ gauge, I could probably be able to model all of the Goods Yard.  I chatted about this to my friends at our Miniature AFV Association (MAFVA) South Wales branch meeting where the others suggested that if I was going that far with a static layout, why not go a step further and make it into a working model railway layout.  And so the idea started.

I am really pleased that Ron has finally had a chance to see what has been very much the fruit of his idea.  I am very grateful for his much appreciated help and suggestions.  Thanks again Ron.

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Barry Island Model Show

25 April 2017
Barry Island Railway Station

Barry Island Railway Station

Last Sunday 23rd April I went with my model club, South Wales MAFVA to a model show inside Barry Island Railway Station.  The station is still very much in use, but the trains now use the platform with an exit just off the picture above to the left, with all of these station buildings now used as a military museum where they have regular weekends with preserved steam and diesel trains running, and several different model shows, to help publicise their efforts.

The former Waiting Room

The former Waiting Room

This is the former Waiting Room, with our displays around all four walls, and in the centre of the room.  The open doorway to the right of our club banner is the way through to the station platform.  The day started off decidedly grey and overcast, typical weather for a South Wales seaside resort.  This particular location has gained fame, or should that be infamy as the set for the “Gavin & Stacey” BBC comedy series.  When I lived in Cardiff in my early teens I used to travel to Barry Island by (steam) train with my brother for a day on the beach, and must have walked through this station countless times.

Peter Denyer with his huge rail gun

Peter Denyer with his huge rail gun

Quite appropriately for this location, Peter Denyer brought along his Dora WWII German rail gun.  Even in 1/76th scale this is still huge, and nicely done by Peter who is on the left here talking to one of our visitors.

Mike Gill's Longmoor dioram

Mike Gill’s Longmoor diorama

Another club member with a railway related theme was Mike Gill with a diorama/working layout of part of the Longmoor Military Railway set in the period of WWII.  The locos are from various model railway manufacturers, with buildings from Skytrex, but most of the vehicles have been heavily converted by Mike from various sources.

Sean Hooper's models

Sean Hooper’s models

New club member Sean Hooper brought along an interesting selection of his models.  He is working on a large collection of Bedford QL variants where he is converting basic kits with new bodies.  Sean has painted these using dark toning and then with water colours.  We hope to have an article about his painting techniques in our South Wales MAFVA newsletter/magazine, The Dragon.

Some of my models

Some of my models

I brought along a selection of my models, and included some 1/76th scale ones that are quite a few years old.  The Leyland DAF DROPS truck and trailer were Continental Model Supply Company models where I converted the flatracks into fuel dispensing tanks, used in Bosnia and Croatia.  I was told that they didn’t comply with UK Road Traffic Construction & Use legislation, and so were only ever used loaded with fuel when abroad.

A beautiful little diorama from Paul Hennessy

A beautiful little diorama from Paul Hennessy

The son of the show organiser wanted to have a competition for the best model on display at the show, and so we all had to pick our favourite one.  This must have been a difficult task for the judges as we have some very varied interests within our club.  The winner was Paul Hennessy for this beautiful little 1/35th scale diorama.  Paul was with me when we attended a previous show at this venue, but that time we were stuck out on the windy, freezing cold platform all day.  Whilst there though, Paul showed me how he builds up layers of transparent washes of paint to weather his vehicles.  This is shown to good effect in this diorama.

The train to Aberdare

The train to Aberdare

Just to prove that this is still a working station, here’s one of a number of regular services bring people down from the South Wales valleys, in this case Aberdare, for a day on the beach and taking them back again.  The show was a lot better this year than when we were there previously, and the day soon went, with a steady flow of people coming to have a look at our display.

By way of a contrast, this coming weekend 28th through to 30th April I am attending the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition in Thornbury Leisure Centre with both my N gauge Haverfordwest layout and also with my P G Models trade stand that will be more or less opposite the layout.  For anyone visiting the show, I will be in Hall 2 which is the bowls court, in the top left hand corner.  I have three friends who will be helping me with both the layout and the trade stand, with me going to wherever the greatest need is. It should be a busy weekend.

 

 

A fantastic week

21 December 2016

I’ve just spent the first week of December on one of the best week’s holidays that I’ve ever had, a trip to the USA.  In a previous post I showed pictures from a visit to The Netherlands with friends from Cambridge MAFVA to the museum at Overloon.  Following on from that, I also joined them on a visit to the Scale Model Challenge show in Veldhoven, also in The Netherlands in September.  A few weeks after that show, one of the Cambridge MAFVA members, John Paulding asked me if I would like at accompany him on a visit to the USA where he was attending the Performance Racing Industries Convention at the Indianapolis Convention Centre in Indiana, USA.  This was an opportunity of a lifetime.  It was something that I’ve never ever done, having never travelled any further than Corfu in Greece with my daughters, which was over 20 year ago.  I thought it over for a couple of days and then accepted such a kind offer.

My first view of North America

My first view of North America

We started off with an Air Canada flight from Heathrow to Toronto, and then a smaller plane from Toronto to Cleveland, Ohio.  The photo shows my first view of the North American continent from 37,000 feet flying over a snowy Labrador or Newfoundland.

Inter-State-70

Inter-State-70

For the first couple of days we stayed with Jim Mesko, who is an acknowledged author who has written 45 books on various aspects of the Viet Nam war, and who is a Viet Nam Veteran himself.  Jim then drove us to Indianapolis, via a model shop in Columbus, the state capital of Ohio.  One thing that I found fascinating throughout the whole of my week in the USA is how so many things are similar, but different to the UK.  The photo above shows a truck at a rest area on Inter State 70, on the way from Akron, Ohio to Indianapolis, about a 7 1/2 hour drive.  What is interesting about this photo is that the one truck is carrying two others in a piggy-back style behind it, with the first of the white trucks attached to the fifth wheel coupling of the lead truck, so that the other two can turn around corners.  This would never be allowed in the UK as it would not comply with our Construction and Use Regulations (thinking back to my old days as a Trading Standards Officer)

Jim and John outside the Convention Centre

Jim and John outside the Convention Centre

The photo above shows Jim on the left and John on the right in front of the entrance to the Indianapolis Convention Centre, which is absolutely vast.  It was dry in this photo, but at a bone chilling 20 F (- 6.7 C).  We soon had several snow flurries, but nothing much until the Sunday.  I was expecting the show to be at the Indie 500 race circuit, but the Convention Centre was right in the centre of the city.  We stayed in a motel that was just outside a ring of Inter State routes that surround Indianapolis, which was 16 miles from the centre of the city.

