Saturday, February 28, 2009


So, the discos last night meant a very late night home! When I woke up Friday morning, it dawned on me that it would be another 15 hours before I got home having finally finished work! The discos went well and the kids semed to enjoy themselves and were very well behaved.

This morning saw another visit to the model railway shop; my second home! My locomotive that only goes in reverse has burnt its chip out for some strange reason and so is being sent back under warranty, I bought a chip for my new cleaning truck that arrived on Friday, (the first time in my life I received a brown paper package tied up with string - all very exciting,) as well as some more scenery bits. I am now the proud owner of 25 sheep as well as some very realistic trees and trackside signs. I also got some background sheets which I put up this afternoon. The damp and humidity have menat that many of the background sheets have wrinkled which is a pain but I'm sure I can hide the wrinkles in time! I also started adding the scatter to some of the fields and tomorrow plan to put up some fences and release the sheep!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The first building is now complete! Many thanks to my father for his expertise in this area! I'm afraid I don't have the patience for these card kit buildings but he seems to enjoy them and there is little doubt that they look extremely good. He has now completed my island station with excellent results.
The weekend will see me looking for the next for him to work on, perhaps the school, church, farm or pub! I also need to get some fencing and sheep so that I can continue with some of the scenery bits.

During the week, I simply couldn't resist this little beauty!
It's a limited edition Royal Warwrickshire Regiment LMS locomotive made exclusively for Castle Trains and, as I understand it, I have the first digital command control version! Running it did suggest that I may have to raise one section of flat track at some point in order to lower the gradient so that it will runa little easier over the hills - it seems to be a bit heavier than my Sheffield express. Of course, it could be that the track is in need of a clean and so I also ordered one of these today.
It's a very clever track cleaner from Dapol. I ordered mine from Hattons and am looking forward to it arriving. It uses abrasive pads at the front to clean the track, a vacuum in the middle to suck up dust and debris and then pollishing pads at the rear!

Tomorrow evening I have the discos at school - oh joy! During the day we are having a 'Living Willow' sculpture planted in school, (look for the Green Room on their website,) and today saw another first for us as we launched our new podcasting service to communicate to parents! Modern schools are quite a shock to many people who have cause to visit compared with the 'good 'ol days'!
Sunday afternoon, I need to go and fetch a truck full of bags of bark chippings being donated to us to put down under the living willow sculpture - certainly promises to be an extrememly busy weekend!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dreams have become reality!

....OK so let's make it a hat-trick tonight!

Talking of peoples dreams becoming reality. As someone elses dreams still foster as dreams, another one nears completion. NB Clarence.

Today she took her inaugural cruise in spring-like sunshine.

Note the sun shining down on her as she navigates the North Oxford Canal.

....and the happy crew at the helm...

Looking much more like boaters now than the first meeting I had with them, (Derek is taking the picture,) several years back!

In this meeting, Clarence was still very much a dream - so much water has passed under the bridge between then and now.....but that's another story!!


So 2 posts in one day!

It's always nice when you can follow someones dreams via the technology of 'tinternet. I received an email this evening from Dunny who is planning his narrowboat of dreams from the Island of Jersey.

Certainly Dunny knows what he wants and it is refreshing to see someone who is taking the time to research and plan thei rboat rather than simply jump in blindly. Dunny is clearly planning a lifestyle change rather than simply a cheap life and if hs plans come to fruition, it will be quite a stunning boat - I just hope part of his research is the cost involved and this in relation to his budget!!

I have added this blog to my boat roll to follow. For me, I am actually more interested in watching people dreams become reality than I am the thousands of blogs that simply report their travels to the 'n'th degree including such details as the weekly pump out, (I count my own in this category!)

A very public best wishes Dunny and I trust I might have the pleasure of sharing a beer with you one day moored up on a sunny summer evening!

