Behind the scenes

I came across this video the other day and what a great find for behind the scenes of the RhB freight movements. I’ve always been drawn to freight operations more so than passenger traffic and one of the reasons I love the RhB is that there is thriving freight. It is also replaceable, without having to model huge block trains or fall back on the bucolic branch line.

In this video, we get to see a lot of the infrastructure that is not usually in front of the camera. It is long but I feel it’s worth the effort of it for the value it gives. When I was going about my normal (railway hobby) life I thought that I often missed the peripheral information. It’s not just about the train, Loco in front of us and this just proves the point.

I guess I am a sucker for the small scale modern freight train.

Things go bump

I’ve always been fascinated with transference of rolling stock between gauges. It’s not something I have experienced in my part of the world but the Swiss seem to embrace it on a daily basis.

It’s something I’ve often thought of modelling but would have to do in a larger scale to do it justice. I can’t help but think it would do well in the esoteric 5.5mm scale. Something along these lines

Wonderings & Worksheds

Looking back at my last post I am somewhat cheered that it isn’t my usual yearly contribution. It is fascinating to look back over the last few post and see the change from going to a model railway show at the beginning of the year up until now when we are living in a post covid19 world. So much has changed in our daily lives, things that we took for granted, even in our modelling lives where our physical communities, meets, and exhibitions have been put on hold. So much of the joy of our hobby is the connections we make via many routes that have temporarily been denied us. Many more will have said similar things but I have found the isolation difficult not just because I live in a more remote location but also as I do thrive on community. But, amazingly, we live in an age where we can keep in touch with various friends and communities via the medium of video calls and although it doesn’t replace real contact it does keep one’s spirits higher at this time of isolation.

So the point of this post is to refocus my efforts as I rather went the opposite way to the received wisdom of creators. In that, as backroom/bedroom modellers were cranking out entertainment for us I was retreating under the duvet, watching these people rather than bodging away on my workbench. I’ve always been a bit contrary, like going out hiking more in winter, but this often has a downside in that I lost out on valuable modelling time. Whilst many around me were being productive I mamas battling the mojo. It seems an inherent struggle between the plans and then progress. Many plans have been made but few have been progressed beyond that. So once again I am attempting to harness the power of the productivity gurus around habit stacking and living up to my name of the fifteen minute modeller and do that very thing. In order to under-promise and over achieve I have set myself the goal to set down and this modelling desk twice a week and produce no less than fifteen minutes of the modelling effort. One of the systems I have come across that resonates is the Habit Stacking method. I.e. after supper go and sit down at the desk and do 15mins of modelling. There is also the 2-minute rule, sit down for 2 mins. If you can get yourself there your more likely to do an activity. But enough of all the woo woo stuff and back to practical steps.

But back to modelling. My plan for modelling is to build a yard shed or workman’s hut from scratch using materials around me. Cereal packet card and clear plastic from food container etc as doesn’t matter if I bodge it, I can keep churning them out if I’m not happy with the outcome. The process of iteration is interesting, one learns the pluses and pitfalls that are universal. Then to build it again using some better quality materials like the card stock. But for the moment it is an easy project to get started on and get the juices flowing again and I do also like making buildings.

Mock-up of Workman’s Shed

I also have a load of other side projects that I need to get on with for other people and one has taken an interesting turn after one of those zoom calls, which produced a whole new way of looking at building something and a very kind donation of materials. More on this as I progress with this.

That’s all for now.

Library Lookup

My Railway Related Bookshelf

Whist sitting at my desk thinking about all things modelling and also the complexity of creating things to put out on the world wide web my attention was distracted by a book peeking out of my bookshelf. Yet another one of those great ideas at the time that didn’t follow through to an actual product. Then my thoughts drifted to what else was in the bookshelf and what have I not looked at in some time, well in reality a long time.

I know it might just be me but I rarely “just get” books out of my shelf, but that’s changed now with the lock down. In this age of digital media I realised that I have long moved away from the printed word. I remember the days that I would look forward to getting the latest edition of Railway Modeller from our local newsagents on the Saturday after it came out, as this was the time I could make it to the town that stocked the magazine. But the joy in getting home and disappearing off to my bedroom to lose myself in little imaginary worlds for a brief moment in time has been forgotten, at least for me. I am sure there are many out there who have the contrary view and spend significant amounts of time and money building their collections. But for me part of the process is getting something for the immediate joy of reading. Then follows the putting in a place on a shelf and the distancing from the mind, probably, possibly for years.

