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The latest from the workbench

Life goes on here at Snaptophobic Towers. Despite the real world apparently collapsing at a rate of knots, work must go on. The latest to emerge from the workshop is this static model of a BR Western Region diesel-hydraulic loco D1042 Western Princess.

A 1/43rd scale JLTRT kit assembled to represent D1042 as the loco appeared, ex-works, around 1963. The model is static, and will be displayed in a case.

A 1/43rd scale JLTRT kit assembled to represent D1042 as the loco appeared, ex-works, around 1963. The model is static, and will be displayed in a case.

Close on D1042’s heels are three ex-GWR Collett bow-ended 57ft coaches. More on those shortly, I suspect. Another long-time workbench resident is a BR Mk1 RMB, which after a protracted gestation has finally got the roof fitted and painting under way. Hopefully, those builds plus one other will be cleared relatively quickly, helping the old bank balance, and leaving room for some new projects.

Don’t forget you can keep up with stuff on my web site, and I tweet modelling nonsense @HKModelmaker.

Sophie-puss

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In November 2013 we said goodbye to Penny-puss. Penny and Sophie were homed as a pair of rescue cats from our local branch of Cats Protection. All of our cats have come from CP. When Penny left us, Sophie became Top Cat.

We had originally thought both moggies were of similar ages, but it turned out Sophie was a bit younger than her chum. We didn’t know how many years we would have left to share with Sophie.

Penny was always the quiet one, but it was fairly obvious she kept Sophie in her place. With the Strong Paw of The Law out of the way, Sophie could fulfil her potential. That was to occupy any and every lap that came into the house, often times without asking permission first!

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Being a black cat, she always felt she should be the centre of attention, at all times, no matter how inconvenient. Cuddles came first, second and third, and more so once Penny had died. Sophie would be the one to get up to mischief, climbing onto wardrobes and disappearing behind settees. On one occasion, while we were having the central heating serviced, Sophie went to find out what was going on behind the hot water tank. She emerged, wreathed in cobwebs, looking like a feline Miss Havisham.

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Being a black cat, she was also notoriously difficult to capture in photographs. The best photos I have are when she was gallivanting on our large shed roof, where I was low enough to capture playful moments with her.

She had started calling plaintively and loudly, soon after Penny’s death. At first we thought it was just calling for her friend, but it soon became evident she was letting the world know, at volume and at length, what she had just been up to.

“I’ve just used the litter tray … I’d give it a few minutes if I were you … I even impressed myself with that one … No, don’t thank me, it was my pleasure …”

“I’ve just been out in the garden … it was a bit parky out there … I’m back in for a warm … any grub going?”

… and so on.

Cuddles and laps were the order of the day. Sophie and I would often end up having a bit of a tussle on the settee should I be so bold as to insist my lap be reserved for other uses.

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Old age catches up with us all eventually, and it was no different for Sophie-puss. When we homed her it was thought she might be eight years old. She’d been with us nine years, all but. That would make her not far off 18 years old, or around 70 in human years. A good age for a domestic moggie.

Sophie started having little collapses where her back legs gave out and she would soil herself. She would usually recover in a couple of minutes, and dash off to the food bowl as if nothing happened. The collapses started happening more regularly. Then she didn’t look well at all. Her breathing was shallow, and anything mildly strenuous would leave her out of breath for several minutes. We took her to the vet, fully expecting not to bring her home again. The diagnosis was heart failure—she’d always had a heart murmur—with the chest cavity full of fluid, and the collapses might be due to partial fainting, or possibly blood clots. The vet gave Sophie a vitamin injection, and prescribed some pills to help flush fluid out of her chest cavity and also help with the back legs.

That was about three months ago. The medication helped, when Sophie would eat the food containing it. In the past couple of weeks, her back legs had shown signs of some improvement. We had a new back door fitted in March, with a cat flap. After a little persuasion, Sophie decided she liked this innovation, and provided it was unlocked she would let herself in and out to her heart’s content. As the weather got warmer, she spent more and more time in the garden, following the sunny spots around during the day.

