For the last two years the focus of pretty well everything I’d been doing has been April the 19th 2018: Exam Day for my Occupational Therapists qualification.

Suddenly Exam Day has come and gone, and I have a couple of shiny new certificates, a sense of anticlimax, and huge pile of revision notes. It’s quite a shock to realise just how much I’d been focusing on this for the last eighteen months or so. It’s also a shock not to have to keep going through these every time I have five minutes to spare:

Those revision notes were extremely important until last week, and now they’re just so much notepaper. I’ve even used a couple for model making experiments.

Anyway, I’ve got a bit of time off, but I’m using a lot of it to get ready for starting work with an organisation helping people with Psychological and addiction issues. I expect that this will leave me pretty tired for the first few weeks, so until things have calmed down a bit and I’m in a routine I’ll leave the ‘serious’ model railways, and work on a stack of simpler projects based around tabletop games and other creative things I’m trying to do with my boys.

I’ll still be posting once a week, but it may look a bit different for a while…



A big part of making the downscaled locomotive was trying out those distinctly awkward angles on the ends, where the sloping windscreen had to match up with the sloping sides at an angle hitherto unknown to geometry.

After wondering briefly why I do this sort of thing in my spare time instead of something more sensible like amateur quantum physics, I decided that instead of trying to figure the angle out mathematically and then messing about putting it right when that didn’t work, I’d go straight to the messing about stage and do it by eye: it’d save time in the long run.

So far it seems to have worked, taking ‘worked’ to mean “close enough that I could hide the problems with a fair bit of bodging.”

*The ‘Amazing Shrinking Loco‘.

It seems to be a time of making odd projects. This is partly because I’m using most of the spare brain capacity -a resource at a premium at the best of times- for getting through exams so I was after a less challenging set of projects, and also because I’m still trying to find projects that will get my boys enthusiastic about something other than smart phones.

Hence the current crop of kits and figures found on the model making desk.

Amongst other things I persuaded Middle Son to join me on a project to go with the Younger son’s model figures by drawing a suitably over the top suggestion:

To my rather great surprise he liked the idea, so we made a start with a 1:48 tank kit from a well known online auction site.

After carefully photographing the extra cross bracing we got carried away and forgot to take any more pictures until we got to this stage:

We’re making as much of the tank as possible from ‘found things’ (ie:junk) and to start this, the main part of the ‘Boiler’ was until recently the top of a milk carton. (and then briefly a mixing cup for an acrylic wash)

After searching for a turret we found a bottle of ear wash that was the perfect shape. A small amount of violence on the bottle revealed a number of useful parts. As the ear wash was utterly useless it’s comforting to know we get something for the cost…

Meanwhile, Middle Son put forth the opinion that “We should have a seven barrelled gun, that is hidden until we want to use it”. He wanted a rotating carriage that swung out the side but I persuaded him that a sliding version will be easier to make.

Of course, at that point I didn’t actually know how I was going to make either…

Anyway, Here’s the planned ordinance, largely held on with the German version of Blu-Tak:

After this I got to work on the boiler area. I don’t think there’s any real excuse for having two chimneys unless some crazed professor has found a cunning way to improve steaming with them, but I prefer the look of a pair. This is about the level of most of my decisions, I’m afraid: engineering and realism can go hang if I think it looks about right.

In keeping with the ‘make everything from junk ethos, I found some handles from a Chinese takeaway box to make some of the pipes.

At the dangerous end (assuming we can refer to that dodgy boiler as the ‘safe’ part) the  gun in the turret is is made from a bit of tube that came from the same bottle as the ‘turret’. To strengthen it I pushed a bit of brass inside and said it was a machine gun with a coolant casing. I know machine guns from this time period would usually have had the barrel lower down in the casing, but life is far too short.

I might try and be sensible for a bit now. We’ll see…

Remarkably, the project to shorten the Big Diesel seems to have worked out with minimal problems requiring the use of swearing. One of the window frames in the cab windows vanished mysteriously, and the sides are a little bendy, but overall they’re as square as anything else I’ve made and they’re the right shape to fit the chassis, so I’m calling that a positive result.

First lessons learned with the amazing shrinking loco (which will reappear at some point, rest assured) is that a locomotive with sloping sides needs tough bracing to keep it from warping and similar mischief, so I wasn’t sure the original chassis I’d built was going to be up to the job of holding the recently butchered sides straight, so the next job was making a fresh frame. This time I followed the Brick Privvy school of model making and built up the base and sides from laminated plastic card until they were several millimetres thick. In a rare flash of forward planning I even remembered to make the ends angled ready to hold the ends in place.

It may be too much to hope that I actually got the angle right, but allow me some smugness for actually managing to think slightly ahead anyway.

Here’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while but apparently forgot to blog about.

Regular readers will know that I have a habit of making model trains that most people would regard as decidedly obese. This is fine until I then try and run them on tiny layouts with stupidly tight curves, whereupon all kinds of problems ensue. On the current model this has reached the point I can’t pretend it isn’t happening any more so I have to make some changes.

After several minutes of applying the remaining spare brain cell to the problem, two possibilities emerged. The easiest would be to recast the model as an industrial scene, with little locomotives and short wagons. This had a certain appeal, but frankly there are loads of people making these already and doing it with far more skill than I ever hope to have.

Plan ‘B’ would be to downscale. Halve the scale and you have twice the apparent space, well, sort of. If I use the same track and build to British TT scale (1:101.6) for example, the current track would work out at about three foot gauge or metre gauge given my usual optimistic approach to these things. This means I can make a largeish type model without the huge overhangs and ensuing tendency of rolling stock to wallop buildings, scenery and other trains.

While I’m at it, I decided to try making a loco with some of the features of the large diesel, like sloping sides and other frivolous additions that were giving me trouble, on the basis that if I can make them this small I should be able to achieve them in a larger scale.

We shall see where it leads over the next weeks.

Take a break…

Second set of exams finished. Most of last week was spent revising so not much got done on the model making front, so instead here’s the figure Youngest Son was painting in the previous entry.

There will probably be more of these as figure painting is one way to keep Youngest away from his smart phone. We’re also getting other ideas that don’t immediately relate to model railways, but which we’re having some fun with…

The next set of exams is in about three weeks and I’m on ‘study leave’ until then. Naturally I’ll have to take breaks though, so I suspect some model making will take place. Now and again.


Go figure

I’m currently working through final exams for my Arbeitserzieher (Occupational therapist) qualification, which means most of my time is taken up with trying to remember information long enough to write it down again next week, leaving very little spare for doing anything useful.

In an attempt to do something creative I started painting some model figures. This has the advantage that I can pick it up for a few minutes between revising without it taking over the desk. It also doesn’t require me to think too much, and frankly at the moment brain capacity for anything is running at a minimum.

Even better, Youngest Son was sufficiently intrigued to have a go, and has now become quite enthusiastic. I don’t know how long this will keep him away from his smart phone, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.