Inside the PRI show

Inside the PRI show

The show was held in two huge halls, all carpeted throughout, with hundreds of exhibitors and what must have been thousands of visitors.  I had my mobile phone with me, and this showed that on the Thursday I walked 7.6 miles just going up and down all of the isles of the show.

In the Lucas Oil Stadium

In the Lucas Oil Stadium

We ended the Thursday with free drinks in the Lucas Oil Stadium that is linked to the Convention Centre.  Dare I say, yet another first for me, to be inside an American Football stadium.  I was told that it has about a 40,000 seat capacity.

Just one of the many cars on display

Just one of the many cars on display

On the Wednesday I spent some time at the show taking photos of just some of the countless cars on display.  The show had everything from fan belts to wheels to milling machines and 3D scanners to drivers clothing and anything else you can think of related to any types of racing car, including  quite a few attractive young ladies helping to sell their company’s products, with almost everyone offering goodies such as stickers and pens or baseball caps and t-shirts.

Mean and ugly

Mean and ugly

For me, the prize for the most brutal car on display must be this one, very cleverly painted to look old and rusty, but quite the opposite.  Just look at the size of the engine and air intakes!  and yes, with massive rear wheels and two parachutes at the back to stop it.

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton, Ohio

On the way back from Indianapolis on the Saturday we called in to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.  The museum is in all four of these huge hangers with everything inside from the first powered flight right up to space travel.

A collection of balistic missiles

A collection of ballistic missiles

If ever the Cold War had turned hot, it would have been these beasts that would have been flying from the USA across to Russia.  It was quite sobering to look at them.  They also had a mock-up of the control room inside a missile silo, with the seats and controls of the two operators far enough away from each other so that no one person could have set off a missile without working with their partner.

The Apolo 15 command module

The Apollo 15 command module

By way of a contrast, here is the actual command module from the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, still heavily tarnished from re-entry to the earth.  Whilst the missiles looked huge, this looked tiny.  It must have been unbelievable cramped for three men to have travelled all the way to the moon and back in something as small as this.  They also had several other capsules on display, with the one-man ones even smaller.  It really makes you appreciate the nerves of steel that these astronauts must have had.

Warthers Museum

Warthers Museum

On the Sunday we visited Warther’s Museum in Dover, Ohio.  I had never heard of this before our visit.  Mr Ernest “Mooney” Warther made a living from making some top quality knives, and also made these wooden models of locomotives.  The one thing that is amazing about these is that all of the parts are press-fitted together, without a single whiff of glue anywhere!  The brown parts are wood, and the white ones are ivory, all hand-carved, including all of the lettering that have pins on them that go into the wood.  What is more, all of the wheels, connecting rods, and pistons worked!  Some incredible model making.

Massilon, Ohio

Massilon, Ohio

There had been some snow in Indianapolis, but there was some more when we got back to Jim’s house, and then even more in Dover and, as you can see in the photo above, in Massilon, Ohio.

Road sign

Road sign

We called into Massilon to visit another model shop, to the left in the photo.  What this also shows is yet another example of things being similar but different.  I have known for years about Americans use of the word “Math” where we in the UK say “Maths,” but here’s another one that I didn’t know about.  In the UK we have “Road Works Ahead” but in the US they are, or rather it is  “Road Work” with no “s.”

We came back on the Monday night/ Tuesday morning, with a combination of cancelled flights and delays.  I left Akron, Ohio at 2pm (7pm UK time), got in to Heathrow about 12 noon, then found our cases were still somewhere on the North American continent, had a four and a bit hour coach journey from Heathrow back to Cardiff where my daughter Rhianwen and her children picked me up and took me back home at 7pm, 24 hours later and feeling both shattered and jet lagged – also a first experience, although less welcome.  Nevertheless, this was truly a week that I shall remember for the rest of my life.

Didcot Model Railway Exhibition

1 November 2016

In having my little P G Models business running side-by-side with my Haverfordwest railway layout, I am finding that a number of people who started as just my customers are now becoming good friends.  One of these is Martin Cussell who is a member of the Abingdon and District Model Railway club.  A few months ago he asked if I would be interested in attending a show that his club were putting on in Didcot, to which I readily agreed that I would.

Looking down at the Goods Yard

Looking down at the Goods Yard

 

Following on from exhibiting my Haverfordwest layout at the Cardiff Model Railway Exhibition two weeks ago, last Saturday I showed it again, at the Didcot Model Railway Exhibition, just south of Abingdon/Oxford.  At the Cardiff show I was particularly pleased to have some much appreciated help from Neal Mansell, who is an extremely experienced N gauge railway modeller.  Neal has bought a considerable number of my models, and saw my Haverfordwest layout at the show in Cardiff for the first time.  After the Cardiff show he  offered to come along to Didcot to give me a hand, to which I readily agreed.

The military train being loaded

The military train being loaded

I got to the venue early in the morning as this was just a one day show, and I needed to make sure that I could set it up quickly enough to de-bug any running problems that I always seem to get at the start of a show.  I am particularly grateful to the help given to me by the show organisers who helped me unload the van that I hired to take the layout to their show.  This was done in a record speed with three of us unloading.  Neal soon joined me and helped me set up the layout in an equally quick time.  Having an experienced railway modeller such as Neal helping me out made a world of a difference.  In a matter of minutes we had trains working on the layout before the show opened at 10 am.  And yes, there were a few issues with wagons uncoupling, but not as many as usual, which was also partially due to exhibiting it just two weeks earlier where we managed to clear up a few long-standing issues that I’ve had with the layout.

