Monday, 17 May 2021

Big 'Keef at Beck Bridge

Salty Seagull looks on as the Keef K30 poses on a Kato 11-109 chassis giving an idea of how this loco could look if used in O9...

With a few tweaks and extras such as the front grille, bufferbeams etc it would make a quite passable O9 loco, certainly for a modern tourist line. In freelance form, not trying to claim it as a genuine Keef product you could perhaps try a different power source, such as a Bandai short bogie chassis or even the Farish outside framed 08.



Sunday, 9 May 2021

Big 'Keef

I received this new Alan Keef K30 print from A1 Models a week or so as John Flower felt that it might be suitable for O9 use. With a few provisos it isn't bad for a maximum-width O9 loco, 28+ mm wide and 43 mm tall when sat on a Kato 11-10. In fact I think my green Knightwing bash might have been a similar size a few years ago. 

It is difficult to see in the pictures in raw form that it is print with a rough finish (it is incredibly difficult to photograph in this form too!)

I thought I would show the stages of finishing the print to a ready-to-paint state. Firstly the raw print was bathed in white spirit to degrease, then washed, dried, and the surface sanded with 400 grit. Then washed and dried again.

(Note: All sanding used home made sanding sticks  made using wet and dry stuck to lolly sticks/coffee stirrers and was carried out wet.)

Red plastic primer was sprayed onto the model - this tends to highlight the surface and the print looks really rough and gritty.

More sanding followed, this time 800 grit sticks, then washed and dried.

A coat of yellow filler primer were applied, then another sand with 800 grit, revealing that a second coat would be beneficial. 

After the second yellow coat I sanded with 1200 grit to the state seen here. Washing and drying occurred again after each sanding session (of course!).

Finally, grey primer has been applied to my satisfaction, giving a smooth finish with only a few minor imperfections. I have managed to achieve this with no loss of detail on the print, luckily it is mostly flat surfaces and angles, with no fine detail.

In all I think about 3+ hours of work went into finishing this 3D print to this state, broken up over several evenings and waiting for paint to thoroughly dry before sanding. I ask myself if I could have built it in less time from scratch, and no, I couldn't.... at this stage I think that it may stay in grey primer, it isn't really the locomotive I need at the moment, but at least it is making me think about what is...


Sunday, 2 May 2021

120 not out - Bonnie Dundee's 3rd Innings

Some positive news from the east coast, this time from the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, who announced on Monday: 

"Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway are proud to announce the arrival today of historic locomotive ‘Bonnie Dundee’ after a complete overhaul. On long term loan to Cleethorpes from the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Co. Ltd, ‘Bonnie Dundee’ was built by Kerr Stuart in 1901 to operate at the Dundee Gasworks.

Rescued by preservationist Ian Fraser in the 1960s, the locomotive spent many years operating at Ravenglass before being taken out of use requiring extensive repairs. After negotiations between the two parties, a deal was drawn up that in return for the long term loan, CCLR would fully fund the overhaul of the locomotive. This has been undertaken by John Fowler Engineering of Bouth."

Given a tip-off that steam would be raised on Friday 30th April I re-arranged my working week and headed for the coast. The forecast was for showers... 

A superb job has been achieved by John Fowler Engineering, gone are is the somewhat "agricultural" valve gear that was there pre-rebuild and the paint finish is almost shiny enough to see your face in. Not bad for 120 years old...

I was invited to observe a test run to Kingsway and back, the power of the loco was apparent, whilst not up to full 'Ratty' strength there is certainly enough power for anything the CCLR will need, although a run up the bank on the Humberston extension (still sadly out of use at present) will be an interesting experience.

Light engine runs over, it was agreed that the next passenger departure would be steam hauled, with engineering staff observing from the train. So a few lucky members of the public got to ride the first public passenger train 'Bonnie Dundee' has hauled in may years. DA1 was included at the Lakeside end of the train in order to allow the train locomotive to be released at Lakeside loop, with DA1 drawing the train into the platform, a consequence of not running through to Humberston.

With the loco off on a second round trip I headed to the floodbank to get some shots at the lineside, it was really interesting to watch the reaction of the public on the adjacent footpath to steam being in use on a Friday afternoon.

The final turns of the day were made top-and-tail with ex-Fairbourne Railway 'Rachel', which replaced DA1 at the Lakeside end of the train, 'Bonnie Dundee' shunted DA1 into the yard and then joined the Kingsway end of the train. 

