All posts by Heather Kavanagh

Life must still go on

Despite the real world continuing to have a nervous breakdown, life here at Snaptophobic Towers must go on. After my little breakdown, I’ve been steadily getting back into the workbench swing, and have just completed a set of five 7mm scale coaches.

Although the build had its moments, I am very pleased with how these models turned out. The crimson and cream livery really suits these coaches. They represent British Railways standard coaches built in the early 1950s. A pair of BSK Brake Second Corridor coaches will top and tail a CK Composite Corridor and SK Second Corridor, with a BG Brake Guard which can be added as the mood suits.

The models are built from Easy-Build kits. Four had been partly built by the client, so I was tasked with completing them, with an additional kit added later. I’ve added a few details, but essentially the finished items are made from what came in the box.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in British railway subjects generally at 1/43rd scale (7mm to the foot). You can follow me on Twitter and—for now—Facebook, and I also have a web site that gets some love occasionally. I’m not currently seeking new commissions, but I am always happy to discuss potential work.

Oh, hello

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, you can probably guess why. Yes, that whole B thing, quite apart from anything else. Everything is now seen through the prism of Brexit. Everything. It absorbs life and light, just like a black hole.

What was the point of sitting here, keyboard warrior, blethering on about things over which I have absolutely no control whatsoever? So, I didn’t.

At first, it was the world that was broken. Eventually, I thought, it would right itself. Except, instead, it seems to spiral further into complete insanity with every passing day. The world has now broken me. I only need to spend a few minutes looking around, or reading something about it, and I’m lost.

As a child of the Cold War, and having lived through the threat of thermonuclear annihilation during the 1970s and 1980s, I find myself seriously scared about the future. Just what does it have in store? Who knows, but it won’t be much fun from what I can see.

Anyway, aside from western civilisation collapsing and economic and social apocalypse come next April, what’s been going on?

I became overwhelmed with work. I just couldn’t do it. I sat and looked at my piled-up commission work, at what was happening on the bench, and threw my hands up in despair. I needed time off to consider my life, so everything is now way behind schedule. Thankfully, I have supportive and accepting clients. I am slowly trying to rebuild my enthusiasm for getting things done. The order book is closed until at least next year, perhaps longer. It’s a good job I don’t have to rely on my work to pay the bills.

Best Beloved is not well. He’s not really unwell, but he’s not the man he was. I think the global insanity, and my mental ill health, isn’t helping. We bumble on.

Billy-puss is the only real constant in life at present. He’s the rock that helps me keep somewhat grounded in the maelstrom.

We are actively considering a move. Not just to the next street, or town. I’d like to move to another country, but I’m about three decades too late to make that work. I could claim an Irish citizenship, thanks to a maternal grandfather, but I worry about maintaining links for my work and suppliers post that bloody B thing again. We could move to Scotland, before they split from this idiot England at last. Next best thing, I think, will be to move as far north in England as we can, to get away from the armageddon that Brexshit is likely to cause down here in Kent as the ports get clogged and the motorways turn into lorry parks. We currently have sights set on County Durham. It looks like a nice place, and we liked it when we paid a flying visit earlier in the year. A move can’t come soon enough for my liking. There’s nothing down here that inspires me any more.

The broken WordPress installation for this blog is still something I need to sort out. As I haven’t been posting here since the new year, there hasn’t seemed to be any point. There are alternatives, if I feel it’s worth the outlay, but good old inertia has a definite hold on me. I don’t expect I’ll bother sorting it out in the end.

So, there we are. Chaos and calamity reigns supreme, and it’s hard to keep a level head when all around is collapsing so quickly there’s no time to stop and think. I just keep trying to shuffle on regardless, though there seems to be less and less point to it all.

Don’t worry. Utterly depressed though I am, killing myself to end it all isn’t on the cards. That would be utterly pointless, and help no-one—least of all me! Something good will come out of all this, eventually. It has to.

2017 – a review of the year

Once again, December rolls round and it’s time to look back over the past twelve months.

Right. That’s quite enough of that. I wonder what joys 2018 will bring?

Like its predecessor, and as I predicted, 2017 has proven to be a proper flatulent and hairy arse of a year. On a personal front, one the whole, it’s not been too bad. On a geopolitical front, well, let’s be charitable and say it’s been an utter shower of shite from start to finish.