Slowing down

Well, I'm going back to work to slow down. That's how it feels anyway. Railway developments will also slow down to weekends and the occasional evening. That will allow me time to save funds for the next purchases!
This afternoon I have managed to get the point motor to do its job reliably. Changed the cable to thicker stuff and wired it into the accessory outlet of the control rather than a separate transformer and it now seems to work fine. I also cleaned the entire track with meths. and wiggled all the joints and points. Things seem to be runnign much better now although one train has developed an interesting habit of only wanting to work in reverse - I think the chip needs some attention.
I've also managed to paint the base colours to the scenery. Don't worry - they're not staying the way they currently look before I get messages telling me how garish the green is. It's only the base colour, in reallity, very little should show through once I cover it all in flocking and texture it with clumps of bushes and trees etc.

I will be in trouble tomorrow from my accordion teacher though! I'm afraid it's been somewhat neglected this past week or so. My lesson tomorrow will pick me back up again and I'll go for it again from there so it's only a temporary lull. It was good to meet Jill and Graham from NB Matilda Rose this afternoon who popped in briefly. They've just spent the past 2 months or so doing the Leicester Ring with the crew of NB Caxton and it sounds as if they've had a great time full of adventure thanks to the weather!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good news and bad news!

Fleur left this morning after a great couple of days and what felt like my only couple of days of half term! After all the usual chores, I headed up the railway shed. The big job today was to 'Mod-Roc' the landscape and hills and this went very well. I have now completed all the landscapes ready to be painted and 'flocked'.

That was the good news, now the bad news! It seems as if the PVA glue used to stick the ballast down has seeped under all the points and connectors. I have very unreliable continuity round the track which results in the trains either stopping dead, refusing to start after stopping or simply not responding to the controller as the signal can't get to the decoder. I have cleaned all the tracks thoroughly which has helped, cleaned the wheels and 'pick-ups' on the trains and wiggled as many connectors as I could. Tomorrow I shall clean the track with some meths. in the hope of removing any grease that may be present and then work round the whole track systematically to wiggle the fishplates that connect the lengths of track together as well as attempt to clean the points and continuity clips. If anyone knows any substance that will dissolve PVA glue - please let me know!

I can't believe the half term is over! Back to school on Monday and reallity. Another 6 weeks to Easter and current boating plans are either to explore the BirminghamCanal Navigations and all the little loops and arms, (my father's choice,) or to head into Stratford, Warwick and on the Avon, (my choice)! Today, the sun was shining and it was positively warm with temperatures into double figures - just! The skylarks are singing again, the dafodills are sprouting and spring is very much in the air. It's nice to have daylight up to around 5.30 now. I did manage to clout my thumb with a hammer - hard! I have a lovely black blister appearing under my left thumb-nail which is extremely sore. Sympathy required please!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Another fairly full day in the engine shed! Started off at around 8.30 this morning. My father started building the card station and I started ballasting. One bottle of ballast later and the sidings were complete! In total, 5 bottles of ballast were needed but the job is complete.
Much glueing later, (not to mention several hours of prodding, poking and scraping to free points and mechanisms,) and the trains were once again runnign relatively freely round the layout. Next job, get a track cleaner to liberate any final flakes of glue that is stopping continuity and then begin the exciting job of 'Modrocing' the hills and landscape before painting the base colours and texturiong.
The three engines pose for a photo call in fron tof the window!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ups and downs!

The title sums up the progress today! Unfortunately for one of the trains there were no ups - only downs and that was the problem!
'Finished' laying the last sections of track first thing this morning before going off to the train shops again, leaving Andy to finish off still further. A visit to both my local train shops - still more money being parted from saw a few more bits of rolling stock, buffers, point motors etc. The highlights of the day were my purchase of a City of Sheffield DCC sound locomotive and dads collection of his chipped LMS loco.
Now all was fine but my heavy loco and the newly aquired 'Pullmans' coaches, (I know the 'City of Sheffield' would never have pulled Pullmans - it's a special and I liked them!) simply refused to go up some of the gradients. The supports had to be removed one by one and lowered together with modifications to the sidings to allow for the express to be got in and out!
Note all the supports in the middle being modified and re-numbered!
With the gradients modified, several sections of track had to either replaced or changed to allow for such things as the width of the station, (note it marked out on the base below,) or for sections of track that the train simply didn't like!
Eventually the loco's could be tried and the first time where two engines passed each other was recorded on camera.
Finally at gone 10.00, (yes, I AM on holiday!) the engines were put into the sidings and todays work was finished. Now at a stage we had hoped to be at over 24 hours earlier!
Now to the whale! This fine figure adorns the wall of the shed. Why, I hear you ask? Well, partly because it just happened to fall out as an off-cut from one of the pieces of ply wood that we cut and secondly because, well it as a whaleway after all!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Getting there!

