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There's always lots happening at the Model Railway Club. Keep up to date by following our Blog. If you would be interested to edit a blog and you are an MRC member please contact the webmaster.

Tom Cunnington

Tom Cunnington

I've been a member of the MRC since I was 14, and interested in modelling for longer. Initially OO gauge, then a brief dalliance with N gauge before I moved to EM gauge modelling in 2003.
I enjoy making things and trying new techniques, with varying degrees of success...

Posted by on in News
Where to buy model railways in London?

Since originally writing this blog, another shop has gone. Meanwhile, WH Smiths has given up on Modelzone, with all the concessions closing over the last few weeks perhaps precipitated by Hornby closing most if not all of its concessions. Whilst it's sad to see any shop close, Wheels of Steel was perhaps the most restricted with its generally second hand range. So there are 6 shops left  - use them or (as we've just seen) lose them. TC Feb 17

 

You may be one of the hundreds of households that has received a Hornby or Bachmann OO model railway train-set for the first time this Christmas - perhaps even a Graham Farish one in N gauge. We hope you enjoy it.

Once you have discovered the fun of what is included, your mind (or certainly that of the child for whom it might be officially intended) may well turn to buying something else for it - whether that is a bit more track, another locomotive, coach or wagon. Or perhaps some buildings, kits, tools or paints. Perhaps the shop that sold the set doesn't sell much more than that set, so where can you go?

20-30 years ago, there was a network of shops across London selling a vast range of items which meant you didn't have to travel too far - depending on your age the names Beatties,  W&H, Hamblings, King's Cross Models, Blunts, Puffers, Engine Shed may ring a bell - all long gone. And most toy shops now have only the most basic of ranges from one supplier.

Of course, there are a plethora of websites you can use to order by post, but if you want to browse before you buy, or buy things like paints that can't be posted easily these days, where can you go? Especially if you want some advice. Well here are some suggestions of the seven shops we would call 'model railway shops' - ie that have a range of different products - that are still left in London itself. The views are those of the authors and based on last visits to the shops (which is a while ago in some cases), and they are in no particular order. But do use them - or there will be even fewer of them.

Posted by on in Minories
Sticking point

There are six points on Minories, all operated with Tortoise slow action point motors with Exactoscale baseplates transferring the movement of the motor through a tie-bar under the baseboard to wires soldered to the underside of the switch rails. b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_5758.JPGThere are stretcher bars between the switch rails, and although these do provide some mechanical joints between the two switch rails, the core drive is from the under-baseboard tie bar. If you want to find out more, these instructions via the C&L website might help:

 http://www.finescale.org.uk/pdfs/Tortoise%20instructions1.pdf

Posted by on in Minories
Converting Heljan Class 23 to EM

TOut of the boxhe Heljan Class 23 is one of the simpler conversions to EM gauge. I don't think there are any revolutionary ideas here, but hope this may be of use to anyone else contemplating the conversion or looking for an easy one to start with.

Tagged in: EM gauge Heljan Minories

Posted by on in Empire Mills
Empire Mills Summer 2016

As we indicated in May, we have an exhibition in Peterborough in October, and so the summer has been focussed on getting ready for that. As we started to fiix some problems with the track with (including some damaged track ends at board joints, the fiddle yard and some unevenness in the track itself) we encountered more problems. After some soul searching we realised that trying to fix the specific problems would probably just create more and that without decent working reliable track we would struggle to operate the layout well. So the decision was taken to relay all of the track. b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_5541.JPG

As we lifted it, we realised that some of the problems were caused by delamination in the camping mat foam used as underlay (possibly the glue?), and that whilst it looks good the butanone bonding of plastic chairs to woopen sleepers isn't as strong as using plastic sleepers. I used the same techniques discussed in previous blogs  for points and board joints to build the track in situ using some 1/8" cork as underlay. The added challenge here is building track in situ on wider boards than I'm used to or easily have space for in my workshop (who knew 6" made such a difference..) and with the scenery in place.

Posted by on in Empire Mills
Empire Mills gets a turntable

Following our last blog in May, we have unpacked the layout from its hibernation and a group of members gathered to go through the list of stuff that we thought needed doing. Now as we know, there is no 'right way' to build a model railway. There are certainly some wrong ways but most of us have a preferred way, generally one that is proven to work for us. And with a pretty much new team there were various ideas of how things that need to be sorted out could be done differently from the original plan.

One of the things on the list was to improve the track around the entrance to the fiddle yard, and the fiddle yard cassettes themselves. The current system is L-section aluminium fixed to foamboard which has warped, and it's all a bit tight around the entry to the layout.

