A Botch Job

Today we had another modelling day at Mark Tatlow’s, these days are always great, loads of modelling with a nice lunch and sometimes the company is just about passable (you have never had to listen to Pete’s CD collection)

I sat there today and watched Chris get 3D with a brass kit from Judith Edge. Chris is pushing his skills to try new things and his knowledge and collection is only going to prosper for it. Mark also helped me out by soldering some simple bits together, this got me thinking on the drive home, I need to push harder in my own skillset.

I have most definitely crashed into a glass ceiling that probably faces us all as modellers at different times. The moment you realise that what you want, or indeed need, is not in a RTR box, it is going to have to be built either from a crappy old kit or an up to date brass puzzle and it’s going to require some new skills.

And I find it terrifying. I know now though that it has to be a change in mind set. Right now I know I can get half decent results from an outlay. Its an investment mentally. If I spend £50 on a model, £20 on stick-on bits, I know what the outcome will be.

Buying etches, motors, gearboxes with no idea how each piece fits into the other is a big outlay when the route to completion seems vague. I have bodged and botched my way to 29 with never actually having to get dirty with ‘real’ modelling. I need to learn new skills, try new methods and accept that I may not get it right, and stop worrying about how angry or frustrated that will make me.

I brought and started a DJH Andrew Barclay about 2 years ago and buried it in a box when it didn’t work the first time. Its probably time I dug her out and had a look.

So as Chris’ lovely Yorkshire 0-4-0 prototype grew from a 2D sheet it made me realise I had not shown you my latest botch job, a UK Bachmann GE.

Instead of buying and building what I wanted I had this idea I could bash an American GE into a British looking NCB internal. As a prototype its now too far out of whack, we had ALCOs working in steel works and Esso brought some other GEs. But its still a botch and not actually what I wanted…….





Retracing the Overseas Railroad…

While in Florida on our honeymoon we took the opportunity to drive from Miami down to Key West to spend a few days there… prior to arrival in Miami I had no knowledge of the local railroad network other than searching for any interesting looking locations on Google maps. However a chance find of a railway book in a local bookshop (pretty rare in the states compared to the UK I find) I discovered that there had once been a Railroad running the length of the Florida Keys to Key West – this got me excited! Why on earth had there been a line running for such a long way to a seemingly unimportant island? Further research revealed that in the early 20th century Key West had been the most important city in Florida, as well as being the closest deep water port to the Panama Canal and Cuba, therefore making it a very desirable goal.

This line was built by the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) and was an impressive piece of engineering, endless viaducts linking the chain of islands that make up the Florida Keys, the longest being the 7 mile bridge linking Knight Key and Little Duck Key. These engineering achievements led to the line gaining a reputation as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ and from Key West there was a train ferry to Havana, as well as shipping to other parts of the world via the Panama Canal.

Anyhow, one of Florida’s great hurricanes in the late 1930’s severely damaged the line, and a cash strapped FEC was unable to fund repairs. As a result, the trackbed was sold to the State and turned into a highway, which over the years has been rebuilt on a new alignment with new bridges. As such I wasn’t expecting to see much of interest on our journey down.

Therefore I was surprised to see that most of the original structures still survive and are now a cycle track, although some have been severed to allow shipping to operate.

The viaducts as built were made from a mixture of shuttered concrete and metal girders. The handrails have been added more recently to allow pedestrians to use the structure.

The seven mile bridge is a seriously impressive thing, stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see!

The old concrete viaduct has now been superseded for road traffic by a new structure running alongside, although it’s a shame most of the time you can’t see the old structure while driving.

On the Keys themselves, the trackbed has been turned into large parking areas alongside the highway. These presented the perfect opportunity for a gratuitous hire car in a hot climate portrait!

In Key West itself, there is this small Railroad museum near the old station site, which holds a number of interesting items and plans, although very small by British standards!

Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay here forever, and had to head back itto reality last week, oh well!


Layout Progress #11

There has not been much modelling on this blog of late, it is that time of the year over in Blighty where the weather likes to tease us hopers into believing we might have a decent summer. In the UK there is one thing you learn quickly, when the sun does come out you just go out immediately as you literally may be living through what summer there is.

This added with Chris’ preparation for the big day and well its all been a bit stale. Chris is up to his arse in DIY in his love nest and I have started a new job which means I am settling in with long hours and a light work load which can be tedious.

And there are a couple of modelling projects greeting me every time I go in the shed that I would rather did not remind me they existed.

