Sorry. It’s all I can say, really. Sorry. Sorry it’s been over a year since the last entry. Sorry I fell out of love with my blog. Sorry.
With the grovelling apologies out of the way, why am I even bothering to post anything?
The original idea for the blog was about my adventures in photography, particularly taking pictures of scale model things. That’s all sort of fallen by the wayside. I began to ramble on about other things I found interesting, then I began ranting about the state of the world. It made me feel better, for a bit. Eventually, though, I decided to scrap all the angry stuff.
The WordPress installation is still cranky, but mostly works without me poking it too much. The issues I encountered revolved around one of the plug-ins I used. The site would break completely when the plug-in was active, so it had to be deactivated—which meant posts here weren’t automatically propagated to my social media, and readers dropped off. I disabled comments because all the spam filters caught was endless p0rn. It was all a bit dispiriting.
So, with no real direction to my ramblings or interests, plus personal medical and mental issues, Snaptophobic got shunted into a siding and stayed there.
By the way, remember our Billy-puss? He’s just celebrated his 10th birthday and his sixth year of living here. He says “Hi!”.
2022 is the first year I’ve really felt able to work at full capacity on the modelmaking. Several commission builds that had been limping along for too many years have been completed and cleared off the bench to their proper owners. New models have taken over. I’ve also continued my obsession interest with things aeronautical and 1940. In fact, let’s think about that for a while.
I can’t really convert this blog entirely to my 1940 interest. The domain name is all wrong, for a start. I’ve given it a menu heading, which helps, but reviewing the content I find it is all a bit, well, random. There is no structure. What to do?
My main idea is to create a whole old school static web site which will concentrate on the aircraft modelling and my 1940 interests. I thought that perhaps I could post model building stuff here, but I really don’t think it is appropriate.
Snaptophobic, then, really needs to be reborn to talk about photography, interests in history, and a bit about my professional modelmaking. The 1940 stuff can go somewhere else. To that end, I’ll start to clean up past posts, and have a bit of a rearrangement of things generally. I might even experiment with different themes (creating my own theme is still utterly beyond my ken, sadly).
Anyway, as nobody will be reading this, save me in a couple of years when I remember I have a blog, I don’t know why I’m even writing this!
You might be aware of my 1940 aircraft obsession. 2020 was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. It had been arranged for me to take part in a display of models at the IPMS UK Scale Model World exhibition in Telford, but a certain pandemic virus put paid to that.
It didn’t stop me building models, though. In fact, what with one personal thing and another, gluing together plastic aeroplane kits rather helped keep me more or less sane during the lockdowns.
Various aircraft from my ever-growing collection of kits made their way to my workbench during the year. The rather sweet Airfix new tooling of the classic De Havilland Tiger Moth was improved by an after-market photo-etched set of rigging wires.
It is a tiny model, but exquisite. While not a perfect rendition, I am pleased with the final model. It joins my collection of RAF training aircraft, so of which can be seen in the background of the photos.
Having pretty much exhausted the single-engined single-seat fighters of the French air force of 1940, I made a start on the twin-engined types. The Potez 63-11 was an ungainly looking plane, designed for reconnaissance and fighter control. A crew of three was carried. The pilot sat high up in the fuselage, accompanied by his radio operator/rear gunner, while in splendid isolation in that huge greenhouse nose was the observer. The 63-11 was not a huge success, and most were lost or destroyed during the invasion of France in May and June 1940.
The Potez 63-11 replaced the Mureaux 117 during the start of 1940. The 117 was the last of a long line of parasol wing monoplane reconnaissance aircraft that first entered French air force service in 1935.
In September 1940, the Italian Air Force sent an expeditionary force of fighters and bombers to German-occupied Belgium. The big twin-engined Fiat BR.20M bombers were accompanied by the oddly antiquated Fiat CR.42 sesquiplane and Fiat G.50 monoplane fighters. While the bomber force was actually quite effective, attacking the port of Harwich a couple of times, the fighters were less so. Lack of communication equipment, and pilots ill-suited to the autumnal weather conditions took their toll. The Corpo Aereo Italiano soldiered on until May 1941 before being withdrawn to warmer Mediterranean climes.