Looking down on the Goods Shed

Looking down on the Goods Shed

I was joined at the show by my friend David Payne who is a long-standing member of the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association (MAFVA) who I have known for many years, but he’s never seen my Haverfordwest layout before.  David is also an experienced military photographer (in ‘real life’ 1:1 scale) and has had his photos and articles published in a number of magazines.  All of the photos in this blog post are from David who has kindly let me use them here.  Photographing this thing is surprisingly difficult as you are trying to photograph some tiny little models that are on a 12 foot layout, so you need to get as much depth of field as you can.

A train of Warriors passing an Armoured Ambulance train

A train of Warriors passing an Armoured Ambulance train

I found that it is a really huge learning curve to have an experienced railway modeller helping you to operate the layout.  I may have 45 years of experience in making military models, but when it comes to things moving, and having electrical power to make them move, I am a complete and utter novice.  I keep reminding myself that this is my first model railway layout, which I am sure experienced railway modellers can spot a mile away.  Some of the tips and ideas that Neal had during the course of the day were extremely useful.  One simple suggestion was to run both my train of Warriors, and my Armoured Ambulance train at the same time, one clockwise and the other anti-clockwise as you can see here in the photo.  This is something that I’ve never done before, but as Neal said, the layout is a good showcase for my little models, and this way they can be shown to the maximum.

Later on at around lunchtime I was joined by my friend Mike Gill who had also offered to give me a hand with the layout, both during the day and also to load up at the end of the show, and back home to unload the van.  Mike planned to come to the show by train as Cardiff and Didcot are on the same main-line from London to South Wales.  However, at the present they are electrifying the line from Paddington in London through to Cardiff.  Mike managed to get a train from Cardiff through to Swindon, but then had to go on a bus from there to Didcot as the railway line was closed for weekend work on the electrification.  So his trip to join me turned out to be quite a marathon.  His help, especially at the end, was much appreciated.

The two of us behind the layout

The two of us behind the layout

And finally, here’s something you don’t normally see, me in front of the camera lens.  I’m the short fat hairy one!  It’s always hard work lugging this layout to and from shows, especially for one day shows such as this, but every time the layout gets exhibited it always seems to get a large amount of interest in it, which makes it worth the effort.

Thanks again to Martin Cussell for the initial invitation to the show, to Neal Mansell for all of his help, advice and suggestions throughout the day, to Mike Gill to help in operating the layout and the stuff at the end, and thanks too to David Payne for such good quality photos.

My next show will be as a trader with my P G Models stand at the IPMS (International Plastic Modellers Society) Scale Modelworld show at the Telford International Centre on the 12th & 13th November.  I shall be in Hall 2 in a similar spot to last year, but a few stalls further along, in block 2A, stall E6.

 

Revolution Trains TEA Oil Tanker Wagon

20 October 2016
The new wagon straight out of the box

The new wagon straight out of the box

Two weeks ago I had a nice surprise in the post, a parcel with a box of three TEA oil tanker wagons from Revolution Trains.  This is a crowd funding venture from Ben Ando and Mike Hale working with Rapido Trains who are producing a number of out of the ordinary N gauge railway wagons and locos to fill some of the gaps left by the major manufacturers.  This is the first time that I have bought something from a crowd funding source.  It has taken 18 months from placing the order to getting the models, which is a lot longer than buying something on E-Bay, but I’m told that this is a reasonable time for this sort of thing.  The main thing though is that it is a really good way to get something that other manufacturers consider not worth bothering with.

I ordered a pack of three to go on my Haverfordwest layout to add to my Murco train.  Until now the only suitable oil tanker wagons available have been the old Graham Farish ones.  They were slightly re-worked by Bachmann, with lower profile wheel flanges than the old ones from Graham Farish’s Poole factory, but are still basically the same.

The catwalks on the top of the wagon

The catwalks on the top of the wagon

It’s difficult to compare these new wagons with the old ones as it’s like comparing chalk with cheese.  One good example of this is with the catwalks at the top of the wagon.  The Farish ones are just a solid lump with surface detail, which probably was state of the art when they were first produced.  The Revolution ones though are made up from open metal mesh and so mimic the real thing and look immensely better. They also have the fuel discharge pipes that are completely missing from the Farish ones, plus a host of other details below the tank that are non-existent on the Farish ones.

A close-up of one end

A close-up of one end

The ladders at one end are nicely done.  There seems to be a good compromise between having scale thicknesses, and making them sturdy enough to be handled without the risk of falling apart.  The wagons also seem to have a complete set of markings on them.  I am a military modeller rather than a railway one, so I can’t comment on how accurate the markings are, but comparing them with the photos that I have of the real thing, Revolution Trains seem to have included all of them, and with good clear definition as well.

Time to get dirty

Time to get dirty

The only thing that I needed to do was to add a bit of grime to the wagons.  I walked past Cardiff Central station the other day and saw a train of Murco wagons going through.  I know this is now several years since these wagons came into use, but now they are absolutely covered in grime.  I spent about 20 years of my career testing petrol and diesel pumps (to check the quantity dispensed), so I do have some experience of handling petroleum products.  The main problem isn’t anything to do with stains from the fuel itself, which is either clear for petrol or golden/yellow-ish for diesel and between the two for Kerosene or Aviation Fuel, but a thin layer of fuel will run over the tops of the wagons when they are filled up at the refinery, and this thin layer of fuel acts as a magnet for any dust in the air, or anything kicked up from the railway track or brakes, or from the loco’s exhaust.

My favourite weathering material for locos and wagons are the Tamiya weathering sets, as you can see here.  They are a slightly waxy material that adheres well to the satin finish of these wagons.

Gently rubbing on the grime

Gently rubbing on the grime

The main colour that I used was “Mud.”  The Tamiya packs come with an applicator with a foam rubber pad at one end and a brush at the other.  In this pack the foam rubber pad had worn away, and so I used a cotton bud instead, which worked equally as well.  I applied the material in downward strokes, to get the streaking effect of the real thing.  You will also need to make sure that you get some around the base of the catwalks, but you need to be careful doing this.  I accidentally broke off one of the catwalk side extensions over the filler cap with some slightly too vigorous weathering.  This was easily corrected by using some Deluxe Materials Aliphatic glue applied to the pins that were put back into the holes that it came out of.  This particular adhesive sets a lot slower than any of the cyanoacrylate super glues, but you can easily wipe off any excess glue, and it dries completely clear like PVA White Wood Glue, but with a lot stronger bond.

