Wordless Wednesday


New year, new post

Trust OTCM to be two weeks late with a new years post, with the two big manufacturers announcing their 2018 catalogues (including some NCB wagon filth from Hornby) it seemed ripe OTCM gave a flavour of 2018.

It’s been a rock and roll period since the end of December, I have separated from my wife and moved in with my parents but it’s not something to mourn. It just means Chris is now worried if I’m not in a bad place marriage wise I’ll start making happy summer based model railways. Living with my parents also has its benefits, there is an insulated shed at the foot of the garden the size of which would make even a hardened model railway enthusiast weep at the potential. The workbench has been established in my Mum’s craft room (a handy place). So all is good, and nothing gets you over the break up of a marriage like a few hot dates and starting a gigantic model railway you can possibly never finish.

Chris is currently having his back bathroom ripped out (which is not a euphemism) so he is currently living with his in-laws but he’s being experimenting with homemade British Steel transfers the results of which he will share soon.

Work has been bonkers, Chris starts a job at one of Britain’s biggest freight operators toward the end of the week and I’ve helped deliver London Bridge final stages and a new platform at Redhill as well shuttling between the UK and Germany looking at the class 717s.

On top of that, just to add to the manic nature of 2018 SQ and myself made it briefly onto national TV as part of the programme ‘Biggest Little Railway In The World’ which is broadcast weekly on a Sunday night on Channel 4. If I knew how much I featured in every episode I would tell you all but unfortunately it’s as much of a surprise to me as to you. Unlike you however I watch it hiding behind a pillow. I’ll give you more on the ‘BLR’ after the final episode.

I’ll just apologize though for the state of the SQ while it was being filmed, and it has a class 20 running box fresh on it because at the time that’s all I had that worked.

As we look toward the whole of this year, as a reader you’ll get more of the same and maybe a podcast or two, some video content and more importantly we are out and about the breadth of the country with SQ, well I say that, the furthest we get north is the Midlands but for me in Deal that’s like Carlisle.

Does all that mean there’s been no modelling? Of course not, it’s been the only thing keeping us sane. I’ve been modifying a Bachy 04 with a cut down cab. Grimethorpe colliery got a couple of these modified by Hunslet after their BR service. We assume because they didn’t fit under some form of loading apparatus. Like most of SQ it’s based on a prototype rather than religiously following one. It just makes the whole loco look far more deviant and evil than it needs to which is part of the attraction. The stove pipe is an off cut of a sprue. It’s rough and ready and requires more filling and filing. 

You’ll also notice in the background is a new DJM Austerity. Which as you know has been such a friend of the blog. I know after previous posts this is like that mate you have who keeps sleeping with that girl you all know is trouble. But it was £60, that’s my defence. I have also given this one all the opportunity on earth to run well, it probably won’t, but then at least this one can only postively surprise. 

Me on TV being seriously unimpressed by Scottish weather

Enjoy 2018 everyone, because there is no way it can be any worse than 2017.


Many Years in the Making…

As I passed through London Bridge at around 23.00 this evening, surrounded by many workers clad in orange getting work underway where possible ahead of the formal 01.20 possession start time, I couldn’t help but feel a touch of sensitivity over what, after many years of hard work and planning, finally goes live tonight…

For both myself and Oly, being employed by one of the train operators most affected by it, London Bridge has played such a massive part of our lives and careers for so long, this is the final Big Bang! My first planning job on when I joined the railway back in mid 2012, was for the engineering work at Christmas to double the Tanners Hill flydown, an essential enabler for the London Bridge project, and since then through 2 companies, everything has been focussed on the redevelopment of London Bridge, and seeing various major engineering work and challenges through the various stages required in order to come to fruition.

Providing nothing disastrous happens, Tuesday 2nd January should see the completed station handed back to train operators and the commencement of various route learning trips for GTR services in the lead up to the introduction of the May 2018 timetable change, where that distant reality of an intense timetable of Thameslink services from the south to both the East Coast and Midland Mainlines finally becomes true.

So while wishing all readers of OTCM a very merry Christmas (and a happy new year if we are too lazy to post anything before then) let us also raise a glass to all those working over the festive period (Oly included, but not me, I’ll be on the sofa at home drinking beer and avoiding doing any modelling..) to make this massive project, among others, come to fruition over the next 10 days.

All the best!


Tom Cruise, a Class 73 and a Whole Lotta Trouble

Somehow through no fault of my own and without any real planning, I have found myself in a niche job role on the 1:1 scale railway. I am also pretty sure that job role should be entitled ‘Shit Fixer’. Or as my boss calls it, an ‘Operations Development Manager’. 