Accidents happened, usually involved missing the litter tray. We got used to cleaning up after Sophie. She was getting old, and we have to expect these things.

This week, though, things began to change. She was getting more confused. She managed to get herself on the garage roof, but couldn’t remember how to get back down. We had to effect a rescue with a ladder. Her eyesight wasn’t as good as it used to be, leaving her blundering into doors if she wasn’t careful. She didn’t want to sit on my lap at all—unheard of. Then she found a convenient low shelf near my workbench where she could curl up and sleep. That’s not usually a good sign. Cats are generally known to find somewhere they can hide when they think their time is nearly up. I made up a little nest of a blanket and some soft things for her.

Yesterday she barely moved. She did totter out to the kitchen for a drink, but tottered straight back to her little nest. She didn’t eat at all. She responded with a purr if she was stroked, but it was obvious she wasn’t really happy. We decided to leave her alone, monitor the situation and decide whether to make That Call to the vet in the morning.

We hoped nature might take its course overnight, but it didn’t. When she showed little signs of improvement, an appointment to have Sophie put to sleep was made for this afternoon. We went out to do our grocery shop, and when we got home, Sophie had died. We think she had either had a seizure or slipped and had a heart attack struggling to right herself. Either way, we hope she didn’t suffer unduly.

Sophie-puss has gone to join Penny-puss, and Snowy and Bootsie from next door. Perhaps even our old Tom and Misty will be there. Thanks for the cuddles and fun, Sophie. Yes, I shouted at you when you insisted on making a racket. Yes, you did like to land on my head if you felt it was time for breakfast. But we still loved you to bits, Charlie. You will be missed, especially on cold evenings when you warmed my lap while we watched telly together. Farewell, furry friend.

As has become traditional after the loss of a cat, we made our way straight to CP to see what new furry friends might want to make a home with us. We plan to go back on Sunday for a proper look, but we might have one likely candidate already. We’ll see.

 

While the sun shone

It was a nice day yesterday. While wondering how to spend my time, trying to relax for a change, I stumbled across my big camera. It was my fault for leaving it on the floor of the living room, I suppose. Anyway, dusting it off and checking the battery still had a charge, I wondered if I could remember how to operate it. Out to our back yard I went, and tried to find interesting things to snap.

I uploaded the selected best shots to my Flickr photo stream. Please go and have a look.

There might just be an inkling of a glimmer of interest in photography making an appearance. I must try to cultivate it again. I have got in mind a long term project, but I’m trying to get the enthusiasm together to get it started.

Ex-GWR 4200 Class 2-8-0T

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The latest commission build has just rolled out of the paint shop and had its official portraits taken. Hopefully this will be handed over to its owner next weekend. The 7mm Finescale model represents one of the fairly numerous class of 2-8-0T heavy goods engines designed by G J Churchward for the Great Western Railway at the start of the 20th century. The type was designed for the heavy coal trains from the South Wales coalfields. Many locos survived into the 1960s, and there are at least three in preservation or undergoing restoration.

The model was partially built from a Just Like The Real Thing kit by the client, but he got a bit stuck and asked if I’d take on the project to completion. It has been an interesting exercise, and I have become rather fond of the big beast of a machine. It certainly has some presence on the workbench, and in some ways I’ll be sad to see it go.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in railway subjects. You can find out about the work I do on my web site.

On a brighter note…

After a couple of morose postings from me, here’s some good news. A finished model, delivered and paid for, with one happy new owner.

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Riddles WD Austerity 8F 2-8-0 No 90643. This loco ended its days at Aintree Shed, and is depicted in model form as it was photographed at some time in the mid-1960s. For its kind it is remarkably clean, probably not long from an overhaul.

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The model is built from a Just Like The Real Thing 7mm scale 1/43rd kit, with detail additions.

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The crew figures were from Andrew Stadden.

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The weathered finish has been kept to a minimum, with signs of rust, dust and grime beginning to appear.