Two filler points weathered

Two filler points weathered

In this photo you can compare the filler cap to the left that is un-weathered with the other two that have been.  For the timescale of my layout these would have been brand new wagons, and so just some light weathering was all that was needed.

And a little muck over the bogies

And a little muck over the bogies

The only other thing to do was to add some “Sand” colour to the bogies, this time using the applicator as supplied by Tamiya.  Again, just a light covering to tone down the paintwork as much as anything to represent some of the grime picked up from the brakes and track.

Weathering completed

Weathering completed

And here it is with a light coat of weathering.  All three wagons in the pack were weathered the same way, and at the same time to ensure some consistency in the finish.  The only thing left to do was to run the wagons on my Murco train on my Haverfordwest layout.

Two of the wagons on my oil train

Two of the wagons on my oil train

The delivery of these wagons was perfect timing as last weekend I exhibited my layout at the Cardiff Model Railway Exhibition as part of the South Wales MAFVA display.  I have attended this show for a number of years as a member of the public, and since starting my Haverfordwest layout I have been there for the last few years either with my layout or giving a model-making demonstration.  I always find this a really good show to attend.  Well organised and very friendly with a good selection of layouts and traders to see.  Anyway, back to my layout.

I tried several different combinations on my oil train.  Initially I had two of the new wagons together as in this photo, and later split them up in between the Graham Farish wagons.  I am pleased to say that these new wagons ran really well.  I have had to add some strips of lead to each of the Graham Farish tanker wagons as they just bounced around going over the points/turn-outs. but these Revolution Trains wagons already felt heavy enough.  By mixing the two types of wagon together on the train I didn’t have any major derailments all weekend.  Any un-couplings that I did get seemed to be between the Farish wagons.

My overall view of these Revolution Trains TEA wagons is that they are well worth the price and they certainly enhance both the appearance and running qualities of my Murco train.

The complete oil train

The complete oil train

Here you can see the complete oil train hauled by a Class 60 loco, and with the three Revolution Trains TEA wagons.  In this photo they are passing a train of Armoured Ambulance vehicles, with a train of Warriors in the sidings waiting to go into the Goods Yard.  If you want to see this layout in operation, I am displaying it at a one day show in Didcot on 29th October, and then hopefully next year at the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition in Thornbury at the end of April/beginning of May.

MAFVA Nationals & some new dioramas

6 July 2016
Rab's Commander & Challenger

Rab’s Commander & Challenger

I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the MAFVA Nationals a couple of weeks ago.  One of the main things for me about belonging to a national organisation such as the MAFVA is that you can meet up with people from all over the country rather than just locally if I were in an un-attached South Wales club.  One long-time friend of mine is Rab Burns who had come all the way down from Scotland to attend the show in St. Ives in Cambridgeshire.  Rab has made up a large collection of 1/76th scale tank transporters with a wide variety of loads.  He has also made up one of my Scammell Commanders and Challenger as you can see here.  I think he’s made a superb job of them.

DROPS with a Samaritan

DROPS with a Samaritan

Here’s another of Rab’s 1/152nd scale models, a Leyland DAF DROPS and Samaritan.  Mounted on a simple base with minimal groundwork, but enough to put the model into some sort of context.  Another nicely executed piece of work.

Stalwart Limber made up as a REME vehicle

Stalwart Limber made up as a REME vehicle

And finally, here’s another little gem from Rab, one of my Stalwart Artillery Limbers made up as a REME recovery vehicle with its crane stowed forward to maximise the amount of room for the crew under the tarpaulin over the rear body.  Rab won quite a few prizes at the MAFVA nationals for some of the other models that he brought along to the show.  He is an amazingly prolific modeller, and always to a high standard.

My new pylon diorama

My new pylon diorama

Here’s what I took along to the MAFVA Nationals as something new.  Not so much a military diorama as military vehicles in a civilian setting.  At the end of April I attended the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition as a trader and was next to Severn Models who make a variety of etched brass kits in several different scales, quite a bit of which is in N gauge, including this pylon.  I have thought about making a scene like this for some time, but wasn’t able to find a suitable pylon.  There is an N gauge one in the Scale Link range, but theirs has three arms, two on  one side, and one on the other and looks more like a French one than a British one.  There is also a pylon in the Kato range, produced by Heljan who I believe are a Danish company.  So okay for mainland Europe and Japan, but not quite right for the UK.  So Severn Models have finally filled what has been a big void for me.

I have deliberately shown it in my hand as every now and again I seem to get people confused over the scale of my models.  I recently had a series of e-mails from someone who wanted me to make a diorama for him as he had seen my work on this blog site.  I suddenly wondered if he was aware that my models were made to 1/152nd scale rather than 1/72nd and so pointed this out to him, and I’ve heard nothing more since then.  A pity really as I could have made what he wanted in 1/72nd scale, but just to make it clear, all of my dioramas for the last twelve years have been in 1/152nd scale.

A close-up of the vehicles

A close-up of the vehicles

A closer view of two of the vehicles.  Just bog standard vehicles from my range painted white to represent some of the vehicles used by Western Power and Distribution.  They have a large depot just down the road from where I live and seem to have some quite unusual looking vehicles.

Looking at it from the other end

Looking at it from the other end

Here’s another view of it, showing the Unimog at the other side.  I picked up the base at the On Track model show in Folkestone in February.  It was designed for a small vignette of two or three large scale figures, but is just right for what I wanted.  It is far more interesting to use an irregular shaped piece of wood rather than just a rectangle of MDF, which does have its uses, but not for this scene.

Abbot firing position

Abbot firing position

I couldn’t get this finished in time for The MAFVA Nationals, and didn’t want to rush it, so finished it of a couple of days later.  The original idea for this came from an Army Benevolent Fund calendar for 2006 that consisted of military paintings by Terence Cuneo.  The September picture was of E battery 1 Royal Horse Artillery in 1974 showing a Battery of Abbot self-propelled guns on an exercise in Detmold, Germany.  My model is not exactly the same as the painting, but is based loosely around it.