It might be through a random collection of experience that I find myself flitting between trade union engagement, introducing new rolling stock, consulting on ERTMS, building new platforms and recently being asked to put together something very out of the norm.

Imagine if you can me sat at my desk fending off phone calls and emails trying to read WNXX.com and drinking a cup of tea I’d ordered with the words ‘Steve can I have a secondman’s cup of tea please?’. So it was a tea worth savouring, when an email appears from the boss entitled ‘Project Gemini Stunt’. Which piques the interest compared to something like ‘Rep release for Redhill Platform testing’.

In a matter of a month or so my firm are entering a contract to organise a stunt train for the next Mission Impossible. The details of which I’ll be murdered if I share but it’s fair to say was completely out the ordinary for even the most Bodgetastic and fly by night organisation let alone one of Britians biggest and most publisised train operating companies.

The problem is as the email explained there was a special selection of skills required if the mission was to be accepted (Ed. You could not help yourself could you?) It turns out that I found myself with the majority of desired abilities and also, and most importantly, the sheer stupidity to say ‘yeah it can be done’ when everyone had said it was impossible (Ed. Come on now)

After making one phone call to inquire about the progress I found myself slap bang in the middle of what my colleague calls a ‘Shitnado’. We swear a lot on the railway. (and also watch a lot of Trailer Park Boys)

The more the odds stacked up the more I was determined to show we could do it, and we could do it in budget, professionally and more importantly safely.

So on Sunday 26th inside a possession was 400 ton of new train, 1960’s vintage class 73202, 8 railwaymen and women, 300 crew and extras and little old me just keeping it together under the responsibility, cup of tea in hand.

There was a moment when we were propelling a 12 car train with the class 73 about a mile over a stretch of railway soon to be Britain’s busiest that I had a little twinge of pride that I had somehow found willing people to come on this mad adventure with me. Not only that they trusted me, their faith making me realise I’d come quite far in 13 years. 

It’s not everyday you get to work for Paramount pictures, or do 7/8 eigths of what we did, but it’s also not everyday you get to feel a little proud of what you’ve done. So you’ve all got to read about it.

And my thanks has to go to all those people who helped me not just on the day but with all the emails and phone calls on the build up and the fact no matter what I asked and no matter how out the ordinary it was done perfectly and with a laugh. 

And most important of all the tea never stopped being brewed.

Its 0545 and after various rushed phone calls the forgotten coupling is dropped off at Blackfriars only to find it knackered. Luckily we packed another.
Driver Daw edges the old girl out of the station to propel back into platform 1.
400 tons of brand new multi million metal edges out of Blackfriars ready for its starring role
Waiting for ‘Action!’ 73202 basks in the cold sun waiting for more stunt work
The unseen hereos, Driver Daw and his steed.
Suns going down, everyone has gone home. Battersea here we come.

All photos copyrighted to OTCM as I actually remembered to take some.


Weathering Mineral Wagons (Again)

For the seasoned OTCM reader this video you’ve seen, so don’t be thinking we’ve been making more helpful videos.

This is for the new readers (hello Nan!) since the first exhibition who have said they would love to know how we rust wagons and have struggled to find the original post, so here it is again showing what you can do when you should be working at home and are using only one hand. No tripods here at OTCM.


Oly’s Rules

I was thinking the other day, which in itself is dangerous enough, about what constitutes to me a decent layout. All this thinking has been generated after Chris and I have been discussing at some length the ‘third generation’ of layouts to replace SQ and Chris’ current project.

Although me trying to pin myself to a single prototype is near enough impossible there is always common patterns that develop and I do not mean in terms of what attracts me to a prototype. I can go from 1990s Manchester DC lines in P4 to 1930s Argentine logging railroads in On30 in under an hour. This is more planning ideals and how I’d capture the essence of a said prototype. A sort of Oly’s rules to an exhibition layout if you like.

With all that said above the first unfortunate step is to actually get over your inability to not settle on a single prototype and actually decide. Chris unfortunately has not finalised the true vision of his ‘tri-period modelling’ dream quite yet. My final decision on a prototype is one that usually involves a bit of scope around bodging, with enough sprinkling of out of the ordinary but with the core that during that period of the year when your modelling ability and mojo disappears there is still something you can do. It’s why I couldn’t do P4 because you have to be on your game all the time, and quite simply on a wet Wednesday in November I just want to get a wagon out of a box and make it a bit dirty.