The Britmodeller forum held a group build to commemorate the Battle of Britain 80th anniversary. I entered the Italian aircraft shown earlier, plus two planes representing the Fleet Air Arm. The FAA was part of the Royal Navy. Nos 804 and 808 Squadrons were land-based during the Battle, and for a time came under Royal Air Force Fighter Command control. Because of that, both squadrons appear in the official Order of Battle alongside the more expected RAF fighter squadrons flying Hurricanes, Spitfires and Defiants.
The spring of 1940 saw the German army sweep across Western Europe, invading Belgium, France and Holland. As part of my obsession, I have collected aircraft representing all the countries that had offensive and defensive aircraft that took part at the time. The Fokker D.XXI was the main Dutch fighter at the time, and while desperately outnumbered by the invading forces gave a good account of themselves.
ZG 26 was a Zerstörer (Destroyer) squadron flying Messerschmitt Bf110s. The Ju52 “Tante Ju” would have been one of the support aircraft on squadron strength to move personnel and equipment to new airfields. 1/72nd scale plastic model kit, Kovozády Prostejov boxing of a Heller moulding.
The Mureaux and the Ju52 were entries in another Britmodeller group build, celebrating the Heller classic kits. Both kits originally date from the 1970s, as did the next and final aircraft in this post.
The De Havilland DH.89a Dragon Rapide was a smaller development of the DH.86 Express, a four-engined biplane. Both shared the same straight six-cylinder Gypsy Six engines, as well as some fuselage and wing components. With two engines developing 200hp each, the Rapide was capable of nearly 170mph and could carry six or eight passengers, depending on the cabin fittings.
Originally called the Dragon 6, the name was changed to Dragon Rapide, and eventually just to Rapide. The DH.89 was introduced in the summer of 1934, and proved popular with many small airlines in the UK and abroad. Flaps and a nose-fitted landing light were added to the aircraft, becoming the DH.89a. These features were gradually retrofitted to already-built Rapides over time.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Rapides in the UK continued civilian airline duties, but many were impressed into military service. De Havilland continued to build the type, and in military service it was christened Dominie—a Scottish word meaning “teacher”—and used for training, ferry and ambulance duties. 727 Rapides and Dominies of all types were built, and following the end of hostilities in 1945 many were sold on to form the backbone of resurgent civilian airlines across much of Europe and beyond. Eighteen Dominie/Rapide aircraft survive around the world, though not all are in airworthy condition.
G-ADBW was impressed into RAF service on 15 July 1940, and given the military serial Z7265. The aircraft had been one of a pair that had been supplied to Jersey Airways Ltd in 1935. All but one of the Jersey Airways’ fleet of De Havilland aircraft had been flown back to the UK mainland from Jersey airport in June 1940—just before the Channel Islands had been occupied by German forces.
It does appear that G-ADBW, although painted in the standard camouflage colours befitting a training aircraft, didn’t carry its military serial and continued to carry the civilian registration. The aircraft was used by an RAF flying school for navigational training. Sadly, barely a month after starting its military career, on 30 August, the plane was involved in an accident at Staverton. I think this refers to what is now Gloucestershire Airport, but which was an RAF training airfield in 1940. The records go quiet at this point, and I haven’t been able to find out if the plane was salvaged and returned to service or not. The records do show it lingered until it was struck off charge on 17 November 1941. I wonder if it ended its days as an instructional airframe, or as a donor for parts.
Trying to educate and inform
I want to try and outline the events of 1940 via the medium of scale model aeroplanes, but I can’t quite work out the structure that would work. Perhaps this particular blog isn’t the correct medium, and I would be better off creating a whole new blog or web site to do what I want. In the meantime, posting here will remain sporadic. I am really trying hard not to be angry—one of the reasons I cleaned out all the angry posts and links last year—but there’s just so much to be angry about these days. Enough. Thanks for reading. Comments are not turned on, but you can communicate with me through other means.