Having watched another journey depart and return, I realised that it was time to head home. I took quite a few photos, the full album is in Flickr - Bonnie Dundee Returns! You may have noticed that the weather held out, it was a real shame not to be able to enjoy a pint in the Signal Box Inn, but that can wait for another day. I didn't see any rainfall until I was reaching the top of the Wolds on my way home and then a deluge as I crossed back into Nottinghamshire.


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Alas Wells Harbour

The future of the Wells Harbour Railway has come into the spotlight this week, and it looks as though we may lose another classic seaside 10 1/4" gauge railway, hot on the heels of the loss in 2020 of Kerr's Miniature Railway in Arbroath. The reasons for concern at Wells are very different to those at Arbroath. This statement has appeared on the website of landowners Holkham estate:

"The current operator of The Wells Harbour Railway notified Holkham in Autumn 2020 that he wanted to stop running the railway service in the next year or two. He asked Holkham to give him a new 10-year lease so he could sell the equipment and the lease to a new operator."

"The current railway was designed to help holidaymakers at Pinewoods get into town and back to the site in the evening. Today the need is different, to help day-visitors get from their parked car or from the town as close as possible to Wells Beach."

"Over the next 12 months we will involve Wells Town Council and other stakeholders in Wells in discussions about this opportunity to improve the visitor experience. That may involve altering how, where or when the railway runs, or replacing it with other ways for visitors to move to and from the beach and enjoy the best of what the Wells and Holkham area offers."

The railway's current owners, Gary and Alison Bracknell, have responded as follows on the Facebook 10 1/4" gauge group:

"We are the current owners of the Wells Harbour Railway and asked Holkham in October last year to enquire about getting a new 10 year lease on the Railway.

We were told that the lease was NOT GOING to be renewed at the end of its term and subsequently then told by Holkham that they also had no intention of buying the Railway from us."

Reading between the lines, I get the distinct impression that the Holkham estate have the impression that a land train between the town/car park and the beach would be cheaper to run than taking on the railway. No doubt they also feel the cost attraction of avoiding more specialist skills required for track and rolling stock maintenance compared to rubber tyres on a road that someone else maintains... Maybe they also think it is somehow "classier"? But it has no soul, no history, no real sense of adventure. It certainly wouldn't make me want to visit the town.

I first saw the WHR in September 1996, it wasn't operating on that occasion but my notes show that we travelled on the nearly Wells and Walsingham Railway that same day. It was nearly a year later, in June 1997 that I did get to travel on the WHR, behind 'Edmund Hannay' (D. King, 1971).

By 2010 'Edmund Hannay' was out of use, replaced by Alan Keef steam outline locomotives delivered in 1998 and 2005. The Miniature Railway Museum Trust were able to borrow the locomotive for display at the 'Rails to the Sands' exhibition at Cleethorpes, where it sat alongside 15" gauge 'Blacolvesley' and opposite my own 'Shifting Sands'. As Trust secretary I prepared, mailed out and filed the loan agreement. Whilst here the locomotive changed hands, eventually being sold again to the Hastings Miniature Railway.

'Edmund Hannay' had been built for the original owner of the WHR, Commander Roy Francis, who later went on to create the longer W&WLR the other side of town. The original back-up locomotive had been 'Weasel', a simple 4w internal combustion machine (D. King, 1980) that I later saw in the hands of MRW Railways in 2016, before being sold on.

I finally returned to Wells in August 2019, to ride behind 'Howard' (Alan Keef 74, 2005). By this time the railway had three Alan Keef machines plus coaching stock renewed by the same builder. The true transport function of the railway was apparent, when we asked for a return ticket we found they didn't sell them as most passengers did not make a there and back trip in one go! I had questioned why they needed three locomotives but the intensity of the operation was soon apparent.

What may now be my last look at the railway was from the floodbank, looking down at the town end station. From here the basis of the estate's "issue" can be identified, the new town car park is off shot to the right in the distance, the infrastructure changes to move the railway to run there make any change unlikely compared to using rubber tyre on tarmac.

If the end does come I'll be incredibly sad to see the WHR go, a classic seaside line, so simple in it's execution and despite what the land owners think, still doing to job of moving people from A to B, as it has done since 1976.