A G-scale commission - Part 4 - The Django Express Arrives

The owner of the venue was persuaded to allow us to put removable brackets up along the way to support the layout, which was a major relief, as we were worried that if supported only on the legs if someone grabbed it and fell over, they could bring the layout with it. The brackets not only provide extra support, put also enable us to fix its relationship to the wall, so it doesn't move in or out. The brackets are a simple two-slot type from a well known DIY chain, with a wood baton screwed to the top on which the boards rest, and pieces of wood screwed inside for the boards to sit over.

Posted by on in Modelling
A G-scale Commission -Part 3

Work continued, with more track laid, and the wiring following closely behind. The connectors are 3-pin XLRs, with wires linking directly between the sockets on the boards and then to each section of rail. There are separate jumpers between each of the boards. The wire is thicker than we'd normally use, to make sure it can take the current and not have a voltage drop over the length of the layout.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_5084.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_5086.JPG

The team that had been making baseboards moved onto some legs. The idea was to provide support along the undulating floor of the venue, with some sort of representation of an American trestle bridge. Following a prototype leg, to check the concept, I got some 70m of timber baton to Keen House from the trusty timber merchant on the roof of the car, and we set about cutting it into the sections. We made a jig to help speed up the process, and in the pictures below you can see the jig next to some half constructed legs, halfway through construction and with Tom S and David screwing in the leg height adjusters. I'm not sure why the screw driver is that long either.

Posted by on in Modelling
A G-scale commission - Part 2

Work has continued over the weekend, with all 15 boards now made. The picture here shows 12 of them with some of the underside cross-bracing. What's more, they all fit together, but our work-room is only about 10m long, so it's not possible to erect the full length at one time, even if we didn't have parts of four other layouts up at the moment.b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_5050.JPG

The boards are aligned using dowels, and then held together using toggle latches. These are now fitted to 10 of the boards, so that track laying can continue unhindered this week.

Posted by on in Modelling
A G-scale commission - Part 1

As you can imagine, we get a fairly steady stream of requests to help others make bespoke model railways, from a huge range of people - private individuals, TV and film productions and fixed installations in  commercial premises.

We aren't in a position to help with most for all sorts of reasons (normally unrealistic budgets and timescales), but from time to time we get asked to help with a project that is both interesting and achievable in the timescale. Although a few years ago now, you can see some of our work in Bernard Butler's video for "Not Alone" which had specially built O gauge tracks and ran some of the stock from our layout Happisburgh.

Recently we were approached to build a working railway for a pop-up restaurant in Vauxhall. For the uninitiated, a pop-up is a temporary venue, and in this case it's a lovely old mews area, normally used by a steel fabricator. Except over the summer it's being turned into an American gold-rush themed restaurant every Friday and Saturday night, with a five course meal and music for about 80 people a night. So the whole restaurant has to be set up on Friday afternoon, and taken down again and put into storage by Monday morning. So a bit like an exhibition every weekend but with better food and drink.

Posted by on in Ingatestone
A point for Ingatestone

The track plan for Ingatestone is relatively simple, at least on the scenic part. However there are two points required and the requirement was for a "B7". Here's a quick guide to how it was built - you can try yourself at one of our Track Building skills transfer day.

Although the key to building a reliable point is using track gauges to get the spacing right, I always start with a template. In this case it's one printed from Templot, but you can but them. This shows roughly where everything should go.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_4908_20160507-070649_1.JPG

Using a mix of plastic sleepers and copperclad - see this blog for why - these are held down with double sided tape.

Posted by on in Empire Mills
May 2016 Update

It's all been a bit quiet since the layout visited Portsmouth last Autumn. As is the nature of Club layouts, unfortunately some of the key team behind the layout have had to step back from the project for a while, and as the layout had been up and being worked on for most of 2015, we decided to give it a break whilst we take stock and build up a new team to take the layout forward.

However we've been invited to the National Festival of Railway Modelling in Peterborough in October, and there's nothing like an exhibition to focus the mind, so we'll be putting the layout up shortly, to work through a reasonably sized list of things that could do with improvement to make it more reliable, and to finish off the scenery. We also need to finish off the rewiring, to make it possible to operate the layout with DC locos, as well as DCC. We've had a couple of offers to help, but we'd be delighted to welcome new members to the team - you don't have to be an EM modeller, just an interest in helping or operating the layout. Please drop me an email or speak to me at Keen House.

Tom

Tagged in: EM gauge Empire Mills
Minories at 60th Anniversary Exhibition in Romford

We were delighted to be invited back to the Ilford and West Essex Model Railway Club's exhibition "West Essex Modelrail" on 23/4 April, their 60th annual show. It took place at the St Edward's School in Romford,

b2ap3_thumbnail_Minories-Ilford-general-apr-16.JPG

 

 

 

 

We were in a small pocket of EM layouts,

When was the first model railway exhibition?