I have a love-hate relationship with London. I love the concept, the idea, the history of the city. I hate having to actually visit the place. Too many people, too much noise, too much dirt. From where I live in the south-east of England, London forms an impenetrable lump of stuff that must be driven around in order to go almost anywhere else. Horrible place.
That’s probably why I find various YouTube channels about the city fascinating. That’s probably why I am providing links to them here. I hope this blog doesn’t become a link farm!
The first is called Joolz Guides. A dapper chap in a bowler hat leads you on walks around London. Along the way, he points out interesting buildings, talks about events and people, and educates and entertains. I simply adore this kind of stuff. Joolz is just the kind of genial guide to a place that makes actually having to visit in real life worth all the effort.
The next is called Londonist. It does what it says on the tin. As well as the channel, they have a web site with lots of fun information. Like Joolz, the presentation is witty and knowledgeable. I particularly liked the Underground series.
Anyway, that’s all for this post. Thanks for looking. More soon, I hope.
It’s definitely been one of those years, hasn’t it? Best Beloved and I had made lots of plans to do lots of things during 2020, and none of them—well, almost none of them—have happened. The Coronavirus pandemic has seen to that.
Personal medical issues had also seen to a lot of them, before the pandemic really hit. Happily, while not completely resolved, I am back to almost full health now. Longer term, who knows?
Earlier in the year I wrote about making changes here. I still want to make those changes, but I’m a bit stumped about how to make any progress on them. I will get there, just not in a hurry. Nothing seems at all important any more.
With all the stuff going on, I neglected this blog again. This mild post is by way of recompense. The following are few updates and links to interesting stuff that’s been keeping me sane this past year or so.
I used to watch a fair amount of telly back in the day. I enjoyed a lot of documentaries on science and history, the occasional movie, some comedy shows. Last Christmas, 2019, I recorded a lot of good stuff to catch up on over the festive period. Most of it I still haven’t actually watched. In fact, the PVR has hardly been turned on during the past year. I am wondering whether I really need television at all. If the set broke right now, I doubt I would bother to investigate a replacement. The space gained in the corner of the living room could gainfully be used to store more books!
YouTube, however, has seen me visit almost daily. I love messing with their algorithms, but that’s another story. The following are just some of the channels I find I have subscribed to and follow enthusiastically.
Bad Obsession Motorsport have been on my radar for some years now. I found the post I made back in 2014: Project Binky. I was enthralled by the engineering, the humour, and the very notion of cramming a Japanese four-wheel drive transmission and engine into a Mini. You will be unsurprised that Project Binky is still unfinished, though it is very close to completion. Go and have a look at the BOM channel. The latest escapades include reworking an old mobile library truck to make a car transporter, and haring round various racing circuits in a tiny city car. You won’t be disappointed.
With the petrol fumes still hanging in the air, another motoring related channel is Hubnut. Ian Seabrook is a former motoring magazine writer and editor who has a deep and abiding love of the mediocre cars of the 20th century. The channel covers his adventures in mediocrity, test driving all kinds of cars, the comings and goings on his “fleet”, “tinkering” and sometimes not breaking his cars, his travels—most recently a lengthy pre-Covid trip to New Zealand and Australia where he drove, unsurprisingly, some fascinating vehicles—and life in general.
Still in a watery theme, Cruising The Cut is a channel I happened upon, when the YouTube algorithms did something right. To quote his own About page:
Cruising The Cut is a video blog by a man who sold up, quit his job and bought a narrowboat then went cruising around the UK canal network. It features life on board, beautiful scenery and places to visit plus tips and tricks.
That sums it up nicely. About twenty years ago, Best Beloved and I went on a week’s canal cruise and really enjoyed it. I thought I might be able to take to the slower pace of life, and the various limitations living on a narrow boat would bring. Watching Cruising The Cut, however, has convinced me the life wouldn’t be for me—at least, not permanently.