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I don’t mind admitting this build taxed me at times. It is my first big locomotive, and it taught me quite a few lessons, as well as a few new choice phrases when things weren’t quite going to plan!

There’s room on the bench for another couple of builds now.

Where does the time go?

Hello, remember me? I know. It’s been a long time, but I don’t always have time to keep the blog updated. When I worked at a desk, pushing pixels about all day, then it was easier. Now, I’m pushing bits of metal and plastic about at a workbench, and I rarely sit at the desk even to deal with my email!

So, what’s been happening since my last post? Quite a bit, really. I’ve almost completed two commissions, spent a weekend at a big model railway exhibition up in the Midlands—and came back home with three new commissions to add to the pile—and spent a bit of time sorting the house out.

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On the modelling front, I’ve been doing some personal stuff to do with my ongoing—lifetime? It seems like it!—Battle of Britain project. Airfix has been helping out in this 75th anniversary year by producing some useful vehicle kits (and a slew of new aircraft kits) in the correct scale, one of them being the towed oil bowser here. The tractor is from Flightpath, and was a fiddly but ultimately satisfying cast and etched kit of a Fordson tractor. I now notice Flightpath has introduced the bowser as well, complete with the tractor.

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A couple of kits that have been lurking around the bench for several years also saw some progress. The Albion refueller on the left is typical RAF airfield fodder from the early Second World War; the Crossley breakdown and workshop lorry is less so, but still makes a nice model. The difference between 1/72nd and 1/76th scales becomes apparent here, as the Crossley is the latter, which makes it slightly under scale compared to the Albion.

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Meanwhile, the L&YR Aspinall saddle tank was lettered up, by client request. I delivered it in this shiny form at Telford earlier this month, at the Gauge 0 Guild convention. I looked away and when I looked back it had been weathered by my fellow weekend demonstrator, who goes by the name “Dodgy” Manton. I ought to have taken a picture! A fine job he did, as well.

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This beast is a GWR 5200 Class 2-8-0T, which has been passed to me as a “finish it for me” commission. This is as far as my client got, so I really don’t have a lot to do to complete it.

(Famous last words…)

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At the other end of the GWR spectrum, another broad gauge 6-wheeler has rolled out of the works. It needs a little weathering, but is otherwise complete. My next build for this client is something a little larger, so watch this space.

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Another commission nearing completion is this WD 2-8-0. It’s a big old model, and is just waiting for me to pluck up the courage to make it look dirty. This type of loco was pretty famous for being anything but clean when in service, so I need to break out the weathering and get it looking used.

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Finally, a fairly ropey photo of an ex-GWR Crocodile G trolley wagon, which I built up from a kit I’ve had in the personal stash for several years. I realised I needed some completed models I could show when demonstrating at exhibitions, preferably ones which were going to hang around for a while and not be passed on to their proper owners as soon as they are finished! I have several wagon and coach models I plan to try and complete for showing off purposes, and pragmatically I have opted to build them to 0 Gauge fine scale rather than ScaleSeven, in case someone makes me an offer to buy.

As I have two almost complete builds now, I am considering which models come next in the pecking order. Currently on the bench is an early diesel loco, and I ought to consider beginning construction of three coaches that have also appeared. As I type, I have something like a year’s work, which is satisfying and scary at the same time.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in 7mm scale (0 gauge) models. I try to keep the showcase section of my web site updated regularly.

There are lots of small worlds out there

Model villages. We’re not talking about Legoland here, though that does kind of count I suppose. It does indeed appear I am not alone in my fascination for recreating the real world in miniature form. This chap, Tim Dunn, has taken his childhood fascination to an extra level and is busy documenting and recording—even saving parts of—model villages and towns of all kinds.

I salute him.

Prepare to spend some time

As you know, I enjoy modelmaking of all kinds. I was always fascinated by models and miniatures used in film and TV work when I was a kid. I loved to try and work out how the effects were done, and how big the models might be.