Another view of the whole thing

Another view of the whole thing

This is another diorama using wood as a base.  In this case it is a slice through a tree trunk with the bark still intact, which I think helps set the thing off nicely.  The trees and bushes came from a trader I saw at the IPMS Avon show in Thornbury (by the old Severn Bridge, same venue as the Bristol Model Railway Exhibition).  All of the vehicles on this diorama were originally made up as single vehicles to show my latest releases in my range of models.  They cover quite a few years with the FV432 being the oldest and the Ferret Mk.2/3 next to it the most recent.  They now have one base to show them off, which I think looks a lot more interesting than single vehicles doing nothing.

Unloading the ammunition

Unloading the ammunition

The position of the Abbot and the Stalwart is a straight copy from the painting.  All of the figures started off as a box of unpainted Preiser 1/160th scale German railway figures.  I altered their trousers and jackets by scraping with scalpel blades to make them look more like military trousers and tunic, and then I sliced off the tops of their heads and replaced them with pieces of plastic rod rounded off to form a helmet.  The painting in the calendar shows all of the crews in berrets, but the hard hats looked better to me.

The other Abbot to the front

The other Abbot to the front

Another view of the whole thing.  The Abbot to the front here has camouflage nets around both sides and front, with the one behind it having the net deployed by some of the crew.  Both Abbots have had their hull rear door opened up, to allow for the ammunition to be fed into them and to allow the fumes from firing the gun to disperse.

Looking across at the scne

Looking across at the scene

And finally, here’s another view of the diorama.  One of the big plusses for me about modelling in this tiny scale is that you can tell a complete story in a relatively small area,  This would be quite a large diorama in 1/76th scale, but there’s almost as much detail here in something that is half the size, and a quarter of the area (half as wide and half as deep).  The photos were taken out in my garden with a sheet of blue card behind it.

A visit to The Netherlands

8 April 2016

Over the Easter weekend I went with my friend David Burton from South Wales MAFVA (the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association) on a visit with members of Cambridge MAFVA to  a show held by TWENOT – Tweede Nederlandse Organisatie van Tankhobbyisten, the Dutch Armour Association, to celebrate their 40th anniversary at the Oorlogsmuseum in Overloon, just north of Venray in The Netherlands.  This was the first time that I have ever attended a model show outside of the UK and it turned out to be an absolutely brilliant weekend.

We set off on the Thursday, which proved to be somewhat eventful.  I arranged to pick up someone at 4pm in Rugby, then go to Duxford near Cambridge for 7pm to meet up with Cambridge MAFVA and take some of their models if they needed any extra room in their cars, and then to follow them to the ferry at Harwich for 10pm.  Well, that was the plan.  David and I set off with plenty of time to spare, and then got stuck in roadworks on the M5, which delayed us by about an hour and a quarter.  We eventually got to Rugby by 5.15 pm and then did a mad dash to Duxford.  We got there at 6.55pm, with one of the Cambridge cars driven off and the other ready to go.  We followed them up until a roundabout near Stanstead airport where we duly lost them in the dark and rain.  Luckily David spotted a signpost for Colchester, so we followed that.  By pure good fortune, and a bit of wellie, about 20 miles further along the road we managed to catch up with the car that we were supposed to be following, and then got to the Harwich ferry terminal as planned.

 

My first view of The Neherlands

My first view of The Netherlands

The night crossing on the ferry went okay, although I didn’t get much sleep, and got up to see the ship sail past the huge industrial complex of Rotterdam and in to The Hook of Holland.  In the past as a married man I have done plenty of driving in France visiting my ex-wife’s relatives, but nothing for 21 years, and never in The Netherlands, although driving on the right hand side of the road is easy enough when most of the journeys were on dual carriageways or motorways .

 

The Nationaal Militair Museum

The Nationaal Militair Museum

We started the Friday by driving up to the National Military Museum in Soesterberg.  I was told that this has only been open for about 18 months, and is the combination of several older museums in to one.  I was expecting to see mainly WWII vehicles but was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a lot of Cold War vehicles on display as well.  The site looked like a large Cold War airfield, but discovered that it was in fact originally a German WWII airfield that was used on bombing runs to Britain, until bombed itself by the RAF.  It was later used post-war by the US Air Force.

Looking down on the main exhibition hall

Looking down on the main exhibition hall

Here’s a view from a balcony down onto the main exhibition hall.  They had quite a few aircraft on display, both hanging down from the ceiling and on display outside, and with a multitude of exhibits from self-propelled artillery and tactical nuclear missiles (Lance) down to DAF trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

A Ferret Scout Car

A Ferret Scout Car

I was expecting to see a Centurion, which I did, but one surprise was seeing this Ferret Mk.2/3 scout car.  I didn’t know that the Dutch used them. For anyone interested in Dutch armour I can highly recommend this museum.  The whole place is very light and airy with plenty of room around all of the exhibits.  The only slightly down side was that many of my photos were taken looking towards the glass panels of the outside, putting the vehicles into shadow, although you can see in the photos that there were plenty of lights on the exhibits.

The Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek

The Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek

We then travelled east towards Arnhem where we visited the Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek.  I didn’t take any photos inside this museum, but it was very well presented and graphically illustrated the horrors of war.  The visit started at the top of the house and worked down to several basement levels, ending in some large 1:1 scale dioramas of the streets around Arnhem.  Very powerful stuff and well worth a visit for anyone interested in Operation Market Garden.

From there we travelled south to our hotel in Boxmeer.  This was a former Convent that had been converted into a hotel with a blend of the old buildings with modern stainless steel fittings, which surprisingly complimented each other very well.  The highlight of the evening was in the restaurant where a single chef prepared a meal for the 11 of us that was absolutely brilliant.  We then retired to the bar where we gradually retired to our rooms for the night, with the South Wales contingent amongst the last to leave the bar.

Our stand in the museum

Our stand in the museum

We got up bright and early on the Saturday and made our way to the Oorlogsmuseum in Overloon which is a very pretty little village.  The museum also holds the George Marshall Collection of WWII American trucks, that was very impressive.  Our stand was linked next to the Cambridge MAFVA one, with another MAFVA member Yuri joining us with his wife.  David brought along a bright red cuddly toy of a Welsh Dragon, which may now become our club mascot.  You can see it to the left of our sign.  A little bit silly, but why not.  This is after all just a hobby.