The fact that I haven’t had this opportunity since I was that yoof sitting in his bedroom, sitting in front of these books now brings back the joy of that moment. Each book and magazine has a memory attached, sometimes it was the getting of it or sometimes the memory of reading it.

I could have way more books, way way more books in these shelves, but I have managed to keep my choices to things that are in my core interests. For me it would be way too easy to load up on a whole range of subjects that would keep me busy probably for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong its not that I don’t go down other paths elsewhere but on the whole this is all digital and takes up no physical space. In this age of pretty much everything being in some form on line, with a large amount of it not being or never having been in publication. With also the possibility of asking questions on related forums, there really is no stone that can’t be unturned.

As someone who has spent the majority of there life in motion, and with few places where I had time or space to spread these physical roots it has been both a blessing and a curse. But now I am actually happy I hadn’t accumulated a huge library as most of it would probably have been jettisoned anyway. What’s more of interest to me is distilling my knowledge of the particular subject I’m interested in. Building up archives that I have access to anywhere is more important to me now than having an impressive bookshelf(s). I now circulate books brought on a whim that either don’t fit with my core interests or that replicates information. On the whole I have managed to train out random compulsive purchasing, but occasionally one gets through! I have to say that the Wild Swan Modelling Series is my Achilles keel and have pretty much brought every book in this series, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit my modelling influences and skills.

Speaking of Wild Swan I received the last issue, which after some (fomo?) I couldnt remember when my subscription ran out and like a fool when the mag turned up did my civic duty and bunged the envelope into the recycle. Unbeknownst to me the final edition is printed on the label, who knew?! I kind of admire their complete lack of desire to enter the 21st century and the operations dept is an endless source of amusement for many. But in this time of seclusion I opted for the patience approach and crossed fingers that it would turn up at some point. Thankfully that is what happened and I am now signed up for another four issues, which is all they are offering at this current time. But four is better than non of this wonderful publication.

These mags are the only I buy now. Apart from an occasional purchase of other mainstream mags this is the only one I actively collect. Also the only one that I don’t slash n scan pretty much after purchasing. I have been known to occasionally leaf through one in a idle moment. I have recently started building an index of the mags I have, yes I know there is already one out there, but I like to have something that I have access to at all times and can quickly look for something of interest.

So for the time being I am revisiting some old paper friends and pondering if there are more I need or want to add to them.

Until next time..

Ever changing world

I came across this gem of a video on YouTube which started me off on a journey down memory lane.

Although I never knowingly saw the steam era as I came into this world on this day, in the year it was phased out and lived in a region where electric commuter trains had long been running the bulk of railway services. The fascination and romance had sown its seed though. Maybe subconsciously but it was there. Now I know the reality as told by my parents and grandparents was a different tale but still I can’t help think that I would have enjoyed being one of those kids who bunked off school to watch the trains rush by, or be standing on platforms as trains strained there weight away to far flung regions. For the record I never really collected numbers as I was more interested in watching trains go by. Even to this day it’s more about the experience than the detail. Not saying collecting numbers is bad, lets face it humans seemed designed to collect things! But for me it’s just the roar of a passing train. The sights and smells of a steam train on a heritage railway. Or the well observed layout at a model railway show.

What about the video then? Well not only is it a snapshot of a time long forgotten. But also a record of a railway near to my childhood. I long dreamed of being able to explore the Settle to Carlisle route which is in that region. With its rugged scenery and remote stations that I had long read about. As a youngster though I had no way of attaining this goal due to the inability to get my self about to these far flung quarters. In fact to date I still haven’t managed to ride the illustrious S&C Railway. Maybe once this global event has passed I will finally manage to put a tick on the list.

But this video also gives little detail at its fringes that a photo could never do. I know I have said previously that I now try to take the periphery as well as the focus. As I know that is what will be interesting to me and hopefully others in the future. There is no excuse with modern tech to now be able to make a reasonable record of the passing of time. Looking at the video though it’s always been an idle thought of mine that had Beeching not slashed his red pen through the map of Britain’s railway lines in the 60s and some forward thinking minds had kept the idea of goods transport links alive. Could we now have had a more goods by rail. Probably not. But doesn’t harm to let the mind wander. In fact if one wants to go really left field, how about a modern day narrow gauge system. Much like the Swiss system that I so admire. But that is really pushing it and very off topic.

