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Worst case scenario

What is the one thing you don’t want to happen when, for example, you need to write a final project for a three year course (deadline: Soon) and incidentally send a stack of applications to possible employers?

Probably, the computer breaking down, on a week when there were no shops open so no possibility of getting it fixed or replaced in a hurry.

So guess what happened just after Christmas?

The all important project was already stored on a stick; external hard drive; my computer at work; and the work network, but I could have done without the extra complications*.

I can fix bikes and furniture but computers need more subtle approaches than whacking them with hammers, so after a technically minded friend declared death two weeks ago I started looking for a replacement. I now have a slightly newer ex-lease laptop, so I can at least write blogs again.

I mean, work on my project… I can work on my project again. That’s what I meant.

Normal service will be restored as soon as possible.

*Much more seriously, the proxy server at work has started blocking WordPress. I can’t think why.

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Grey van

Slow progress at the moment due to because of a combination of general festivities, a final dissertation that I promised myself I’d try to get mostly finished by the end of the holidays, and applying for work after my current contract expires at the end of April 2019

Nonetheless, this is progress. Now I have to work out how to make plastic and acrylic paint look like aluminium. Any ideas?

 

 

Big wheel one…

Every now and again I decide I’m going to get more disciplined, which usually means I’m going to try and focus on making stuff for the Körschtalbahn. Occasionally I even manage to follow through on this for a few weeks.

Of course the thing about deciding to focus on a challenging project is that you don’t do it just before the start of the annual silly session at work, while simultaneously trying to finish a final dissertation and make an elderly mountain bike into a  ranndoneur/touring bicycle. last week I realised that I was getting into the usual vicious cycle of coming back from work tired, so not making anything, then feeling more tired because I hadn’t done something productive all evening.

This obviously couldn’t go on, so I decided that it was better to make something than nothing at all, even if it was a fairly random tangent.

A while back a seriously excellent model maker and semi professional mold builder on the Lead Adventure Forum said that you can make almost any kind of model out of card, at the same time as making a rather spiffy monowheel, out of whitemetal, so I decided to try the theory out.

I may have turned up the Bonkers Factor in my version.

To start with I made the circle of card seen above, started with one strip around an old aerosol can lid stuck down with a bit of masking tape, then added two more pieces to make it solid. This is what passes for technology on my workbench.

Next step was to make a rather rough tread, which I’m sure will look fine once it’s painted and weathered and viewed from a distance. Quite a considerable distance admittedly. It probably looks worse to Frederick.

Then I added an equally rough ‘gear’ or possibly ‘rack?’ on the inside of the wheel, which took a bit of fiddling about with superglue to stop the layers from separating. I need to find a better way to do this. I’m told Shellac is the stuff.

‘Colonel’ Oliver is taking an interest, which is Probably a bad sign. Frederick remains unimpressed.

The crowning loopiness so far is the drive unit, which is gradually taking shape. I have a sneaking suspicion that switched on it would rotate inside the outer wheel while producing absolutely no forward motion whatsoever, but we’ll ignore that.

More silliness will undoubtedly follow, but hopefully I’ve now broken the model making block and can get on with some more ‘serious’ models…

Diversionary Tactic

 

Work, my final dissertation, and family needs are combining to make sure I don’t have a lot of time for anything else at the moment, and therefore was short of blogging material this week.

Fortunately Japan Railways have come to my rescue by running some very unusual diversionary train workings in the last few months, featuring my favourite Japanese locomotives dragging freight trains across the central mountains in Japan and along the west coast to avoid a section washed out by a typhoon. Normally these are seen lurking in monotonous industrial zones so it’s a change to see them in a more attractive corner of the country.

According to Wikipedia these locomotives are 18000mm/55′ long and a somewhat lardy 2951mm/9.5′ wide, which works out as 327mm long and 53mm wide, or about 1′ by 2″ in my chosen scale of 1:55, or ‘Seriously Massive’, especially as the first model of the Körschtalbahn is likely to be about 2m long at the most, meaning the locomotive will be at least 1/6th of the length of the entire model railway.