Friday, 23 April 2021

Homeward Bound

With the passengers long gone for the day, and the light fading fast, a short works train formed of an Alan Keef K12 and one wagon heads back to base over the Beck Bridge...

(in reality I've fitted a new, more appropriately clothed driver to the K12 and re-fitted the original generator load to my 1-plank wagon.)



Saturday, 17 April 2021

Skale Tree Surgery

In my last posting I mentioned my disappointment with the current generation of Hornby 'Skale Scenics' trees compared with the older, now obsolete range. I had asked for a couple of these as a birthday present last year, largely on the basis that the buyer could get them directly to me via a well known internet platform. Both are the larger ones in the range to be more suited to 7mm scale. On the face of it, as advertised by Hornby they look pretty good (left), but what actually arrived was less satisfactory (right), squashed into the packaging and with over-zealous application of very clumpy foliage.

Having unpacked the tree (a R7221 Lime) my impressions were still not good, the old Skale Scenics trees were either a wire armature or stamped metal armature depending on whether 'Pro' or 'Eco' ranges. These trees have a plastic armature, but on the plus side it is quite detailed, as we will see... The leaf foliage itself isn't too bad, and I suspect this is actually a rebranded or sub-contracted Noch product. 

Deciding to try and make the most of what was in front of me I decided to strip back the foliage and see what I could do. I found that rubbing the leaves made them fall off, so as many as possible were collected in a tub for potential re-use. Underneath the heavy leaf cover was a sort of polyfibre material, which could be pulled away from the armature. Some wouldn't budge so I soaked what was left in warm water and this loosened off the remaining material, leaving the bare armature.

The armature is painted brown, far too brown for realism and needed to be repainted. I opted to prime the armature with grey primer as I wasn't convinced acrylic paint would stick without it. I then used a matt brown spray to get the basis of a tree colour. I did then paint the trunk and branch areas with my own blend of colours to get the effect I wanted.

New foliage was added using Woodland Scenics medium green foliage fibre added to the branches using PVA. My supply ran out before I was finished so another packet was quickly sourced via eBay. The new packet completed the job and allowed some patching up where I had been a bit stingy stretching out the old pack! Once all was in place and dry I sprayed the foliage fibre with ultra hold hairspray and then sprinkled on the original leaf foliage material via a tea strainer. Just as I finished the hairspray ran out...

Finally I gave the trunk and branches a coat of Humbrol aerosol matt varnish, to overcome the gleam created by the hairspray on the painted surfaces. Guess what? I now need a new can of that too...!

Overall, I am pleased with how this has turned out, this will certainly find a place on the new layout once it gets underway. The another tree received at the same time awaits similar treatment, and I am weighing up the options for a couple more trees for the project.


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Go and tell it to the Trees

I realised recently that one of the potential stumbling blocks on my planned layout was that to look effective it would need trees bigger than anything that could be made using sea moss. I had pinned my hopes on a couple of Hornby 'Skale Scenes' examples but to my disappointment the current generation are not as good as the old ones I used on 'Old Quarry Line'. More on them another time...  

For some time I've been meaning to attempt to create a tree from scratch influenced by, if not following exactly, Gordon Gravett's methods. This has been undertaken as a test build, and without a firm commitment to actually use it. 

Not wanting to do things by halves it is 20 cm tall and 20 cm wide, definitely a 7mm scale tree. It isn't species specific but if anything a few more branches might have made it fill out a bit better.

Construction was from florists wire of two thicknesses, lots of twisting, bending and cutting to get the shape. Fuse wire was used to bind the lengths forming the trunk and florists tape wrapped around to add some shape. It didn't look quite right so DAS modelling clay was used to add some extra thickness and some detail to the trunk (such as cut off branches), and fill the area around the roots.

This is the only picture I managed to snap during construction, I've started to add my bark mix to one of the branches, this is grey tile grout and PVA glue mixed with a spot of brown paint. Applied all over this gives a reasonable base colour but I then painted a slightly darker colour all over using acrylic paints and dry-brushed to highlight the texture.

Foliage is based on a Hornby Skale Scenics (old range) foliage matt, teased out and held in place using PVA, with additional colouring from Woodland Scenics and other ranges added over hairspray. A blast of matt varnish over the trunk and foliage hides any sheen from the adhesives.