So day 2! Not quite as good as day 1 but still good progress! Started the day by finishig off the gradients.

Before laying out the track - only to discover we were very short!
Note Andy helping out again. In fact, Andy is proving to be a vital pin in this machine! His input, logic and work has really got us to where we are. If it wasn't for him, we would be significantly further behind. A visit to Castle Trains to get some rolling stock and the extra track we needed meant we were able to finish the track laying and begin the cork underlay process. At this point we were able to connect the controller and at least run the engine and some wagons round to test things.
Several gradients had to be removed in order to pin the track down properly.
Only one loop still not completely connected and a couple more points to be got tomorrow to make a modification which will easier link the 3 circuits together. Another loco to collect tomorrow which is being chipped tonight and a visit to Barby model rail in the hopes that they might have a City of Sheffield DCC sound express in stock! In any case it will be good to see them and show the shop to my father before the final track connected and the fiddle yards completed and then the ballasting can begin!
Keep in mind the fact that the bricks are not an integral part of the railway! They are simply holding the glue in place overnight where we had to break apart the gradients to pin the track!!

Monday, February 16, 2009


The first day of the build and good progress has been made. The car was dropped in to have it's service and MOT first thing and we started around 9.30 on the railway project. The car was collected at around 5.30pm and we finished the railway shed for the day at around 7.30pm.

First, the car - better news than expected! The tyres have another 6 months to go at least and it passed it's MOT with flying colours. I collected it but haven't yet paid for it as the computer wasn't working so I have to pop back tomorrow to pay - I love this rural village life!

Now to the railway. First the base board was laid in sections. Thanks to Andy for his huge amount of help today.
The final base board all down and support legs in place. Note the phone lying on the top waiting for the garage to call with anticipated bad news!
We even had enough spare wood to make a shelf underneath on the right for the important radio, heater and kettle!
Now the track makes an appearance! Only to calculate the radius for the gradient but you can see the gradient in place at the back with supports in place.
The template has been cut from the plywood for the gradient and tunnel section the other side. This will be the first task tomorrow. My father is standing in one of the service corners to enable the whole layout to be reached.
Tomorrow, we hope to have the gradients finished, all the track laid and connected with a train running round and hopefully start the ballasting.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spring (!) Clean!

Top to bottom - pretty much all day! I spent around 2 hours on the kitchen alone and it's only this big!
Every dog hair, every bit of fire ash dust, every escaped cricket, (don't ask) has been vacumed, polished, scrubbed or dusted. For too long I have neglected Khayamanzi except for the cursory dust or hoover and the thought of visitors arriving tonight and later on this week stirred me into action. Temperatures reached the dizzy heights of ten degrees and it isn't dark until around 5.30 in the evening so maybe spring isn't too far off after all!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

First loco!

Well, today I spent a lot of money, (again!) £300 later and I have 2 plastic bags to show for it. I now have all the track thanks to Castle Trains. I also visited the Barby Model Rail shop and was very impressed! Lots of scenics and nits 'n' bobs that I might need. The only drawback is that they don't open Sun, Mon or Tues. They did have the last bits of track that I needed and I even managed to get this little beauty quite cheap so that I have something to check the track with and get going!

Right now, the railway shed looks like this..

All ready to go with the tools, the wood,

the all important kettle...

and todays offering of the bags of track!

Monday we get going in fury!

I also managed to move the Lizard tank to a better place and clean it out as well as stock up on coal and nick a bag of peat from K2, (I'll pay for it when I next see you Steve - hope you don't mind!) I fancied some peat for the evenings this week to settle down in front of.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Week ahead....