Finally, a channel that makes you wonder how on earth I stumbled across it—Caenhill Countryside Centre. I’ll be honest, and say it came via Twitter. An account I follow retweeted a short video entitled “the Morning Rush Hour” which consisted of huge numbers of poultry, ducks, geese, sheep, turkeys, goats, cats, an emu or two and a couple of pigs literally rushing through a barn door to be fed first thing of a morning. It was a feathery madness, with a star goose called Cuthbert. All the animals have names, and it transpired many are rescue animals being cared for by the farmer, who also really enjoys giving his animals voices so they can engage in conversation. I know, it sounds mad, but it’s endearing in an odd kind of way. More than that, Caenhill Countryside Centre is a working farm near Devizes in Wiltshire, but also a charity that helps young people learn about the countryside. They have just won an award for their social media and internet work over the past year, where they have been bringing fun and education to the world via all forms of social media. During the pandemic lockdowns, struggling themselves to make ends meet as their main forms of income were being cut back and nobody could visit the farm, Chris, Carline and Kara kept things going and kept entertaining the world. Sadly, we learned this week that Cuthbert the Goose, and Chris the Farmer’s best friend (his own words) had died after a lengthy illness over the summer. We will miss Cuthbert, but he did manage to father a couple of right tearaways, Giggle and Benedict, who are becoming stars in their own rights.
Well, there we are. The future of this blog is still in the balance, ideas are still being mulled, perhaps something will happen before the year is out. Wherever you are, please look after yourselves, your families and friends, and stay safe.
Billy-puss has been living with us now since the end of May 2016. It is hard to imagine the home without him now! He made himself at home pretty much as soon as we unlocked the front door returning from the Cats Protection homing shelter.
He still loves being groomed, having his ears scratched and butting heads. He also likes his tummy tickled, so it’s pretty obvious he was handled by humans pretty much from birth. Billy likes to know where you are, and if you leave him alone in a room, he will come and find you. He just likes the company. As I type this, he’s snoozing on the sofa, only a couple of metres away.
So, apologies Billy for forgetting your fourth coming home birthday party. I’m sure you’ll forgive us, as our species has had quite a bit to deal with since March. Thank you for being here, and being a furry comforter when times have been a bit rough. We hope you’ll want to stay with us for a good few years yet.
Hello there. It’s been far too long since I posted anything worthwhile here. I’ve been over the reasons in previous posts, so I won’t go over them again. So, what’s new?
I have spent an afternoon patiently going through my entire blog deleting all the rants and random news stuff. Enough negativity from me! I have edited posts referencing my now long-defunct Facebook page. Change is afoot.
My plan is to continue posting updates on life, the universe and everything. I want to continue sharing my photography—when I get back to it!—as well as linking to the photography of others. Long-time readers will note a few model aircraft have appeared over the years, and I intend to expand on that. Let me explain.
2020 is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the epic aerial battle that took place in the skies over southern England during the summer of 1940. The Battle, and how events from the 1920s transpired to reach that tipping point, is something I’ve been fascinated by for over 40 years. Starting out with an ambition to build models of the main aircraft flown by Britain and Germany during the Battle, things have since got slightly out of hand—I now plan to build examples of every plane that was operating during the whole of 1940, from all the countries involved at the time!
What I hope to do is post something about an aircraft, or a series of aircraft, with some explanatory text and images of the models. I have reached the conclusion that 1940 was a pivotal year in the Second World War, a year where many things were still in a state of flux, and the stage was being set for the rest of the conflict. The scope of my interests covers the Battle of Norway in the early spring, through the so-called Phoney War in France, through the invasions of Holland, Belgium and France, the Battle of France through to the armistice, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and into the day and night Blitz over the British mainland.
Not being content with that, I hope to then cover the Mediterranean and North Africa theatre. So, I have my work cut out, and all the while I am still supposed to be building railway models for clients!