On the other hand, I could cheat.

It seems there’s a long tradition of model makers playing fast and loose with scale to make a prototype fit a model, and some companies have been known to make a locomotive 10% under scale so it fits with other models. If you do this with a DD51 it makes for a slightly more manageable 47mm wide and 294mm long. Still a right beast but it would at least fit under bridges.

Of course that assumes I manage to get my sorry behind into gear to make one at all. Currently my progress on all fronts is a bit slower than this:

Finally all 196 pieces of the uprights are together, the uprights are in place and not just that, they are in fact upright.

Mostly. If you don’t look too hard.

It took several evenings to achieve this, making 1 or 2 uprights per evening. It turned out that the blocks I’d carefully glued in ready to hold the uprights were not as accurately placed as I’d thought and I had to use several 0.3mm pieces as packing. Of course the packing pieces turned out to be too thick, so they needed to be sanded back, checked, sanded a bit more and then fitted.

Now they still aren’t perfect but they’re passable from normal distances and angles, so I’m calling it good.

Next we have detailing, painting and weathering which means I really need to decide what colour it is going to be…

When we last looked at the wood wagon I was about to start building the uprights that are fixed along both sides of the chassis. Of course when I say “about to start building” I actually mean “about to start making loads of excuses to do it later” because of course, that’s what I proceeded to do. It wasn’t the thought of the 192 tiny bits that was putting me off; more the idea of trying to make them look vaguely similar.

Eventually I realised what most readers undoubtedly already know: templates are the answer. Make one template, fit each part in it, cut along the template or attach the next bit in the right place and move on. No guessing, measuring or aligning by eye, not even much thinking in fact, just repeat the same thing a few dozen times.

I started with a simple set of templates to make sure all the uprights were the same length, then another for the tiny cross pieces… and then things got out of hand and I made a template for pretty much every stage of the build.

It worked pretty well too, although we’ll ignore a certain amount of fiddling about at some stages (note to self: if you’re going to make a template to drill holes, it helps if the holes in the template are in the right place…) On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of practice in filling, sanding, and redrilling holes. Now I have a stack of finished parts that you could almost swear looked the same.

All I have to manage now is getting them consistently upright on the wagon itself.

Obviously when making silly adventure tabletop games, sooner or later you are going to have some swashbuckling pirates, because, well, what would be the point otherwise? To fill this role we have “Captain Betsy Miller and the Aroura Crew”. All of my characters have names from real historical people, and the real Captain Miller lived in Saltcoats in Scotland between 1792 and 1864. She was the first woman sea captain in the UK to be certified by the board of trade, and frankly her life could be a pulp story in itself: she gained a reputation as an excellent shipwoman who could handle her brig in the most adverse conditions and would sail in weather no other captain dared face. As a result she commanded a great deal of respect from her crews. She didn’t stop sailing until she was seventy years old, when she handed over to her sister.

I’ve mentioned before that I prefer female characters to be fully clothed and shaped like normal humans, so to make Miller I took another ‘female head’  and did some rather dramatic surgery on a “Merchant seaman” I had to hand.

 

After the leader, each league in Pulp Alley should have a sidekick, not quite a legend in their own right but a legend in the making. On a Aroura this is John Macpherson, who, helped by a ‘telescopic sight’ made from a bit of brass wrapped in some plastic is the crew sharpshooter, can hit a stick at 100 paces sort of thing…

I’m normally only allowed one sidekick, so the next level is the ‘allies’. I have three in this group, and have done terrible things to the fabric of the space time continuum to bring three people who lived at different times into the same team, but that’s nothing compared to the surgery required to make another “merchant seaman” into “Juana Ramírez”…

Finally, the dog who will be a trusty follower for the crew, as soon as I’ve painted him anyway. ‘Togo‘ was an Alaskan husky and sled dog, and was lead dog on the longest and most dangerous 1925 Serum run to Nome, Alaska transporting a Diphtheria antitoxin to prevent an epidemic in the town.

There’s another team before I’m finished, but it’s time for some railway model making for a bit…