In fact, I’d rather not bother recalling the lowlights, and I don’t particularly recall any highlights to speak of. You were there and, like me, I’m sure you don’t really want to be reminded.

Please, do try and have a happy Christmas, and accept my best wishes for the coming year. I fear we’re all going to need a lot of good wishes to make it through, but with a fair wind we might just make it to 2019.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

Most of the commissioned models I’ve been involved with since I started this professional modelling game have been of a distinctly western aspect. I have three Great Western Railway and ex-GWR locos done and dusted and several more to come, two sets of coaches, and what can sometimes seem like an endless stream of broad gauge models. In between there have been one or two models of other railway companies, but this is my first “proper” one from the eastern side.

Ex-LNER Class J6 0-6-0

This came to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This means my client had made a start on building the kit, but for some reason or another had stumbled along the way resulting in the kit being returned to its box and placed on a shelf. I openly admit I have my own shelf containing many such kits, where perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew, or something was catastrophically wrong with the thing so it was all but unbuildable. A price was agreed, and the box plus supporting research material was duly handed over.

The J6 Class was an updated version of an earlier loco, dating from the 1900s. Originally designed as a mixed traffic type for the Great Northern Railway, the second series of the locos, known as the 536 series after the assigned running number of the first one to be built, eventually ran to 95 examples. They changed little over their lives, the most notable changes being in the tenders to which they were coupled. The last examples were scrapped in the early 1960s.

The commission was to build a loco with a number my client had actually “spotted” in his youth. As it turned out, that particular loco couldn’t be built from the kit, as it had a different tender, but we ended up with 64253—also spotted back in the day. The real loco was based at Hornsey shed in north London in the late 1950s, so that’s how the model has been completed.

It’s important, sometimes, to know your limitations. Mine tend to be complex paintwork and complex mechanical things. In this case the paintwork was easy—plain black—but the client asked if it might be possible to fit a set of fully working inside motion. That, as some might say, is beyond my pay grade, so I commissioned a friend and excellent modeller to build the loco chassis for me. 64253 has a lovely set of Stephenson’s motion installed, and rather splendid it looks, too, waggling about under the boiler.

The rest of the kit, marketed under the Gladiator Models label and designed by Fourtrack Models, went together fairly well. It was originally designed for a smaller scale, and the photo tools for the etched parts suffered a little from the enlargement process to 7mm to the foot scale. Most etched holes, such as those for handrail knobs and parts of the braking system, suffered from being slightly over size. The boiler had been rolled into a cylinder by the manufacturer, but unfortunately had been done inside out and had to be flattened and re-rolled! I had to make some replacement parts from scratch due to poor fitting. Overall, though, nothing too taxing.

The client requested a clean satin black finish, as he wants to weather the model himself. We agreed that I should partially weather the loco and tender chassis and wheels in order to avoid having to disassemble things later. I also partially weathered the coal space in the tender before filling it with some coal.

The smokebox number and shed plates, and the Great Northern Railway works plates, were custom etched by Narrow Planet. The works plates are completely legible, and are correct for the loco’s original GNR number and build date. Some detail parts, and parts of the inside motion, were sourced from Laurie Griffin and Connoisseur Models.

All in all, building this smart little engine has been an interesting departure from my usual fare. I am quite pleased at how it turned out, and I hope it gives many years of good service to its new owner.

Am I still here?

It’s been ages, hasn’t it? I mean, I used to be prolific, with posts on all kinds of subjects. Lately, though, I’ve just not had the time or inclination. There are reasons.

First, and probably most importantly, I’m very busy with the day job. I have a lot of commissioned model work to get through, and I’ve closed my order book for the next year so I don’t keep piling on the agony. While it’s nice to share my work, I find I’m doing it through social media first and foremost. The same goes for the photography—when I manage to get out and do some.

Second, there are things broken with the WordPress installation of this site. I don’t have the time or, frankly, inclination to spend time sorting them out. While the essential functionality is there, in that I can make posts and you can read the content, automatic sharing of new posts to Twitter and Facebook doesn’t happen. Once, I could access and update the blog from my iPad, but the back office doodad that links to the WP app is fubar, so I have to access via a browser. I’ve better things to do.

Third, the world—as has been stated here before—is beyond insanity. Everything is broken, or being broken, and I simply haven’t the words to rail against the dying of the light! You don’t need me adding to the misery.