There remains unresolved the technical issues I have experienced with this site. I am unsure as to how to fix them, but I will soldier on with things for now. I will generally not be allowing comments on posts, so apologies for that if you like to express opinions. You can find me in other places to do that!
Thank you for you patience, and I hope to be back to blogging about life at Snaptophobic Towers soon.
Later rebuilt and renumbered into the 4400 Class, the small class of 11 tank engines that formed the 3100 Class was designed and built between 1905 and 1906. They were among the last locomotives to be constructed at the GWR Wolverhampton works.
When he moved into the post of the Great Western’s Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1902, George Jackson Churchward set about dragging the venerable railway company into the 20th century—kicking and screaming if necessary! His first act as CME was to design and commission three new types of locomotive, bringing the latest ideas together and setting the pattern for the GWR “look” henceforth.
One of the new designs used a wheel pattern of single axle pony trucks at front and rear, with three driven axles between them—2-6-2, using the Whyte arrangement designation— plus side tanks. A coned boiler with Belpaire firebox was also new, as well as the outside cylinders driving the wheels. The end result was a tidy, purposeful-looking prototype tank engine. After running on various parts of the network, it was decided to produce more of these engines, and the first would have small 4ft 1-1/2in diameter driving wheels in order to give it a wide route availability on the many small branch lines the served the deeper parts of Cornwall.
Eleven, including a prototype, were built. The embryonic “GWR house style” was there, but also odd choices, such as the tiny bunker. Numbered in the 3100 series, the class would eventually be joined by similar locos with 4ft 7-1/2in driving wheels, and they would all be renumbered into the 4400 Class, and subsequently know to enthusiasts as the Small Prairies.
After World War One, the class was subjected to various modifications. The bunkers were gradually enlarged, finally reaching the classic GWR “bustle”. The cabs acquired steel roofs, and boilers were enlarged and superheated, until the classic GWR Prairie look was achieved.
Working their entire lives on the branch lines of Cornwall, these attractive little engines were finally scrapped in the early 1950s.
The model was constructed from a Malcolm Mitchell etched brass and nickel silver kit to 7mm scale (1/43rd) and ScaleSeven standards. The kit, billed as a 4400 Class, is still available through MM1 Models. Various parts had to be remodelled or scratchbuilt to more accurately represent the first iteration of the design. A new boiler front ring and smokebox was created, a new cab roof made, and various other modifications were made. Inevitably, some compromises crept in, such as adjustments to the brake rigging to suit the real thing’s arrangement. Some areas, particularly the tops of the side tanks and cab fittings, have been open to some conjecture. Certainly, it seems the original builds of the class featured neat and tidy tank tops and all the washout plugs on the boiler cladding covered. Gradually, over their service lives, the locos acquired all the fiddly extras and clutter to replace the Edwardian simplicity and elegance of the original builds. The finished model was painted by Warren Haywood.
I have several more loco commissions to get through, including the Large Prairie cousin of this little engine. Once they’re cleared through, I shall be concentrating on coaches and rolling stock commissions. Find out more about my work on my web site, and you can follow some of my antics on Twitter. The link can be found on the web site.
The Aspinall Class 5 2-4-2T locomotives were introduced to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway from 1889. Built at the company’s Horwich works, the locos were used for passenger traffic, mainly commuter work, around the Manchester area for their entire working lives.
Various modifications and upgrades were done to the class over their lives. Boilers were improved, the bunkers extended for some lots, and some were fitted with apparatus that let them work as pull-and-push engines on trains. This was a system that let the driver operate the main controls remotely from a specially-designed cab at the end of the train, and avoided the need to run the loco round its train at terminus stations.
The Class 5s, reclassified as 2P when the L&Y was absorbed into the LMS in 1924, worked on until the 1950s. A few of the class survived into the 1960s, and one has been preserved in the National Collection and can be seen at the National Railway Museum in York.
