Tag Archives: on my workbench

Meanwhile…

Various workbench builds are moving slowly towards completion. The latest is a Just Like The Real Thing Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 0-6-0 saddle tank, built out of the box without any special Heather Kay extras as an exercise in updating the instructions.

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It’s too shiny, but that will be down to a potential new owner to sort out, hence the lack of company markings or loco number.

Latest Completed Commission

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

 

The latest commission to leave the workshop is this pair of six-wheelers. To date, these constitute the oldest rolling stock I have had the pleasure of modelling. While the kits are relatively modern—the passenger coach kit is dated to 1985!—the real vehicles would have been in service in the late 1880s, on secondary and branch line services of the Great Western Railway.

Also of interest, in that geeky model railway kind of way, is these are models of broad gauge rolling stock. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, renowned engineer of the Great Western Railway and many other engineering triumphs of the Victorian era, insisted that his railway would eschew the “cart gauge” used by the Northern engineers such as George Stephenson in favour of a track gauge of 7ft 0-1/4in, to give smoother running. So-called standard gauge, still used to this day in the UK and around the world, is 4ft 8-1/2in.

The broad gauge was in use on much of the GWR system, including absorbed lines. The so-called “Gauge War” was effectively lost to the standard gauge in the early 1860s, and the GWR began to lay standard gauge lines and build standard gauge locos and stock. The last broad gauge train ran in May 1892. All the broad gauge stock and locomotives were dumped in a field outside Swindon—the engineering hub of the railway—to be either broken up for scrap or possibly rebuilt to the narrower gauge.

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

This luggage van was built in the 1870s. While it has a guard’s compartment and lookouts, it is not a true brake van as later vehicles were, with no means for the guard to apply the vacuum brake from his compartment. Like many coaches of the period, it retains features from the earlier days of railway travel. Oil lamps for lighting, and a “dog box” at the far end where passengers’ canine companions could travel without mucking up the passenger accommodation. Originally built with only a hand braking system, many coaches were updated with automatic vacuum brakes during their service lives. This model, and companion coach, is built to a scale of 7mm to the foot, and has been painted to represent the van as it would have been towards the end of its life.

GWR Broad Gauge Coaches

This third class passenger coach is one of the more unusual aspects of the later broad gauge railway. Realising that eventually the broad gauge would end, and indeed with much of the network already being built to the standard gauge, or at least dual gauge, the GWR embarked on building coaches with standard gauge bodies but on broad gauge underframes. When the end of the broad gauge arrived, the plan was to take the coaches into the works and swap the bodies to narrow underframes, thereby prolonging their service life. Again, oil lamps light the compartments, though many coaches were later converted to gas lighting, and the automatic vacuum braking was added at some point during their service.

All in all, this has been an interesting commission for me. I have an interest in many aspects of railways, and I like to learn about the earlier history of what is probably the greatest invention of the Victorian age, but I’ve never actually wanted to make models of the period. With someone willing to pay me to build, I was always up for the challenge. Part of the fun, if you like, is the limited resources available to confirm details. The modeller is often left to their own devices, making educated guesses based on various known facts. There has been much head-scratching, a modicum of swearing, and a good deal of assistance involved in this build. The end results have turned out nicely, but there are features I wish I had done better. I’ll know next time: the client has ordered another three coaches, so there is ample opportunity for me to try and get it right next time!

During the build I have had copious help, freely given, from various modellers and historians of the GWR broad gauge era. Knowing I have more to come, I have accepted that the only sensible thing to do was to join the Broad Gauge Society. At least I can then access more information directly, rather than beg, borrow and plead!

With the workbench clear of Victorian oddities for a while, I am concentrating on the builds that had to be postponed in order to deliver this pair. Back to the mid-20th century for me!

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!

BG Part 05 1

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.

BG Part 05 2

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.

RMB Part 4 3

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.

RMB Part 4 1

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, and find me on Facebook. 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.

Another build completed

I have just completed—aside from some quality control issues—the LNWR motor train. IMG_7425

Delivery will be early in February, when there’ll be an opportunity to see them running on a group layout.

Time now to clear the bench, get some proper photography done of the coaches, and then tidy things for the next build to commence. Perhaps now would be a good time to tidy the corner of my workshop and get the new bench set up? Not sure about that. I don’t have a good track record with rearranging work spaces.

I’ve belatedly updated the web site with some testimonials from clients. I had meant to do it at the turn of the year, when I refreshed things anyway. I completely forgot to add the nice comments I’ve received. Blame it on the festive spirit. </joke>

I have a good set of jobs to keep me occupied on the workbench for the next couple of months. I am always on the lookout for new builds, so if you happen to know anyone in need of my building services, please let them—and me— know.

On my workbench

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It’s been a while since I posted about the workbench, so here’s what’s been going on.

I’ve been battling—almost literally—with an LNWR motor train driving trailer, one of a pair of coaches which will be finished in the full LNWR livery of just after the First World War.