Then comes the good bit. Research. Not so much geography and history (although to some people that’s number 1) I’m talking about research into what you want. Not 893 photos of class 20s in the Derby area either. You need to create a digital (or physical if you are that way inclined) scrapbook of the colours and textures you require. This is when you need to look at every train photo you’ve ever looked at again but forget the train in it. You need to understand the exact colour of the track, the exact colour of that embankment. There are 365 days in a year and 4 seasons, its worth deciding what section you want to convey, but you can boil it down to more than that by simply asking yourself ‘what feelings do I want to convey to the person who is looking at it?’

When you build a layout you become so wrapped up in it it’s no longer fresh so it’s always good to think of what a complete stranger would think when they saw it and how you want them to react. When I built SQ I wanted it to look like you would not want to visit it. I wanted the onlooker to pull their jacket a bit tighter. So I knew it couldn’t be a summer in the 1930s. It had to feel like rain and industrial strife. Regardless of a prototype it had to look what it was. A loco and a train is not anywhere near enough to give a sense of setting and place. We cannot rely on them to carry the scene on their own. No matter how amazing the detailing and weathering. 

Now my favourite rule, no track should be straight with the baseboard edge. How many layouts do you know where the curve is only there because it has to be and is merely a unfortunate requirement to get the track back to being straight? I know a few. Humans have a tendency to make things straight, we don’t lay the table at Christmas with wonky cutlery or iron a work shirt with creases into it, or build round sheds. We like straight. However at the same time the most beautiful objects on earth are rarely straight. A good looking car is not one made of right angles. You may be constrained to keep your board square edged but your track shouldn’t be. Whatever plan you’ve drawn, draw it again so nothing runs straight with the baseboard edge, you’ll like it a lot more.

SQ as is


SQ straight as could be

That leads me nicely to Kevin Lane’s (one of Flickr’s leading railway pornographers and all copyright to Kevin) photo of a YEC 0-4-0 during work at Pilkington glass.

The original is here

The entire scene on your layout is probably 1 X 1, but the detail and sense of place it gives you is beyond amazing. Classic trains magazine do a great photo every issue completely explaining all the background details and it’s worth looking at this one in more detail.

Firstly the train’s orientation to its world around it is key to my point above. Nothing about that loco is straight to it’s surroundings. Look at how the gate angles across the track, nothing straight and parallel. (10)

Then there is the detail. So much it’s almost painful to take it in. Look at the handmade bench (5), the tramway track and the differing ground colours (9). It might be black and white but it screams weathering and colour. Look how the more modern building sits (again not straight) behind the older building and wall (2). The signage (6). The lampost is also lovely (1).  The way the ground transitions also is important for deciding on what materials you are going to use (3 and 4). Detail that is easily missed is the wire runs and change in material on the gate house (8 and 7). Also look at the general crap under the wall. There is lot to take in and model and that’s just in 1 X 1. Also a lot of it is not going to cost a fortune to model, it can be bodged with the materials you would of brought for the main modelling of the building.

Then we get to the signal (Obviously 11 but I was having fun). The signal is in dangerous territory. It’s the second thing we see when we look after the locomotive. Bob Fallowfield over on trainmasters.tv makes a good point about never modelling ‘the weird and wonderful’. To me what that means is balancing the desire to model something against what you are trying to achieve by the overall scene.

I’m assuming you are using the photo at Pilkington because you want it’s ‘vibe’ and its part of your scrapbook rather than because you are modelling an exacting prototype, if you are then you are going to model it. However if your freelancing a bit more than the thought process would be ‘is that going to jar against my scene?’ rather than ‘that is amazing I need that on my layout’. If someone walks up to your layout an item like that signal could ruin the scenes entire impact because the eye is simply drawn to it and then unable to forget it. Again this is when you can get your layout stranger and say ‘what do you think?’ and they say ‘whats that funny white thing?’ it probably falls under that ‘Weird and Wonderful’ and should be scrapped.

Presentation is an important thing to anyone, you don’t go to an interview looking like you’ve slept behind the bins. Nor should you show off your hard work on an ironing board with lighting made from white PVC guttering.

There has been enough written about presentation beyond the confines of this blog, but it doesn’t have to be hard. If it was I wouldn’t do it. If you can build a baseboard you can present your layout nicely. It just takes thought and a conscious decision to make it part of the process.

Finally you need to tread a fine a line between capability and learning. Modelling something with code 100 track when you know deep down you are ready to start making copper clad points is never going to lead you to modelling nirvana.  Same if you pick a subject or style that you constantly struggle to achieve, say for instance if everything has to be made from a kit. Your goal should ultimately to be a learning curve mixed with satisfaction.

Some, or most of it in fact, probably makes no sense. However I hope that one of you somewhere has found all that useful.