The model was built as a commission. It is to a constant 1/43rd scale, 7mm to one foot, and features fully working inside motion within the frames. The basic kit was good, but needed some help in various areas. The finished model is shown in the LMS passenger livery that was used from about 1926 to 1945 or so.
If you’re a regular reader, you will know I am a professional modelmaker. I take commissions to build railway subjects in the main. Once the current crop of loco builds are through the works, I shall be concentrating on passenger and non-passenger rolling stock, as I find building locos is a bit of a chore and doesn’t give the level of satisfaction a good coach build does.
I miss blogging regularly. I enjoyed the process of selecting images, writing the text, editing the thing, and hitting Publish. What went wrong?
Well, for one thing, this WordPress installation is on the blink. I should fix it, but I don’t know how and really don’t have the time or inclination. I keep hoping each update of the back office stuff will improve things, but it never does. It’s been so long now I’ve forgotten what is actually broken and how to fix it if I try to make it work again.
So, I tend not to bother. And the blog languishes for lack of content.
Another thing has been the state of my mental health. Since that ruddy “B” thing, with the huge amount of commissioned work I foolishly took on and can’t cope with, I’ve been on the way down quite severely. Some days over the past year or so I’ve found it hard to even function. The first step was to acknowledge I had a problem, and the next step was to roll with it and find coping mechanisms. I think it’s under control, but occasionally it catches me off guard. There’s no point my adding to the general screaming that’s going on, even if it makes me feel better for a while. The blog, therefore, remains mute.
As a way of helping the mental health, I killed my Facebook account (again) at the end of 2018. I really don’t miss it. No, really. You ought to try it.
I’ve been trying to deal with the modelling work backlog. I think it’s beginning to make more sense again. Not a lot has been completed, but I have a lot on its way through the workshop.
This brute did emerge, finally in 2018. The model represents the preserved GWR Collett 2251 Class loco No 3205, with one of the tenders it runs with in preservation, but as it ran when new in 1946. All clear? Thought not! After a painful gestation, the model was finally shipped to its new home in Australia. While I like the finished model, I am very glad to see it go.
There are still umpteen commission builds being worked on and pending. I’ve closed my order book for another year in the vain hope I might get on top of things eventually.
Meanwhile, I cheer myself up by building plastic aeroplanes.
This thing is the Fairey Rotodyne. The prototype flew in the late 1950s, and was all set to take the world by storm until various mergers ended up with the project being scrapped. The model is built from an Airfix 1/72nd scale kit, the original moulds for which date to 1959. It really doesn’t fit into my themed collection, but I built it to join into a group build on a modelling forum. It was a lot of fun at a time when I was feeling particularly low.
This bizarre little contraption is an Avro C.30 Rota, built in the UK under licence from Cierva. It’s an autogyro, which works by having a free-spinning rotor that isn’t powered by a motor. A small rotary engine at the front of the aircraft provided thrust, and the rotor could be spun up to provide lift for take-off. This 1/72nd scale model is from an RS Models kit, and represents the type used by the RAF for calibrating the RDF stations. Part of my ever-growing 1940 collection.
Another RS Models kit, this time of a Marcel Bloch MB-152. As part of my 1940 obsession I’ve been acquiring examples of planes flown by air forces other than Britain and Germany. I’m working slowly through my French collection, starting with the single-seat fighters that operated during the Battle of France between May and June 1940.
Morane-Saulnier MS.406C-1, a 1/72nd scale kit from Azur.
From HobbyBoss, this is a 1/72nd scale Dewoitine D.520C-1
Finally, this A Model 1/72nd kit is of a Curtiss Hawk H-75A-2. All the French planes here were flown by aces credited with shooting down multiple enemy aircraft during the Battle of France.
So, there you are. A quick update on life at Snaptophobic Towers. I might decide to update more often, I might not. I might decide to move the blog to another platform—again. I might not. Who can tell. Equally, it’s entirely on the cards that a physical move of location from the lower right hand corner of Blighty to somewhere a bit more near the top might happen—but don’t hold your breath.
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 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.