Archive for December, 2010

Party like it’s 1420

‘Medieval’ Christmas market in Esslingen-am-Neckar, our local market town with the old town hall in the background. This seems an appropriate image to use to wish my readers a happy Christmas, and to thank you for reading and commenting on the blog. We will be away for a week over new year so posts may be sporadic if I don’t get myself into gear and prepare some updates, but weather permitting I’ll be back with more mutterings in January.

And on the subject of weather, can whoever keeps asking for a white Christmas stop it? The forecast says that 20-50cm of snow will be dumped on us int he next 24 hours, and frankly we’ve enough of the stuff already.

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Do as I say, not as I do.

I am in danger of turning into one of those people who who goes on for ages about making cool stuff for next to nothing, and now that I’m almost finished with these baseboards I’m surrounded by a smug glow that you can probably see from space. The basic idea was to use recycled cardboard and polystyrene to make a sort of heavy-duty foam board of the kind used by Stephen of Narrow Planet, and so far it seems to be working. Unlike my all-cardboard attempts of the past, the Cardboard/polystyrene slab seems very stable and disinclined to warp in random directions.
Not that everything worked perfectly. In particular, if you try this at home, you probably shouldn’t make the cardboard/polystyrene sandwich first, and attach the facing later. This is what I did, and now every little mistake I made in lining them up or measuring them, is shown up and magnified for all to see. Instead, glue the facing to one piece of cardboard like a wooden baseboard frame, then add everything else. You’re welcome.
I’ve found some even thicker pieces of the same stuff lying about in the attic. I have no idea what it is but it’s almost as solid as wood so I’ll use it as the facing plate for the baseboard join, probably while whining about how people throw perfectly useful stuff away.
Now thoughts can finally move on to track. I’m wondering about painting the board with Shellac first and than raising the track itself on some card so the ballast looks a bit deeper. I know it’s supposed to be narrow gauge but I reckon they’d at least try to make it look smart in stations.
As my track is all ’00’ scale I’m also wasting hours wondering how to make it look a bit more narrow gauge in the places where sleepers will be visible.
I should set a deadline for tracklaying and electrics on the basis that once I’ve got the track together I’ll probably be a lot more motivated on building stock.

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Badly lit picture of book.

… and how to build it”

If I still had access to second hand bookshops I’d be hopelessly addicted to old books about model railways, so when a book called “Cardboard rolling stock and how to build it’ (A comprehensive practical guide covering 4mm and 7mm construction”) came up up for grabs on the MTI forum I was lost. Not only was it old (original cost two shillings and sixpence, about 16p today), it was about building things of cardboard, and as long-suffering readers know, I’m getting increasingly obsessed by this. The owner was happy to send it from Utah in exchange for a wagon kit.

There’s no publishing date in the book, but it starts with instructions to make a coke wagon (that’s the fuel, not the drink) and a London, Midland and Scottish/Midland Railway eight ton open wagon, and refers to them as ‘typical wagons’ which dates it in the late 1940’s at the latest. The book is full of the black-and-white drawings of wagons and diagrams from a time when colour printing was an extravagance, and the last few pages are full of carefully written adverts for model-railway related products and card kits for locomotives: Messers. Hislop and Day of Edinburgh, for example announce that “We make Printing Blocks in line, Half tone and colour” while ‘Crois glue’ not only advertise their products but helpfully advise: “Users:- Send your glue problems to address below.” For more urgent orders, several firms give their telegram code and ‘RM Evans and co.’ of Plimlico Road, London suggest that you use the number 10 bus to reach their shop. No-one mentions car parking: happy days.

I will now get thoroughly mesmerised by the diagrams in this book and start envisioning all kinds of interesting construction projects, several of them may actually be built…

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Thanks to Malcolm Savage**, I’ve now got a collection of 1:55 scale figures that I know are really, genuinely of the correct scale. 1:55 isn’t a scale where you can make crowds. Various figures that crop up from time to time on the 55NG group that are ‘about the right size’, usually from war gaming suppliers, and Preiser seems to be my best bet for some non-Edwardian female figures, but I reckon I need to get it right, definitely, on the first few at least. Malcolm is one of the pioneers of modern 1:55 scale modeling and owns the molds to the original GEM kits that started back in the 1950’s so if anyone knows how big a figure should be, it’s him.

The main surprise was that despite all my whining, the railcar is in fact the right size. It looked predictably large when I put these lads next to it, but looking at pictures of the prototype, I suspect that’s because Swiss narrow gauge trains are thumping great big things, because when I put the ‘supervisor’ next to the door on the railcar it looked about right. For once my woolly maths and guesswork seems to have worked.

I’m still working on a design for railcar 2.1 though, to deal with some of the more glaring mistakes, and to try again to design something that I can actually build…

In other news, thanks to the great online marketplace I’ve now got two large bottles of PVA glue, so now it’s time to do some more detailed planning so I can cut the cardboard and polystyrene for the baseboards.

Typical, I leave them alone for five minutes and they’re off moonlighting on Westerooge…

Mind you, with a bit of work that loco could well be developed into an industrial unit for a wood mill or something. Or maybe I’ll work on a proper 1:55 scale version…

What do you mean I’m “easily distracted”?

* I really need to figure out some more original titles.
** I’d link to him but WordPress is playing up for some reason.

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