Category Archives: Links

More YouTubing

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.

Belated updates

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.

First, you may dimly recall I posted about a chap who was walking around the coastline of mainland Britain. I think I’ve since deleted my post, but you’ll be glad to know Quintin Lake has completed his odyssey. He documented his walk with stunning photos. I hope there’s a book or something more than just a web site. Anyway, go and have a look.

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.

Changing gear, literally and metaphorically, take a look at Nicola White’s Thames Mudlarking channel Tideline Art. Lots of mud, lots of history, and some explorations of the Medway estuary thrown in.

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.

GWR 3100 Class 2-6-2T

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.

L&YR Class 5 2-4-2T

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

A journey into sound

When I was very young, my parents owned a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It had multiple speed playback and twin tracks. My sister and I played with this thing for hours, making funny noises, over-dubbing sounds, and generally having a high old time.

I was hooked. As they often say, “the colours are better on radio”. Theatre of the mind, where your imagination fills in the images from the sounds alone. I have a particular fondness for sound effects records, and ambient sounds of real places in particular. It’s just another of those myriad creative pastimes I’ve developed through my life.

Have a search around the interweb and you’ll find numerous projects which aim to capture for posterity sounds of the every day mundanities of life. Things like birdsong in an urban environment, the sound of a stream trickling through a culvert, the 8.15 to Harpenden… that kind of thing. A favourite is the London Sound Survey. Sound, for many, is something we don’t often think about, and with most of us plugged into headphones or earbuds, blocking out the world around us, it’s easy to lose that audible connection with our surroundings.

Anyway, last year, Best Beloved and I invested in a modern digital audio recorder. We’ve owned various analogue and digital recorders over the years, but most were strictly linear in form. You recorded the sound, you played the recording back, and if you wanted to get the sound into another format you had to transfer it real time. No accessing a digital file in those days. Now, with the new toy, we could make a recording, and get it into the computer for editing with a few clicks of a mouse.

Long story short, we are steadily building a library of some commonplace sounds of our modern world—and some of our not-so-modern world. To that end, I’ve set up a SoundCloud account where we can share the edited recordings with the world. The first playlist I’ve created is of recordings made on the Severn Valley Railway, Shropshire, last year. For best results, play back through good speakers, or a good set of headphones.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/259485122″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

 

A week later!

Telford was an excellent exhibition, a credit to the organisers and managing crew. I spent the weekend talking, buying, and ending up tired out! I handed finished models to clients, and collected some new commissioned work. I think it was a good show.

Lots of nice textures and colours were about. I wonder if all the cast plates were made on the site?

As is now our habit, we stayed in the Telford area for a couple of days after the exhibition. Our plans were flexible, with museums and the Severn Valley Railway high on the agenda. Monday saw us visit the Blists Hill Victorian Town. The link explains what the place is all about, and it proved a pleasant afternoon of wandering about. I spent much of the time cursing my DSLR, which is really cursing myself for being thick. I really need to get out with the beast more often and learn how to drive it properly again.

It would have been lovely to have seen more activity around the town. It was rather as if the inhabitants had all gone on a charabanc trip to the seaside and left everything unlocked.

Our last day we went to Bridgnorth and visited the SVR. We took the digital sound recording gear, in the hopes of more excellent recordings such as we had last year. Sadly, I hadn’t slept at all well the previous night, so our visit was somewhat curtailed. I still haven’t had a chance to edit the recordings we made. In fact, I’ve not even listened back to them, which is quite telling on what I think about them.

So, that’s the Big Exhibition over for another year. Back at home, I spent the rest of the week nursing a toothache and setting out plans for the year ahead. I have, it seems, a lot of work to be getting on with!