So end of one half term and a week off stretches ahead. We are now over half way through the year! Tomorrow I plan to get the track for the railway from Castle Trains and then visit the Barby model rail shop to see what they're like and strike up a friendship for future purchases.

The car is booked in for MOT and service on Monday morning and I'm thinking new tyres will be in order - I'm expecting it to be very expensive but will be pleasantly surpsised if it's not! I'm sampling Fosseway Vehicle Servicing for the first time on the recommendation of several boaters in the marina so it will be interesting to see how they are and what I think of them.

My father comes up Sunday evening and then Monday the big railway project build begins in earnest. I shall blog the progress each day, (I hope,) with pictures to document the build.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Big flakes!

So more snow is on the way is it? I think it's here!!

It may not come to much but right now it's impressive! HUGE flakes of snow tumbling out of the sky and as the marina is frozen solid - that too is covered with snow. Aparently this is due to die out during the nigth with a serious bout of the white stuff coming into the Midlands tomorrow afternoon/evening. I love snow and I love the excitement it causes but am getting a bit tired of another week of 'do we or don't we close the school' together with the serious flack we get if we do close and the serious flack we get if we don't!

Watch this space! I've sent another email off this evening to Castle Trains as my order of track has to be confirmed tomorrow if I'm to get it by the weekend and I still haven't heard anything from them regarding how much to order and what will or won't fit on my plan!?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Poorer but better off!

A beautiful day with a clear blue sky and warm sun which resulted in most of the snow melting. Certainly roads are now free and the only beauty left is on the surrounding fields and hills as well as the occasional pile by the side of the road. Temperatures dipped last night to -7 resulting in a very frozen over marina this morning. The tell-tale crunshing sound as I woke up and got out of bed gave the game away as the boat gently rocked from side to side and crushed the ice that was encasing me through the night.

A trip to Castle Trains in Warwick first thing left me £170 or so poorer but I have returned home with cork underlay, track ballast, power clips, track pins and one of these..

The Hornby digital Elite controller!

A week ago, I emailed the track plan through to them to get a quote and estimate on the amount of track to order. Initially it was met with considerable enthusiasm and an almost instant helpful response. Unfortunately, they thought it was 'N' gauge and so I had to correct them on this and since then communication has died off. They were uncertain that I could get all the track layers in that I wanted and so I suggested that we could make the base board wider, (almost 6 inches if necessary,) to accommodate this. I have heard no reply so far. I have to have the order put through on Monday if I am to get the track for next weekend - in time for the build and have explained this but so far, I'm still waiting.

I took a visit to Barby this afternoon to the Barby Model Rail shop. They're only just down the road which is convenient but unfortunately they were closed due to the snow, (!) which didn't bode well - I shall return and see what they're like in case things fall through with Castle or I need any last minute bits.

The rest of the day was spent around the marina and the evening is planned to be spent relaxing! The snow forecast for Sunday night has reduced to rain so a normal week looks planned ahead.

I meant to say yesterday; the snowman we built for the kids the other day didn't even see the following day! Sadly when we arrived in school we discovered it had been vandalised completely. The cheeky wotsits even stole the cardboard hat, pipe and buttons we made; presumably for their own creation. When we looked back on the school CCTV system we could see them having a wale of a time. The kids were still impressed with the large pile of snow left in the middle of the playground though!

Friday, February 06, 2009

....and still more snow!

This morning no further snow had arrived. A telephone call confirmed that school was open for business as usual. Shortly after arriving in school it started snowing. And it snowed, and snowed, and snowed. By mid morning we were getting worried and by shortly after 11.00 local radio was publishing school closures, parents were arriving to remove their children and a decision was made to close school. It then took the rest of the afternoon to get rid of over 400 children in what was a military style and very slick operation - closing a school mid-day and something akin to stopping an artic. lorry using your fingernails!
Of course the minute the decision was made and the first hundred or so children left, the snow stopped and even the sun begun to appear. By the time I got home at around 4.30 I was greeted by this...
....and this......

...and this....

....and this....

....and even Simba got in on the act!
No more snow is planned for tomorrow although temperatures are set to drop to around -7 degrees! The return of snow is however forecast for Sunday night into Monday - watch this space..