I ought to explain why it’s a “motor train”, I suppose. Branch line passenger trains would often be composed of a couple of coaches and a locomotive. To save the effort of running around the train so it could be hauled back up the branch, various companies built driving cabs into a brake coach, which let the loco driver control the regulator and brakes of the loco remotely. These types of train went by various names. The Great Western called them autotrains, on the Southern they were push-pull, on the Midland they were pull-and-push, and the LNWR referred to them as motor trains.

The coach here is a driving trailer, converted from a brake third compartment coach in the early 1900s. You can see the three windows in the end, and the extra pipework associated with the control system.

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It’s been a bit of a struggle, if I’m honest. The coaches I got from the client had been part-built, so I’ve been trying to preserve certain elements, while making suitable modifications and additions to suit the particular period. I have had to make some new parts from scratch, as well as make use of a copious “Bits Box” (where the alternative parts in kits get stored as they often come in handy later—every modeller has one). Sometimes, parts already fitted fall off due to handling. It’s been a slow process, and I’ve still got the partner coach to start…

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This is a view from underneath, showing the buffer springing and a lot of blobby soldering—some of which isn’t mine!

I really hope I can get these models moving now. They’ve been annoying me for a couple of weeks. Today I acquired some materials I can use to make the roof fit correctly, and I’ve been designing digital artwork for the interiors. This will be printed on decent paper stock, and save a lot of scratch building. I still need to scratch build the cab interior, acquire some suitable figures for both crew and passengers, and I haven’t quite worked out how to create the slightly complicated paintwork yet. I’ll get there.

In case you had forgotten, I am now a professional modelmaker. You can find out about my modelling services on my web site, and you can also “like” me on Facebook. Search for Heather Kay Modelmaker.

There it is!

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Lurking amid the detritus of my workbench, and taking about as long to emerge from its cocoon as the real thing, is TSR-2 serial XR219. 

Did you know the real aircraft, if they had gone into production and squadron service with the RAF were to be called Eagle? TSR, incidentally, stands for Tactical Strike Reconnaisance, being the key roles for the aircraft in service.

More upbeat, please

The real world seems to be heading ever further through the looking glass, and the temptation to blog about and comment on all the lunacy going on is a hard one to overcome. I had intended this year to be one where I wrote more about happier things, so let’s see if I can redress the balance a little.

As you may be aware, I enjoy most forms of transport. I love the history, the stories, the tales of human endeavour to go ever bigger, faster and higher. Having had a run of railway models I have been working on for clients and friends, I decided my modelling bench needed something a little more high tech. While my aerial interests tend to be firmly planted around 1940 for the most part, I do have the occasional flirt with things a little more recent—if you can call the mid-1960s “recent”, that is! It is easy to forget now, but in the 1950s and 1960s, Britain’s aircraft industry was world-beating.

Currently on my workbench, and not in a particularly photogenic state right now, is a 1/72nd scale BAC TSR-2. I am trying to go to town with this model. Thanks to various after-market manufacturers, the model has authentic cockpit interiors, the correct ejector seats, lifted canopies, wheels that are suitably bulged to give the impression of weight, more accurate engine details and crew access ladders. I have added extra detailing to the wheel wells, given an impression of the hydraulic pipework around the undercarriage, and generally pimped the whole thing. It is currently in bits going through several coats of paint before the decals are applied. 

I am never quite content to simply build a model in isolation. What I plan on doing with this bit of British aerospace history is to place it some kind of context. If you watch the following video (part of a four-part upload to YouTube), and head for around the six-and-a-half minute mark, you’ll see the only example of the TSR-2 to ever fly, serial XR219, surrounded by all kinds of ancillary equipment and vehicles on the apron at Boscombe Down. I plan to create a diorama to show the aircraft in just this situation—or near to it.

(Incidentally, if you can spare an hour and this kind of thing interests you, it is worth viewing the whole set of videos. It puts the story of the TSR-2 project in its historical context. The elderly chap in the glasses is Roland Beamont, who was the test pilot on the project and also a Battle of Britain fighter pilot.)

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Amazingly, most of the vehicles and bits are available in kit form from BW Models. At one point, I reckoned I could spend over £100 from that source alone! I have reined back a little, and while I save my pennies and wait for paint to dry I am working out the best way to create the concrete apron.

I am not trying to recreate the exact scene in the grab above. I am sort of aiming for something that may have occurred a few minutes before the film was shot. The aircraft will have been towed into position, and I plan to have the tow bar and tractor having just unhitched. The protective covers over the engine intakes and exhausts will be in the process of being removed. The oxygen and power generator trolleys are being positioned. The refueller and the CO2 truck will be there, too, and probably a Land Rover or similar.

Now, quite what I am going to do with this diorama—which will probably be almost a metre square—remains to be seen. Once I’ve photographed everything, the vehicles and aircraft will end up in the display cabinet, but the rest will end up in storage. Perhaps one of the museums might like it for display…

Another might-have-been of the British aircraft industry was the Fairey Rotodyne. I have a kit for one of those stashed away somewhere. Current ideas revolve around the “what if” had the RAF adopted the aircraft as originally envisaged in the late 1950s.