A Dutch Centurion

A Dutch Centurion

I had a good look around their Centurion and was interested to see that it was fitted with the foul weather hood over the driver’s hatch, which you don’t see very often.  It would be an interesting model to make as it is a British tank, but with a different colour scheme and very Germanic looking smoke dischargers.

Part of the WWII American truck display

Part of the WWII American truck display

Here’s a view of one very small part of the George Marshall Collection that is huge.  The Diamond T tank transporter was shown here with a drawbar trailer loaded with wooden ammunition crates.  These tank transporters were used by the British Army well into the 1960s until replaced by the Antars, albeit with a new Rolls Royce engine fitted to them.

Leaving The Hook of Holland

Leaving The Hook of Holland

The two days at Overloon soon ended and then we set off back to The Hook of Holland for our ferry back home on the Easter Sunday night.  The journey there again proved to be eventful as we had an almighty storm as we went along the motorways and viaducts around Rotterdam, with horizontal rain and gale force winds.  When we got to The Hook of Holland the sky cleared, with everything set for our journey back home.  This photo shows the sun setting over the vast industrial complex of Rotterdam with a coaster sailing past us.

Storm Katie in the North Sea

Storm Katie in the North Sea

The journey home soon changed from calm to a raging storm, Storm Katie.  David and I woke up at 3.30am with the ship rocking all over the place in the gale.  The original plan was for the ship to land at Harwich at 5.15am.  We ended cruising up and down the East Anglia coast as far north as Norfolk for several hours (although we couldn’t see anything other than the white horses of the waves, and one other passing ship that you can see above), waiting for the storm to blow over, with several passengers, including some of our friends, being sea sick, although luckily not I nor David who has spent some time in the Merchant Navy.  We eventually landed at 1.15pm and gave our farewells to our friends in Cambridge MAFVA.

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic weekend with plenty of new things to see and experience. The Dutch people, and our friends from TWENOT were all very friendly and helpful to us, and they all spoke really good English, which was just as well as my knowledge of Dutch is zero.  But the biggest thanks though must go to my friends from Cambridge MAFVA as it was each and every one of them who made David and I feel so welcome, and we just had a good laugh and plenty of jokes over the whole weekend.  Well worth attending.

 

 

An Evolving Design

18 March 2016

I have been a member of the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association (MAFVA) since the mid 1970s, some 40 odd years ago, and have recently been looking at our Association’s logo.

The original design

The original design

The Association started in 1965 and was originally known as the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Collectors Association, although the ‘C’ for Collectors has been omitted in this early issue of Tankette, the Association’s magazine.

A Tankette from 1970

A Tankette from 1970

I joined the Miniature AFV Association in the mid 1070’s, but have since managed to get some earlier issues of what I have always found to be a really useful magazine (only available to members, so you have to join our Association if you’d like to have it).  By 1970 (probably earlier) the Association had developed a logo that has continued in use right up to the present day.  The logo shows a line drawing of the first tank ever to be built that was made by the William Foster Company in Lincoln and was affectionately known as “Little Wille” after its creator.  This first tank was really just a design concept, which went on to develop into tanks armed with guns that were successfully used in the First World War.  Little Willie is surrounded by a 12 toothed drive sprocket from a tank, that is attached to the tank’s engine and gearbox, with the teeth locking in to the tracks and so, as the drive sprocket rotates, it moves the track forward or backwards.

The 1983 version

The 1983 version

My knowledge of the 3D version of this design goes back to when I first entered any models in The MAFVA National Competitions that are held once a year.  First places in a class are awarded a trophy and certificate, and the seconds and thirds get just a certificate.  So I’ve got quite a few certificates, but just a limited number of awards, that makes them all the more precious (not worth a bean as a resin casting on a bit of wood, but there was a huge amount of effort put in to making each of the models that won any awards).  At the 1983 Nationals I entered several 1/76th scale models that got nowhere, and a 1/35th scale armoured Bedford RL ‘Pig’ that won the award for the best Post War model in the competition.  You’ll see that someone has now made a 3D version of our logo.  My friend Paul Middleton, who is now the MAFVA President (which he well deserves) tells me that it is actually an escutcheon.  I had to look in my Oxford Dictionary which says that “an escutcheon is a shield on which a coat of arms is represented: a family shield”  which seems to describe it quite nicely.

The 1988 Nationals in Manchester

The 1988 Nationals in Manchester

Five years later I was at the 1988 Nationals in Manchester.  I had dropped off my wife and children to look around the city centre whilst I went to the model show. I can’t find any certificate to go with this award, so I don’t know what it was for, but you can see a further evolution of the “Little Willie”  surrounded by a mailed fist and with a red rose (of Lancashire?).

The 1990 Nationals in Glasgow

The 1990 Nationals in Glasgow

This was taken a stage further with a really well produced version of Little Willie, this time surrounded by a Scottish thistle to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Miniature AFV Association, and that the Nationals were held in Glasgow.  This time I can say that I was awarded this for either a 1/76 scale model of a Foden 8×4 Cargo Truck, or for a 1/76th scale model of a Combat Engineer Tractor, both of which won 1st places.  This is a particularly attractive design.

I was discussing the MAFVA escutcheon with Peter Bailey of London MAFVA at our Annual General Meeting in St. Albans last Sunday and he told me that he believed that this design was made by one person, but I now know that it was designed by Derek Hansen of Accurate Armour.  You can see that he has done a superb job in sculpting this design which still looks as good now in 2016 as when I first saw it in 1990.

The 1999 version

The 1999 version

It would appear that someone, somewhere later removed the thistle part of the design to leave the drive sprocket and the Little Willie.  My model club, South Wales Branch of the Miniature AFV Association used resin copies of this design when we held the MAFVA Nationals in Cardiff in 1998.  This one was an award to me at The Nationals the year later in 1999 for fist places in the classes for Small scale softskin kit – a Bedford TK; or for Small scale softskin conversion – Leyland DAF DROPS Truck.