So, whither Snaptophobic? I’d like to keep blogging, but I would like a platform that works without me having to break out the toolbox and get my hands dirty. I’ve been considering an alternative system, but they currently only allow dot-com URLs. That’s another expense, unless I can forward from my dot-co-dot-uk… More complexity I don’t need in life. You know, I even considered heading back to Blogger. I know. Worrying, isn’t it.

I apologise for the lack of updates. Perhaps I can find some time to rekindle my interest sufficiently. Perhaps I can find some content you may find interesting. We will see. Bear with me.

British Railways Diesel Electric Co-Co 10001 (redux)

The so-called LMS Twins, a pair of 1,600hp diesel electric locomotives that had been designed and built at the British Railways Locomotive Works at Derby in 1947–48, were proper prototypes. They were both right at the leading edge of railway design of the time, and needed to be thoroughly tested. By 1953, both locos had been updated and modified, and were moved to the Southern Region for more testing. They were joined by their larger cousins, 10201, 10202 and 10203, designed by the former CME of the Southern Railway, OVS Bulleid.

By the end of the 1950s, diesel traction was entering the BR fleet in numbers, and the prototype diesels were moved back to Derby make it easier for maintenance. Relegated to secondary duties, and painted in less flamboyant liveries, all five prototypes were eventually withdrawn and scrapped. 10001 lingered at Derby until 1966. Sadly, none of these locos was considered worthy of adding the national collection. There is an organisation trying to build a recreation 10000, the pioneer loco from 1947.

This commission build was to make a representation of 10001 as it appeared in 1953. Various updates and modifications were made to the Just Like The Real Thing kit, such as revised roof grilles and the air horn brackets this loco featured until 1954. The client requested a light weathering, so I’ve aimed for grubby but cared for. The bogies showed the grime a lot, being finished in an aluminium silver paint, so I’ve concentrated dirt round there.

This is my second 10001 build. The previous one represented the loco in its as-built 1948 condition.

Another model completed

GWR pannier tank locomotive rear three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive front three-quarter view

 

GWR pannier tank locomotive in profile

It was meant to be a relatively quick build, but as with most such things on my workbench it got a bit bogged down at times. The client requested the finish to have the late BR totem, weathering to represent a cared-for but working engine.

The model was built to a scale of 1/43rd (7mm to 1ft) from a Just Like The Real Thing mixed media kit, and is to finescale O Gauge standards. The number and shed plates are from Severn Mill Nameplates. The tools on the bunker are from Laurie Griffin Miniatures, the bucket from DJH Models. The cast crew figures are from various sources.

In case you hadn’t realised, I am a professional model maker, specialising in railway subjects. Although I’m happy to quote for new commissions, I have actually closed my order book until 2019, as I am in the happy position of having lots of work in hand. You can look at some of my work, and find out more about me, on my web site. I’m also on Twitter (@HKModelmaker) and Facebook.

A day—or two—out

When you work for yourself, and your other half is retired, it’s very easy to forget to take holidays. Well, I find it easy to forget. To overcome this problem, we’ve decided to try to take short breaks that happen to coincide with model railway meetings of one kind or another. The precedent has been set by our annual jaunt to Telford for the Gauge O Guild exhibition.

This past weekend we wandered up to the West Midlands. We stayed in Oldbury, in one of those identikit hotels, on a short visit that encompassed the ScaleSeven Group’s AGM at the nearby Warley Model Railway Club’s premises. We travelled up from darn sarf on Friday, had the AGM on Saturday (feeling relaxed and refreshed by not having made the journey on the day), and pottered back home on the Sunday.

With time in hand, we made a slight detour to a local attraction before heading home.

Blakesley Hall, according to Wikipedia, “is a Tudor hall on Blakesley Road in Yardley, Birmingham, England. It is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham and is a typical example of Tudor architecture with the use of darkened timber and wattle-and-daub infill, with an external lime render which is painted white. The extensive use of close studding and herringbone patterns on all sides of the house make this a home that was designed to show the wealth and status of the owner.”

The house and gardens are run by the Birmingham Museums. Originally a farmhouse set in its own land, the hall is now surrounded by 1930s housing estates. Nevertheless, once you enter the property, it is a tiny oasis of calm in the bustle of a suburban environment.

There is a modern entry block, with the gift shop, toilets and a tea room. On the day we visited, there was a display of various birds of prey. Volunteers were on hand to guide round the house, explaining about the building and its contents, and the histories of its various owners.