I love the fact that there are little trains. Contrary to popular opinion (probably!) I love the little local goods trains. Most of these images were taken at the end of the railway boom and the steam era and were on the whole hanging on for grim life. But they did serve remote communities that survived on goods shipments for their livelihoods in many cases. The internal combustion engine was now in the ascendancy. Road travel and transport was seen to be much quicker, cheaper and just more sexy. Just look at the the Mini adverts from the 60s.

But I love these little finds and the mental journeys it can set me off on. Just not to get sucked too far down the rabbit hole. There’s something quaint about the 16mm footage that makes one realise how spoilt we are now with the technology in our pockets. The fact you knew you had limited resources and that timing really mattered. In this day and age of “all you can eat” it sometimes is all too easy to lose concentration.

I wonder what it will be from this age that is left for prosperity.

Distractions greatly accepted.

What does on say? What does one do? Well apart from the obvious; stay safe and don’t go out, it is hard to comprehend the current state of the world. As I said to a neighbour the other day who’d of thought that in 2020 we would be experiencing the types of restriction that leads us to remain tethered to our homes. Thankfully for us band of railway modellers we have a almost limitless supply of distraction to aid us in these uncharted times. There’s so many things we can be getting on with. It’s not just the layout, for those that have them, but anything from finishing off that kit to even sorting out the tool draw/store. I think this is the first time in probably in more than a decade that I now know exactly what I have in my collection of plastic boxes spread around the estate..

But as the days seem to merge into one and the nights get shorter, I find myself wanting to do more, which is probably the inverse of every one else. But there is some constriction in that thinking ahead to the project I’m on at the moment I may run down of supply chain issues, namely getting hold of paints. Some of the model stores are still open via mail order, but I really want to support my local ones as who knows what the model shop landscape will be like once this has all receded. I truly hope that it isn’t the Armageddon that the media is portraying but I suspect that there will be casualties, let’s hope just not too many.

So now that I have more time what will I do with it? Well I am desperately trying not to go off piste and start a bunch of projects that I have thinking about for a long time but I do want to keep the snowball running downhill. One such project is a track build for a friend that was meant to be used in a layout that was going to come to fruition this June and now that all modelling and real events are cancelled until further notice, it seemed that my drive to get completed in time for my friend to move his project to its conclusion evaporated almost over night. However now with this extended period of solitude that it would be the best time to start this off and get it over to him so he has his own distraction from current events

Both the Digital and the Analogue

It’s an interesting process of noodling together the constraints of building hand laid track with a very non standard crossing. No I know that this is completely non prototypical and I can hear the sharpening of the pitch forks over the purists encampment, but hey I have never thought it mattered. But the process goes through the base to build on the non standard crossings and the need to manipulate these sharp angles. The blessing is that nothing bigger than four coupled loco (yes there will only ever be one Peckett tank loco running on this micro layout, but its still a bit of a challenge.

So I am trying to ease myself into it by setting myself a chunk of time a day to work on it, whether that be the planning part or the building part. I have only come round to the progress by small bites in the relatively recent past, as someone who has always be a leave it to the last minute kinda guy but I am finding this is helping with my attention.

This is going to be something that rumbles along and provides that distraction, or maybe a pallet cleanser that one needs when the days stretch into the distance and there is no longer a deadline or even reason to need to finish it. But I did promise to do it and so I will. I will probably record progress for prosperity over on the Youtube channel but I will pull together the efforts into one video that will appear once my friend has it and is happy with it.

Until then hope you are enjoying any modelling time you have and stay safe.

Building a baseboard

In an attempt to get me back to blogging I am going to try doing some micro blogging, where I can just put up a short post just to keep the flow going until I reach critical mass and can keep the habit going. I enjoy writing these posts as it is a way of bringing thoughts together in a way that isn’t really possible in other mediums. But I have banged on about this enough and probably loads of times before so will keep my ramblings to a minimum.

The point of this post is to mark a milestone that is a major step forward for me. Some time has passed since moving to this new house and getting to the point where I have a space to play trains in. For so long I have been procrastinating about the fact that I didn’t have or couldn’t do but now I have no excuse! “You need to build a layout” I have been told!