A resin copy from 1998

A resin copy from 1998

Going forward to a few weeks ago, I was wondering what one of the Little Willie escutcheons would look like if I cast it in pewter.  The one above had been painted, so I took off the paint with Mr Muscle oven cleaner (make sure you follow the instructions if you want to use this as a paint stripper as it’s quite nasty stuff), and then used Milliput to fill in some gaps around the edges of the drive sprocket.

The end result

The end result

And this is the end result.  The pewter has ben cleaned with files and then rubbed over with a brass burnishing brush.  The sun has caught it at the top of the cog, but it is of a more even colour than it looks here.  Many previous versions of Little Willie have been made in resin and painted with metallic paint, but this is the first one actually made of metal.

I took some with me to the show in Folkestone (see my last post) where I gave Paul Middleton some of them for use as awards at the 2016 MAFVA Nationals which will be held in The Burgess Hall, Westwood Road, St.Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 6WU on Fathers Day 19th June this year.  If you want to see the best of British miniature armour modelling, and softskins, this is the show to attend, and also with one of the best selections of specialist traders as well  I sold several of these “Little Willies” at Folkestone, and also at the MAFVA AGM where they appeared to be very popular.

 

 

A Tale of Two Shows

11 March 2016

During February my model club, South Wales branch of the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association, or South Wales MAFVA, attended two very enjoyable days out at model shows.

A side view of our stand

A side view of our stand

First off, on 20th February was the South West Model Show at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.  This is under 2 hours drive away for us, so is relatively local.  The museum itself is quite unique as it’s the only museum dedicated to the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, and it is located on an active naval aviation air base.  Six members of our club attended the show, with a wide variety of models on display.  In the photo above you can see a well made 1/35th scale Challenger 1 and CrARRV from Dai Buckler, with some 1/76th scale British WWII dioramas from Mike Gill below that.  Behind those, on the table are some 1/35th scale WWII models from Mike Johns, who has attended this show for quite a number of years with me, with my models on the stand above his.

A closer look at Dai Buckler and Mike Gill's models

A closer look at Dai Buckler and Mike Gill’s models

Here’s a closer look at Dai Buckler’s 1/35th scale Gulf War (operation Granby) diorama,  Dai was in the REME attached to the RE during the first Gulf War, so had first hand knowledge of how the tank trackways looked.  Below that, Mike Gill makes extensive use of Artitec HO scale buildings in his dioramas with 1/76th scale British vehicles and figures in front of them.

The other end of our stand

The other end of our stand

At the other end of our stand was this huge 1/48th scale Hercules aircraft from Peter Denyer who is an incredibly prolific model maker.  Last year he attended this show with a 1/76th scale huge German rail gun, which generated a lot of interest.  Behind Peter’s Hercules are some nicely made 1/35th scale WWII dioramas from David Burton.

My models at the show

My models at the show

With six of us attending the show, and with 12 ft of table space, that meant just 2ft x 2ft each.  So I just brought along these four dioramas.  The Scammell Commander one is getting a few years old, but I still like it.  The other three to the front are all new dioramas that each have a helicopter as the main theme.

A Puma in the Gulf War

A Puma in the Gulf War

This one shows a 1/144th scale Revell Puma model in its Gulf War markings with a Bedford MJ and a Land Rover also from the RAF, all in the distinctive desert pink colour used by the RAF during this conflict.  By way of contrast, the Bedford MJ with tilt is painted as an Army vehicle in the light stone colour, with 1/144th scale figures from Preiser.

Our stand at Folkestone

Our stand at Folkestone

The following weekend was a complete contrast.  I attended the On Track model show in Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone with my friends and fellow club members Des Burgess and Paul Hennessy on 27th February.

Des' collection of models

Des’ collection of models

Des has been with South Wales MAFVA since the early 1990s.  He served with the 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards in the Gulf War and left the Army shortly afterwards. joining our club just a few months later.  He is a particularly talented model maker with a variety of subjects as you can see here.  Many are kits, but most have been heavily converted to make them into different versions of the vehicle.

A closer view of Des' work

A closer view of Des’ work

Both Des and Paul Hennessy are also members of the Modelworx on-line model club who were also at the show, so they were splitting their time between the two stands.

Paul Hennessy's fine display

Paul Hennessy’s fine display

Paul has been with us for just a few years.  In fact he had met Des on-line on the Modelworx site before he met him in person at one of our club meetings.  Paul is very talented at using paint pigment washes.  At a model show we attended at Barry Island a year or so ago I watched him put on umpteen coats of acrylic washes to very gradually build up the paint on the model, and very effectively too.  Way beyond anything that I do.

My little models

My little models

In contrast to all of the bigger scale stuff on our stand, here’s my little models at the other end, with the same four dioramas that I had taken to Yeovilton the previous weekend, plus a few more.

A Mountain Rescue scene

A Mountain Rescue scene

This isn’t a scene from an actual event, but I have been up Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons quite a few times (although not for a while now – must get up there again soon) and have seen the yellow Sea Kings up there many times.  This is a Sweet Decals model in 1/144th scale that I bought on e-Bay.  The yellow colour isn’t quite right, but it’s as close as I could get from a “rattle can”  I first brush painted it in the right colour, but left some horrible brush marks that I couldn’t get off.  So it was out with the “Mr Muscle” oven cleaner, sprayed all over in a plastic box, then washed off and gently scrubbed with an old tooth-brush, then re-painted with a spray can.  This model was the first time that I had used static grass with an electro-static discharger (a glorified tea strainer that has a static charge on it, with a lead from that to the model, to make the grass stand upright), and I was pleased with the end result.  The base is a slice of tree trunk with its bark still attached.  The figures on this scene are also from Preiser, but are 1/160th scale ones.

Humphrey the Wessex helicopter

Humphrey the Wessex helicopter

My other new diorama is this one with a 1/144th scale Mark 1 Models Westland Wessex Anti-submarine helicopter “Humphrey” that disabled an Argentine submarine in South Georgia before later use in the Falkland Islands,  The ground work is a sheet of rough grass from MiniNature, but it looked a bit too parched for The Falklands, so I used some snow effect powder that I bought at the IPMS Scale Modelworld a year ago that went nicely between the tufts of grass and achieved exactly what I wanted to show.  The figures are from the same set of 1/144th scale Preiser figures that I used on the Puma scene.