If you find yourself in the Birmingham area and have a couple of hours to spare, visit Blakesley Hall. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and you might too.

You can see some more of the images I took on our visit on my Flickr page.

Broken

Although the title could fit me—though it is fair to say I’m not as broken as I thought I might be after recent national and international events—this is about this blog.

I’ve been busy at the workbench, with little time to sit at my computer. After my last entry here, back in March, I made the mistake of updating the main WordPress software and plugins. One of the most useful plugins, though, breaks the site. I simply am unable to access anything, presented with a white blank page. To gain access to the dashboard, I have to log into the nether regions of the control panel, rename or delete a folder, and then the site comes back to life for me.

The problem is the plugin is one of the most useful, and to pile agony further it’s made by WordPress themselves! Jetpack handles things like cross-posting links to my social media, notifying me if there’s been a comment, and lots of other handy things. Only it’s broken. Numerous updates have been and gone, yet it’s still broken. I can’t be the only person affected by this, can I? Sadly, it seems I am. There’s nothing recent on the WP web site itself. I’ve asked a question of the WP gurus, but I don’t expect a straightforward answer, if an answer is forthcoming at all.

So, I’m left with the annoyance that my blog is somewhat broken. I’m hoping this issue will be resolved in due course, but I’m not holding out any hope. Normal service may be resumed at some point.

British Railways Co-Co 10001

I’ve always had a particular fondness for the pioneer British mainline diesels. Actually, let’s put it another way: I’ve always had a particular fondness for one-offs, oddities and prototypes. The latest commission to leave the workbench definitely falls into the latter category.

In 1946, the London, Midland & Scottish Railway—at the time the largest company in the world—was looking to the future. Britain’s railways had effectively been ground into the dust as everyone and everything focused on winning a world war. The board of the railway agreed to invest cash in a speculative test of two diesel electric locomotives. Designs were drawn up in the Derby Works drawing office, and a partnership formed with English Electric, whose experience would furnish the power plant, electrical and control equipment. While diesels were commonplace in the United States, and much of that country’s experience was called upon, a design was created that set the standard for UK mainline diesel locos for many decades to come.

Finished in a striking black and silver livery, the first loco to emerge from the works was 10000. It’s sibling was held back to ensure the LMS could extract as much publicity for its new machines as possible—just as Britain’s railways were nationalised. 10000, in fact, was unveiled to the public and press in early December 1947. After a few test runs and jaunts for the press, the unfinished loco returned to Derby for completion and certain improvements. Meanwhile, in early 1948, 10001 appeared with slightly less fanfare.

Both locos continued to be updated and modified throughout their careers. They worked the Midland Region routes on a variety of trains, both singly and as a pair (termed working “in multiple”, where one driver could operate both units from a single cab). In the early 1950s, both locos were despatched to the Southern Region, where they were again tested on various trains. By the late 1950s, diesel traction was becoming more commonplace and eventually, being prototypes and non-standard, both locomotives were withdrawn. 10000 was scrapped in 1963, while 10001 lingered at the Derby works until 1966.

The model represents 10001 as it was delivered to British Railways in 1948. It has been built, to a scale of 7mm to the foot (1/43rd), using reference materials published by Wild Swan and a kit from Just Like The Real Thing. A cosmetic diesel engine has been installed, and the cabs have been detailed and painted as accurately as possible. Various other details have been added to make this model as true to the original as I could make it, though there have been some inevitable compromises made along the way. The model was commissioned by a client to match with his existing model of 10000. The latter model has also been remotored and given updated electronics, and both models have been tested together as a pair.

Oddly, I have another model of 10001 under construction. This time, it’s as the loco appeared in 1953, so there will be some subtle external differences, although still in the striking black and silver livery.

On a personal note, you will have noticed my blogging has been quiet of late. The state of the world, you’d think, would give me plenty to rant about. You would be correct, of course, but for the sake of my mental and physical health I am trying my best to keep the world at arm’s length. You should hear what I bellow at the television “news”, mind you! I also have had one or two issues with the WordPress installation, and I may need to think about extending my allocated server space. With plenty of other things on my plate, I’m afraid this blog has been rather neglected.

I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions for, in the main, 7mm scale model railway subjects. I have a full order book for the rest of 2017, and I’m already taking commissions for 2018. You can see some examples of my work on my web site, and if you like you can follow my antics on that Facebook thing.