The YouTube channel I started and probably why I post less here is a great carrot and stick in that it motivates me into getting things done and feeds the doing. It is however also the stick and is the beast that must be fed. Although I don’t profess to be one of those fancy full time YouTubers or someone who really knows what they are doing, one does get a little interested in the analytics. But to become a slave to them would be the death of a hobby I think. But I did make a commitment to myself to do a consistent content upload and on the whole I have kept to it.

I really like the process of creating the videos and although I know nothing about film making and editing I stumble on trying to get a little bit better every time I make one. Yes I know there is a tonne of stuff out there but I thought I would try and find my “way” before I start being influenced by others. It’s thinking about how one is going to tell the story of what’s happening in front of one, keeping it interesting to me as well as an audience is quite a tricky thing.

All of this is to say that my latest effort marks the start of hopefully many layout builds on my space constrained shelf. For me variety is the spice of life and boredom is the enemy of creation.

As a slight side note, in this time of uncertainty and restrictions I and pondering will I have enough resources to complete the build but for the time being I have enough to keep me going for quite a few weeks, hopefully to the point of near completion.

If you care to find out my efforts you can see them here

So until the next micro blog, stay safe and hopefully enjoy a bit of your own hobby time.

Showing up

Ebor  Group Of Railway Modellers Show 2020

Every now and then will need to push oneself to do things that one may not necessarily think about I want to do. This Sunday just gone, I decided to go to a model railway show in York. It is a small show has been running for nine years now and which I have been to a couple of times before around about the time it first started. As exhibitions go it is probably one of the closest ones to me but certainly not the largest. The main show at York is the Easter one which is situated at the racecourse in the Easter weekend. However I have been itching to get some provisions and also some inspiration. I always find going to a show usually triggers of ideas. This was no exception and there were three layouts that gave me a lot of food for thought. Talking to the owners the highlight of the show.

Much of what gives me inspiration is not the size of the layout for the number of trains, although there are some pretty stupendous large layouts; Copenhagen fields, Gresley beat, and Apethorne Junction. It may be just a quirky idea that the owner has had, or maybe some constructional solution that I haven’t seen before. In fact there was a number of these at the show.

Not for me the main line expresses thundering by, but a lone local shunting wagons around a small yard is far more interesting to me. I know this is not everybody’s cup of (insert beverage of choice) but I have long been fascinated by these bucolic scenes. I didn’t grow at the time when this was part of the living history but with the wonders of the Internet I can easily recreate these visual memories.

When one goes to a show there will always be a number of layouts that grab you and the majority that you may not find necessarily interesting to your interests and scale or scales. However I am trying to teach myself keeping an open mind is far more beneficial in the long run. One can learn from just about any body standing behind the layout as they have achieved something that I surely haven’t, yet. Whether that be an interesting take on creating scenery or a particular method of Electricals, there is some nugget to be teased out of a conversation. For far too long I have said and thought to myself “oh I don’t like that because… “However that was limiting my learning experiences that I could’ve been picking up from.

It is really all about the story. Whether that be the layout that you see in front of you or the person behind that layout. Both have interesting stories to tell and hopefully you can hear them. This weekend was very much all about this conversation. Thinking that I would pop in and have a look round take some pictures and video and then lead to meet up with family was far from the reality. Time flew by and in what seemed like a moment my phone was buzzing in my pocket with messages asking “where was I?“

For about three hours I had three conversations that were way beyond the value of the admission which was a poultry £4. I would’ve paid 10 times that for the inspiration and advice that I received from the very knowledgeable and gracious layout owners. I’ve always found that the best conversations I’ve had at railway shows have been with small layouts. I don’t know whether it’s something to do with the physical connection to their audience or whether it is that they have more time to be able to talk to people in front of the layout.

So what did I bring away with me from the show, well apart from some Rocket glue for my card building models that I’m working at the moment, I had an affirmation that my small space, shelf layout space, was going to be more than adequate for my needs. I think that I will be able to pretty much get everything including the kitchen sink in if I so wish. I also came away with some ideas for layout operation like point and signal operation, and ideas for transporting layouts around if I was ever to be invited to a show. I was once again reminded that for myself “Playing is important“ and having a layout to be able to do this with his key. Even if I switch a couple of trucks around for an hour that is really what I’m looking for. Don’t get me wrong building things he is just as important as playing with things as after all we are just playing trains.

