Chronicling the development of my Cambrian and Narrow Gauge 4mm scale model railway


A day at Didcot

So I’m off work. I don’t parade it but I’ll say it openly too, the black dog has been a bit unmanageable of late. When depression strikes with me it is like having a vast dog sitting on me making it difficult for me to do anything. Sleep usually helps and sometimes after a good sleep the dog has buggered off but not this time. The bugger. It was brought on by a ridiculously tough work week hours wise and a properly awful meeting on Friday that I had to go to London for.

Probably not helping this time is, because my thumb has temporarily limited my dexterity, my other recourse of railway modelling has not been possible.

However, I have had this day in the diary for some time to “nip” down to Didcot and see the archives. A discussion with Richard Croucher some time ago and a revelation to him (the first person external to know – but you’re all about to now) that I would like to write Hawksworth’s biography (Engineering biography really but you can’t do that without knowing the chap) led to an invitation.

I have to say it is one heck of an impressive archive. All humidity controlled and properly stored. The downside is they have precious little directly catalogued as Hawksworth so I’m going to have to work out notable engineering events in his work and then use them as a “kiss” to research data in the board minutes and whatnot dated in the same reference timescale. Definitely going to be my life’s work.

Of course visiting Didcot did mean a look around including a squint at how the County is progressing (and I did get to see the Saint but no photos of that!!)


Leave a comment

Lucky boy

It’s been a week now so I can tell you about my slight injury. It could have been so much worse. Last Sunday morning I snatched some time and decided to progress the Square. First job was to cut off the moulded panel lines and apron edges from the white metal kit. That would give a nice surface to stick the Square sides to.

As mentioned in a previous post I’d stuck the drawings to the plastic so then I could cut out the shapes.

A disadvantage of my bandsaw is it doesn’t have an adjustable fence which is necessary for this job. So here’s the crunch. I had been given a Unimat SL which had been stripped of its lathe tailstock, chuck and tool post and had had the circular saw attachment fitted permanently. It had belonged to a watchmaker and he’d had a proper lathe and used it just for this which tells you what he thought of the Unimat as a lathe! The circular saw attachment did have an adjustable fence.

You can see what’s coming.

The Patriarch used to have a Unimat 3 and I remember him telling me once that it had loads of attachments to try and make it into something it wasn’t with the result that it wasn’t very good at any of them. The big problem with the circular saw attachment is that the clearance between the blade and the headstock is quite small. Coupled to which, the SL doesn’t have a belt guard.

So I started the first cut and straight away found that the plastic was fouling the headstock and the belt/pulley. In trying to keep that clear I, to use accident investigation terminology, “lost situational awareness”. The plastic slipped and my right thumb hit the blade. Fortunately it was more of a glance across the top of the blade. A trip to A&E revealed that it didn’t need stitches and it was dressed and I came home. It’s healing well but being right handed and it being my right opposing digit has made this week a bit trying.

Now I could make a guard for it. But to be honest when I first saw it, I thought it looked lethal. I even told my MiniMes they were never to touch it because it was so dangerous. I didn’t really intend for demonstrate the fact to them. 🙄

In risk assessment methodology there is the inverted triangle of what you should do.

Making a guard would be a combination of Engineering controls and Administrative controls as it would help isolate me from the hazard but only if I used it properly and didn’t take it off. The reality is, there are many hobby circular saws out there without a guard because with it in place you can’t see what you’re doing!

So I have plumped for an elimination / substitution solution. The Patriarch, in discussing the incident with him, suggested turning it back into a lathe. However I already have a Simat (Flexispeed / Cowells) on the way to me which is much superior- more on that when it arrives.

(Trade picture of a Simat from the 1970s – it you ever want to know anything about a particular lathe, go to – an excellent resource)

I have therefore bought an adjustable rip fence kit from Axminster Tools and will fit that to my bandsaw (cutting yourself with a baby Proxxon bandsaw takes a massive amount of skill / bad luck!).

And I have sold the Unimat. T’missus did ask whether I could bring myself consciously to sell something that I’d injured myself on. Good question! My solution was to dismantle it and sell it as a lathe with circular saw attachment. I made very clear in the instructions that it didn’t have tailstock, tool post, or guard for the saw. Hopefully the next owner won’t be as daft as me. I’m using the proceeds to buy the bits for the Simat I want.

In the meantime the modelling’s on hold – probably a good thing as I’m crazy busy at work. All the travel to London has enabled me to get a couple of good photos of the Intercity class 91. The livery still looks good today – one thing BR did do well was the corporate livery. Memorable and good looking.

Leave a comment


It’s been that sort of week. But today I managed to get some time here and there to push on with the standard gauge tonka tank. As mentioned previously, I decided to graft a 64xx cab onto the white metal body. It is a tad narrower than a 15xx cab but I can live with that for the added detail.