But I digress with excuses because I have been saving my pennies and brought some bits for SQ. Remember that big hole that needed a building? That then got a shell? Well yeah, here she is, the newsagents from Lowca, Whitehaven. It would not of got where it is was it not for Pete building the basic shell and Chris’ impressive nagging to get it done. There are still a couple of bits that need adding, but yeah it was that grim in real life. The patch of brick work is also copied from the prototype, here is a link to the photo that started the love affair with all things ‘NCB’:

Gordon Edgar’s Amazon at Lowca



There is also a much needed flagman, he was a Bachmann Scenecraft station member suitably ‘Northernised’ #Finescaleflatcaps


Dangerously nearing a cliche is something I really had the horn for doing, a dog waiting for it’s owner. The dog seems miraculously strong to bend the lamp post, this is my dodging modelling and needs straightening. The level crossing sign I bodged from some plastikard after buying some crap signs for roughly a fiver, more fool me. Again copied from the one used at Lowca.


Above and below is the whole scene together.


I hope you all like the update, I am quite into it on the whole. Its really given my mojo back and I still get shocked at what I can achieve with half an hour a night and a sleeping pattern devised by toddlers as well as pretty basic skills.

The layout is also showing signs of actually working after a long time pretty much inactive. I found some DCC chips with capacitors on eBay from ‘the far east’ (always worryingly generic) and instead of burning down the entire workshop are giving sterling service and seem to be working without fault even in that bloody DJ Models Austerity.

Hopefully we should have more modelling coming at a decent rate over the next few months. Some of our American and Canadian friends have been inspiring us massively and we hope in the next couple of months to give you an insight into how that inspiration is turning into something physical.

Bye for now and happy modelling,




A Bloody Wedding

Today was a big arse day.

Chris got married to his girlfriend Heather and model trains have a lot to do with it.

As a true believer Chris was allowed ‘to do’ the wedding favours. So obviously he choose OO gauge wagons carrying personalised gin.

In this photo the wagons are obvious, however the gin has already departed. After all I was there.

There is no small wonder Chris has done no modelling of late as every wagon was sprayed and hand written (bugger that)

Luckily however we were all allowed to keep ours so expect a super detailed version soon.

Saturday Heather and Chris are having a big old piss up and a lot of modelling people are going (also maybe expect a drunken selfie, but to finescale standards)

I imagine all our readers along with myself wish Chris and Heather a happy marriage.


Competition Fever

Nothing on earth tunes the sense like a crafted and worth taking part competition.

Back in Blighty there has not been a proper all encompassing competition for baby trains since the Scalefour’s 1883 comp and out of that was born some very nice filth.

Now Iain Rice and Wild Swan’s Simon have come up with a competition. Chris and I are hugely horned by what is going to be entered. Are we going to enter? Well maybe.

The latest MRJ has the details but here are the rules and the judges are the very cream of model railways…

I think some folks from over the pond maybe interested but an expensive plane ticket to enter…


Layout Progress #10

Although layout progress has been lacking on the blog that is not to say there has not been any developments. Between ranting about Austerities and foaming over class 71s my ‘workshop’ aka the glorified shed has been finished.

I have alluded at great length to the problems with ‘House Modelling’ and its ability to strain even the most solid of relationships with the way it can stain even the most expensive of rugs.

Thanks to Chris never ever being able to say ‘No’ he agreed to help my shed fit out. So we spent a weekend getting splinters and inhaling insulation dust. With a good 7 years taken off our life expectancy (really we should start using PPE) we sat back and admired the finished product.

Its good. Its bloody lovely in fact. Six Quarters has taken residence and now the final touches can be made and running concentrated on.The list of jobs is still quite impressive however. Its just amazing to finally be in a position to have the layout and fiddle yard set up as they would be at an exhibition. 

Thankfully my Mum is pretty handy on a sewing machine so a nice curtain is incoming to really finish off the shed.
In terms of the layout, there is new point handles, a bloody large tree and now 3/4s of a building. 

A massive thank you to Mr Tatlow of Portchullin who, while I supervised, spent our last modelling day rekindling old tree building skills. I would of helped but I was so, accidentally, hungover my mind felt like it had been turned to liquid. The tree is a lot of splayed picture hanging wire twisted and soldered. I then painted it with a polyfilla/paint/PVA mix with painting and dry brushing to complete.

And now the scene looks like this,

Payday on Friday will see a nice tin of Dulux black to finish painting all the layouts exposed bits. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and theres a couple of spare walls in that shed…