You can check out my visit to the show over on my YouTube channel. Unfortunately you never get the real experience of having been there but I have caught a bit of the essence of the show.

EGRM Heworth, 2020 – Full Video – MODEL RAILWAY

A fork in the road

Whilst walking in my local park on a beautiful sunny morning, with the glimmerings of spring seemingly around the corner my mind turned to which notty road to follow. Since returning back to my YouTube channel with renewed enthusiasm I have kind of left myself a bit of a quandary. Once the infrastructure, i.e. the shelves are finished and I have space to start building my first layout, I am faced with this choice. In the blue corner, is the current intended project. This is the lightweight foam board layout I started last year. In the red corner, is the new upstart. The project I committed to maybe last year or the year before, I can’t remember now, with my friend Richard. However not happy just to commit to a project that had a deadline I decided to pile on the pressure and come up with, in a blinding flash of inspiration, the plan to sign myself up to the same challenge. Now granted I am only making “some” track for my friend, but the fact that he is/will be waiting on me before he can really get on and to the scenic side has added a layer of pressure.

Now to my own folly. Around the same time as a visit to this part of the world, we happened to realise that well know Steam Loco Tornado was working the local heritage railway. This then triggered a conversation about the line, history, and my thoughts and ideas about it. Some of the plans I daydreamed about as a youngster were still in the back of my mind. For whatever reason this small rural tiny backwater line had me gripped from a young age. I have talked about this obsession in previous posts before but all talking and noodling just re-awoke it. Having brought every book on and tried to accumulate any pictures I could all with the end goal of one day producing a layout of it. Its not an original idea and there’s been a number of layouts in the model railway press over the years but its an itch that just needs scratching.

Bringing that back to the current day I am faced with the option of abandoning my “mini” idea or hurl myself headlong into this. What is this idea we are talking about? Well, it is the Diamond Jubilee Layout Challenge of the 2mm Association. The deadline is late June 2020 and by my calculation, that is about 4 months. Now as I have previously said I have a number of tasks in my room that I need to finish, like some coving to put up and some paint touch up to be able to get to the point where I can start anything. Realistically that is probably going to be into March by my current rate of progress at which point I have to decide which path to take for the YouTubes. There is, of course, a plan C option, which is to run the project alongside but to document the DJLC for later, after the event, as a kind of retrospective. I’m guessing that this is the sensible thing to do, but then when have I ever been sensible! Also, the thing that has been flickering through my mind recently is that I could also do an idea I have also had in my head for a long time, portraying a seaside station on the south coast of England. This was hatched in a moment of madness when I brought a 2 car DMU and that I got wheels turned down for 2FS. That has also been gnawing away at me to build.

I’m not sure whether one or the other of my ideas would harder to complete than the other so I guess it boils down to what makes the most sense. Given that I have the rolling stock for the latter it would seem more feasible to move that project forward. I seem to be talking myself into this, but like all the cliches about “no pain, no gain”, “cracking eggs to make omelettes” blah blah blah… It might be a fools’ errand, but there’s nothing like being under pressure to produce some results.

So now some doodles of the ideas I have and maybe some ideas will flow from them.

First Idea

2FS Rural Halt
A rural halt in the North of England in 2FS

Second Idea

A modern seaside town in 2FS

So with all this in mind, I have to sit myself down and work out how, when and if I need to do this. So in the coming weeks, I will follow up on this as this is more of a sounding board to myself which I enjoy being able to do as in other formats it is harder to formulate these ideas without having to project rather than reflecting on. My not sure an hour of babbling on about a concept, track plan and execution would be that interesting to many people. I also like that here on the blog I can have these ideas and they can percolate through time without having to have a definite end. Quite often ideas can last for decades.

However, as the years’ tick by it is becoming more apparent that these ideas need turning into reality. In some ways having a restricted space is limiting, but in conversation with a friend yesterday I said that it actually fits my character much better. When I look at my modelling inspirations, Rice, Gravett and Nevard, to mention a few, on the whole, their layout output is on the more compact size. But the level of captured reality is inspiring. Thus proving one doesn’t need huge amounts of space.

In the time I have and the space constraints (around two feet in length) I think I can achieve something in 10-11 weeks. Anyway, we’ll see how that pans out. As my grandfather said, “Never sit at the front and never volunteer for anything!” From a man who volunteered for Bomber Command during WW2.