With the overly tall bufferbeam cut from the white metal bunker rear, it too was attached to the cab with the frame extension pieces.

Due to the donor nature of the chassis, with slightly modified dimensions, the sand boxes won’t fit as is so I’m going to re-profile them to fit into the space between the cab steps and the rear drivers. For the time being I’ve cut them off.

The chassis block was then cut down further to allow for the rear frame pieces.

With some fine tuning, the body now sits where it should. And I like the look.

1 Comment

Arts and crafts

A small amount of progress. I’ve printed and cut out drawings of the Square to scale and have stuck them to some plasticard ready for cutting the sides, ends, tops, fuel tanks, boiler covers, cab parts, and fake well tanks.

What’s better then one Square? How about two!

There will be a fair amount of cutting out to do.

In the meantime to keep it flat I’ve stuck it under a heavy tome. This one in fact. Definitely heavy enough!

1 Comment

Wee beastie

While the Fairlie was drying I got my 15xx out for continuation. Long time listeners will remember I started on this some time ago but had not revealed the big secret – using a proprietary chassis.

Well here it is. It’s a Hornby Thompson L1 chassis. The wheels are 0.5mm too big and the wheelbase about 2mm too long but I can live with that.

The hack isn’t for the faint hearted as it involves removing front and back from the chassis block, removing the motor front fixing bracket and then rotating the motor by 90 degrees so it sits wider but lower. The picture above shows the block shortened but prior to cutting down the motor fixing block and rotating the motor.

The white metal body then needs most of the underside removing too. However the result is worth it. The pictures below show first “about there” fitting with the saddle just placed under the smokebox for support. With some further fettling it’ll be good to go. I also couldn’t resist putting the chimney and s/v cover on just to see how it looks.

The pictures also show one decision I’ve made which is to remove the white metal cab and fit one from a Bachmann 64xx which is correct dimensionally apart from the footsteps being the wrong type, but generally the detail is much better and crisper on the 64xx.

Leave a comment

The stretch

Following the stabbing incident (see previous post), I resorted to milling and filing the remaining cast bits off the Fairlie kit, including cutting the manifolds off the top of the boiler barrel.

The bother with the Langley Fairlie kit, as I am sure many listeners are aware, is that it is the length of a pre-hunslet boiler Fairlie. When the FR invested in 2 double Fairlie boilers from Hunslet in the late 1960s for use on Merddin Emrys and Earl of Merioneth, Hunslet produced what is in effect 2 Ladies boilers back to back which means they are longer than the originals.

As an interesting aside, when David Lloyd George was produced, it reverted to an original length boiler, but the new boiler for James Spooner is Hunslet length as it is going to be the new “standard” although, as Ffestiniog regulars know, standard on the FR often refers just as much to one-offs as it does to standardisation.

This meant a cut and shut job with the Langley. However I still want the chassis to line up properly so instead of doing it in the firebox area I did it part way along each of the barrels and then will use the valence covers to mimic the longer fireboxes. To provide a stronger joint I cut the bodywork and the frame at different points. It’s a good thing the whole thing will be covered given the awful slant I managed in the cut in one end!

To provide further rigidity I used left over copper clad sleepers to provide joiners between the tank tops.

1 Comment


Hello listeners. It has been a while. It’s all been a bit rubbish on the doing front over at Penlowry. The office move is taking a lot longer than originally planned which really doesn’t help. We finally found something the previous owner had stuck on / down we’ll – unfortunately it was the wallpaper in the room allocated for Pwnlowry’s new home. Added to which, corners had been cut, literally, in the application of the wallpaper. With that finally removed it was revealed the previous plaster had been put on with a tile trowel (not really but it wasn’t great) so now we’ve had a plasterer in to skim the walls. Hopefully the room will get painted shortly (yes it dried since the photo was taken) and then the move can take place.

Following such a tale of woe, there is some good news. Yesterday I managed to sort through my existing office which had become a bit of a dumping ground to such an extent that I now can resume some modelling activity.

Although I am working with a friend on a future 3D kit of Earl of Merioneth (his kit, not mine, I just get to be the guinea pig), I am still going to build the one I was going to do using a Langley kit as the base. This is because the one I want to do is in a hybrid (born out of wedlock-ised) condition which is slightly fictitious but more accurate to my time on the footplate and the one I’ll build with the prototype kit will be as original condition.

Last night I got a chance to dig the kit out and have a look. I’d forgotten how rough it is – mine had had all the fine details robbed (I got it cheap) but that’s fine as it allows me to replace them with decent stuff but I did spend the evening paring and filing vac pipes, handbrake, and regulators off the base castings. Well until I stabbed myself with a scalpel. Twice. Out of practice I am.

But just to finish here is a picture of 6320, the oil fired mogul, awaiting its new plates and cab shutters.