This was the question posed recently on the excellent mremag - the thrice weekly supply of news and views for railway modellers.

I suspect that as the oldest model railway club, our first exhibition is probably the first - in which case the answer would be March 13th 1912 as one of our club evenings that was also open to the public. The first two day show was at the Kingsway Hall in Holborn in 1924. It's timing over the Easter weekend led to the start of the traditional London Easter show. With the changes in working and holiday patterns, Easter isn't such a good time for a London show, so the equivalent event - the London Festival of Railway Modelling takes place at the end of March each year, in which the MRC is proud to play a key part providing the 'amateur' content of the shows.

There's more detail in the MRC's centenary supplement from BRM - which you can read here.

Posted by on in Minories
Track building

One of the more frequent questions I get asked at exhibitions is how the track is built. Modelling in EM there isn't much choice for anything other than plain track, but my track building goes back to my teenage OO days.

Despite living only a couple of miles away at the time, I originally stumbled across The Model Railway Club at a Model Engineering show at Wembley Conference Centre when I was probably around 11 or 12. A demonstrator (to this day I can't recall who) was busy making track, and after a moment of asking myself why would anyone bother, I suddenly saw why, as it looked infinitely better than the Triang and Hornby track I had at home. The demonstrator explained what he was doing and why, and encouraged me to 'have a go', and in the process encouraged me to visit the next IMREX (also at Wembley at the time) and Keen House.

Posted by on in Minories
Class 127 DMU

 

Class 127 4-car DMUs formed the local passenger services on the Midland main line south of Bedford, so have always been on the list of stock required for Minories. A club member started work on a unit back in 2007, but it didn't get very far. In the interim, I made a 3-car 116 which provided the Midland service pending the arrival of the 127 - which made it's first exhibition appearance at the National Festival of Railway Modelling in October where we got some very kind comments and questions about how it was made, prompting this blog.

 

Both the 116 and 127 units are made from Lima class 117 bodies, b2ap3_thumbnail_127-5.JPGand the techniques are similar, the key difference between the models of the 116 and 127 on Minories is the windows used.

Posted by on in Minories
On our way to Peterborough

Our invitation to the National Festival of Railway Modelling has been the incentive to get a few more things progressed on the layout.

 

A major resignalling scheme has seen searchlight starter signals mounted on an etched brass gantry installed, replacing the Berko 3-aspect signals originally installed as a temporary measure hours before the first proper exhibition in 2007. The LEDs in the new signals have common anodes whereas the old signals and the remaining ground signal were common cathode, which meant reconfiguring the wiring on the 'interlocking' which clears the correct signal based on the route set. I hadn't written down how it was originally wired, so the most tedious part was working out the existing wiring had worked...b2ap3_thumbnail_Signals-Oct-15.JPG

 

The original signal box, again built as a temporary stand-in from a Prototype card kit, has been replaced by a small cabin, kit bashed from a Peco kit.

Tagged in: 4mm EM gauge Minories

Posted by on in News
Latest Library additions

Our library is one of the most extensive in the UK, with a wide range of prototype and modelling titles including back issues of some of the key historical magazines. Members and visitors are welcome to browse most Thursdays from 7-9pm (unless there is a lecture) and on our monthly open-afternoon.

Some of the latest books to be added to our catalogue include:

"Blacklade" - an OO gauge layout by Stephen Siddle

b2ap3_thumbnail_Blacklade-detail-cropped-sep-15.jpg

 

 

Welcome to BR's "crumbling edge of quality". “Blacklade” is the surviving station in a small Midlands county town, served by local trains to Nottingham, Birmingham (both ex Midland) and Sheffield via Chesterfield (ex GC). Trains are worked by elderly 1950s diesels reinforced by new Sprinters.

Posted by on in Calshot Road
U2Can in filming debut

Several times a year, we get asked to provide a model railway for some sort of filming – TV news, feature or advert. We oblige whenever we can, assuming we can adapt one of our layouts to suit the brief (or the brief can be adapted to suit our layouts!).

 

We were asked to provide a layout for a film for the charity “Action Against Cancer”,

MRC VISIT TO THE BREDGAR & WORMSHILL AND SITTINGBOURNE & KEMSLEY LIGHT RAILWAYS

 

Narrow gauge railways are not to every enthusiast’s taste, many believing that locos and stock to the small dimensions necessary to run on such lines could not possibly do very much of a job of work other than potter about hauling tourists along a short length of track. Yet the Sittingbourne & Kemsley, built to 2’6” gauge, was an intensively worked railway which was operated 24 hours a day 7 days a week right up until 1969, as members discovered on the MRC’s visit there in early September.