Cardiff ‘Small’ Model Railway Exhibition

26 January 2016
An unusual view of the layout

An unusual view of the layout

Last Saturday 23rd January I exhibited my Haverfordwest N gauge model railway layout at the Cardiff ‘Small’ Model Railway Exhibition that was held in the Scout HQ in Pontcanna Fields, Cardiff, with much thanks to my friend Mike Gill who helped me with lugging the thing there and back, setting it up, running it and bringing it back home, all in the one very exhausting day.  It was a relatively small show, as in its title, but with a dozen layouts, all of which were to a very good standard.

Looking down on the hall from the balcony

Looking down on the hall from the balcony

The show was surprisingly busy with a steady flow of people coming through the door right up until the end of the day.  My layout is just off the photo at the bottom, with a number of people looking at it.

Looking down onto my layout

Looking down onto my layout

From my own point of view, my layout ran better than ever before, but what a saga leading up to the show………..

Starting the rebuild

Starting the rebuild

It all started just days after I got back from the IPMS Scale Modelworld show in Telford in early November.  It was the last show of the year for me and I planned to spend the time re-working my layout in plenty of time before this show in January.  The last time I ran the Haverfordwest layout was at the Midland Railex show in Ripley 18 months ago.  Whilst things worked reasonably okay on the front of the layout, there were constant derailments in the fiddle yards around the back of it, and various problems with locos stalling on the numerous points/turnouts around the back.  The only answer was to make new larger/better fiddle yards.

The two new fiddle yard bases

The two new fiddle yard bases

Here are the two new bases that I made in the usual way with 2″ x 1″ frames and plywood tops, with cork sheets on top of the plywood to absorb some of the vibrations from the moving trains.  Not so much works of art as functional, as not many people see the back of the layout.

The new fiddle yards nearly completed

The new fiddle yards nearly completed

Construction of the new fiddle yards went well, with a more traditional arrangement than the overly complicated one I had before.  This time I have installed the point solenoid motors directly underneath the points by cutting holes for them in the baseboard.  The key thing to remember is that this is still my first and only model railway layout.  I may have over 40 years experience as a military modeller, but I still regard myself as a novice when it comes to working model railways.  Here’s the layout in early December, when I was expecting to take just a couple more weeks to finish it off.

Adding weights to the Warwell models

Adding weights to the Warwell models

I was working on the new fiddle yards in the day time, and making up some of the revised Warwell kits from the N Gauge Society in the evening, to re-work my train of Warriors, and to have a new one of FV432 Ambulances that I have photos of at Haverfordwest.  One big problem that I found was that when I put the Warriors on their risers and on to the new Warwell kits, the kits now have new parts to attach the bogies to, and these were causing the wagons to flop all over the place.  What I did for the Warrior train was to re-work some of my old Parkwood Warwell kits that I had from years ago, with just two pieces of plastic tube to locate the Gloucester GPS bogies on to.  I also added some 5 gramme weights under each wagon that I bought from a shop that specialises in model aircraft (they are used to add weight to the nose of model aircraft so that they will sit squarely on their model runway, rather than nose up).  The weights come with self-adhesive strips underneath them, but these make the weights protrude below the sides of the wagon, so I took off the strips and fixed the weights in place with some Araldite.  The newer Warwell kits from the N gauge Society were used for the FV432 ambulances, which are smaller vehicles than the Warriors, and without the need for a riser, but with weights put underneath them as well to improve their stability.  All of the weight were painted in the same colour green as the wagons and were not at all visible.

The Layout set up in my lounge

The Layout set up in my lounge

The only thing left to do was to sort out the electrics.  I worked out exactly what had to be done, and whilst I am no electrician, it seemed to go okay.  Still with plenty of time before the show in January, I set up the whole thing in my lounge as you can see above, to test it out, and nothing!  No power, nothing moving!  I then spent ages opening up the various connectors to find several loose wires that must have come loose on the journey back from Derbyshire, and found that some of my new connections that I had made for the new fiddle yards also needed re-soldering.  Even worse, I found that I had connected some wires into the wrong connectors in some of the ‘D’ connectors between the base boards.  Then partial success, but still with some bits not working.

I ended up, just days before the show, calling for help from one of my friends, David Burton, who is a retired electrician with years of experience, who offered to come around to fix it for me.  When he arrived at 10 am he said that he expected to take about an hour or hour and a half.  Eventually he finished three and a half hours later at 1.30 pm, still unable to sort out some of the points at the back, but at least I could run trains around the layout.  A huge big massive thank you to David for getting the thing running.  I was seriously thinking of having to put on a display of static railway dioramas, but David managed to save the day after much head scratching and puzzling.

The Warrior train speeding through

The Warrior train speeding through

What was pleasing was that all of the work in fixing the electrics seemed to have paid off.  After David had left me, I spent the rest of the day going over all of the joins between bases as there must have been some movement of the frames and plywood tops, creating some differences in the level of the rails between bases. These were corrected by gently filing the raised rail to get it down to the level of the lower one.   After all of the huge amount of effort to get the thing going again, it was quite a relief to have it working.

The two military trains

The two military trains

Another thing that was pleasing was that I had both military trains working well.  The new fiddle yards have less bends and now have large radius points to reduce the amount of swinging around for the trains, which has helped a lot, with nothing like the number of problems that I had in the past at shows.  The use of weights underneath the wagons made a huge improvement on their performance.  The train of Warriors worked all day without a single one falling off on to the floor, which used to happen frequently.  And similarly, the train of FV432 Ambulances worked without a single incident all day.  Previously I had used a selection of different types of bogies, but now having all wagons fitted with the Gloucester GPS bogies made by ATM made a huge improvement on the smooth running of the wagons.  In fact I would now like to add some more wagons with vehicles to each of the trains as I feel that they can both probably run okay with up to 15 wagons per train, which was my original target, but never achieved.

Meanwhile, whilst proverbially pulling my hair out with the layout in the day time, I’ve retained my sanity by working on the latest model for Marchwood in the evenings and hope to show more next time.