Somehow, I found a link to a blog called Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era special fx, by a chap in New Zealand. In particular, I fell down a rabbit hole about miniature work in films. It’s a very deep hole, too, but well worth the time as it showcases some extraordinary miniature work from film makers around the world. Prepare to be surprised, too, at just how big some of the miniatures actually were!

 

Hardly any time to myself!

It’s good to be busy. I am still staggered by the amount of work that’s come my way in the past eighteen months or so. If there is a problem, it’s I barely find any time for myself any more!

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For a start, I’ve got several 7mm scale broad gauge coach models under way. This one is a passenger luggage van (PLV), and is nearing the point where I can begin to paint it. It was recently joined by a passenger coach, known as a “convertible” because it was a body designed for the narrower standard gauge but carried on a broad gauge underframe. When the big gauge swap took place, these coaches were brought into the works and the bodies swapped to the narrow underframes.

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It has reached the point where interior partitions and floor need to be fitted, and then it can also have the paintwork begun. While it’s in the paintshop I shall begin work on its underframe.

Last week, the client for this build sent me an email outlining his three year plan for building. I will be busy for a while yet!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the bench, a long-running saga with an etched brass Mk1 coach kit has taken a turn for the positive.

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I got stuck with a problem fitting the roof. A workable solution has turned up, so I have begun work fitting out the interior. What’s not obvious here is the interior is a complete inner shell which fits inside the main bodywork. I’ve started to paint the inner shell, and most of the main fittings have been made up and painted. I just need to assemble the seating bays, and they can be primed and painted, ready to fit later.

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Here’s the bar area of this coach—it’s coded as an RMB, Restaurant Miniature Buffet. The counter and bar dividers are posed here, while I work out whether I like the colour of the floor tiling.

As well as this pair of commissions, I have two 10001 diesel locos (for different clients!), a 2-8-0 Austerity steam loco, a lineside fuel depot… there are also commissions I have got that haven’t even made it to the workshop yet. I’ve had to work out a card index system to keep track of things, and some kind of schedule so that builds all make some progress rather than one being favoured to the detriment of the others.

It’s good to be busy.

I make models of things professionally. You can find out more at my web site. I am always keen to take on new commissions, but bear in mind I am looking at the middle to end of 2015 for new works.

In a galaxy far, far away…

In the olden days, before computer generated imagery was easy to do and so commonplace that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up any more, most special effects were accomplished using scale models. If you needed a battleship to blow up, you’d get the props people to make a large scale model, float it in a tank of water and blow it up. If you needed to stage a train crash on a limited budget, you’d call in the model makers and get creative with lighting. If you needed a spaceship, or a complete space fleet and a Death Star or two, who are you going to call?

The original Star Wars trilogy was typical of this. In fact, the special effects company that did the work was created specifically for the films—Industrial Light and Magic. They developed many innovative ways to use models for many feature films. I challenge to you spot one in the linked list you haven’t seen at least once!

I still love watching films and TV shows were real craft is used for special effects. I love the insane amount of detail that gets crammed into spaceships, often only to be seen for a split second—or blown to bits! I love the fact shortcuts are made by repurposing commercial plastic construction kit components, as well as ordinary household objects. I love trying to figure out how big models are, and how they’re made.

Take this detail shot, for example.

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This is from an Imgur site, sharing dozens of detail shots of Star Wars special effects models. As a railway modeller, it’s not hard to spot the use of a steam locomotive firebox backhead, complete with fire hole doors, gauges, lubricators and the regulator handle! In the right context, though, this makes a perfectly acceptable maintenance or access hatch on a spaceship.

Spend a few minutes wandering through the images in the site. You won’t be disappointed, and if you grew up with the original Star Wars films you can enjoy a pleasant trip down memory lane. You will be forgiven if the Star Wars theme plays in your head while looking!

Incidentally, it’s also worth a look at the imgur site of joinyouinthesun, who posted the Star Wars images.

Thanks to my friend Mark Casey for linking to these photos in a post over on X404.