Interim model railway update

Phoenix Yard (Mark 1)

With the success of the recent Great Model Railway Challenge TV programme, as aired on Ch 5, together with the upcoming Warley Model Railway Show at the NEC I decided to build a very simple “shunting plank” layout to try to draw visitors to the SLS stand. Have it available so that they can see what can be done and have a go. Whether they want to take on the whole shunting puzzle exercise is immaterial, ideally yes but even a trial go will be progress.

We can sell the Society and our published material if the passing visitors stop and engage. The hardest part getting that break of step for the initial pause as they walk by.

The fact that it also gives me an option for a small portable fun layout for home use too is the bonus. The final choice of base is a simple 4ft x 1ft piece of shelf timber I had in stock. In the build I had tried the Plum Hollow base, useable but with issues, and adapting another piece of existing potential layout board (a recycled DIY table top). The latter almost made it, as a folding version, but with a slight modification for use as the fold would have been through a point. It was only the time for the extra woodwork for the hew half that killed the idea. A Mark 2 iteration with full scenery may well appear for Alexandra Place and York.

Why Phoenix Yard? The reason is almost everything on it is recycled from other projects. I have taken the basic “Inglenook” 8 wagon (5-3-3) format for the scenic side and added two small sidings in to a  hidden section. This allows for a single coach workmen’s train to appear. It also allows alternative locomotives to be swapped in/out.

The longest spur, for the 3 wagons plus locomotive, can accommodate engines up to a Bo-Bo diesel or an 0-6-0 tender locomotive. As the shorter locos would allow cheating with 4 wagons a moveable velcroable buffer stop may be incorporated.

As a comparison with the GMRC project of 24 hours of building, the track is partially down as I write this. Time spent, excluding pre-planning, about 3 hours to paint the base, juggle the track until I was absolutely satisfied with its position, and fixing it down.

Draft view of the layout
The track laid out before the board was painted. To the left the public area/ working zone, on the right the hidden/fiddle area.

Plum Hollow

As part of the above exercise the base earmarked for Plum Hollow project was manoeuvred around the house and tried in the car. This indicated that the project will have some issues in moving it around if proceeded with but will just fit round the corner in the staircase. It was this problem that led to evaluating the folding base for a larger version of the Phoenix Yard build.

New cars

Our old Zafira developed an engine problem that meant we had to change it quickly. We now have much smaller Vauxhall Corsa. One immediate issue for Plum Hollow will be working out exactly how high the scenery can be. The board will fit (just) as a bare carcass if the rear seat is down flat but with the rake on the back of the driver’s seat any added height will be critical.

With regard to new cars as always there is progress and regression, as examples, the DAB radio is excellent for sound but requires more retuning than older FM sets to switch masts to get local radio as you travel cross-country; there is no CD option, and most importantly, the supposedly anti-dazzle rear view mirror is useless at night, the old flip type worked these don’t!!

 

Plum Hollow – a sort of update

Plum Hollow, minor progress

Picture of the kits
Test build on paper of the trial hut and 2 of the 5 sheets for the next trial project.

For a variety of reasons the Plum Hollow layout project has had almost nothing done on it for some time. That was not a case of out of sight out of mind, simply a case of other workload intervening.  The scenic side is the next step, hence today’s test kit build. The aim was to see if a  printed paper/card kit scaled down from the originally intended HO (1:87) scale to US N scale (1:160) would either (be 1) too fiddly to construct or (2) not look good enough after completion. The test suggests both answers are negative, the outcome therefore is positive and therefore a run printed onto card-stock is worth trying. This simple build with unreinforced paper prints suggests constructing the kits will be manageable with card-stock backing.

As progress since the last update the polystyrene blocks have been bought as has the 4mm scale Dapol signal gantry kit I intend to use as  lattice girder railway over river bridge.

There is a possibility that the existing base boxes may get re-purposed into another project and replaced for this one.  If that happens an update will be posted. If it does it will be for a quick build project for the Warley (and onwards) shows; with this one it will be time that determines the outcome.

As a final point the scaling experiments for this exercise indicate that the ratio of printing the pdf plans at 54.4% is correct.  Although they are not currently accessible to check when I’d made the buildings for Reindeer Landing (N Gauge side) they always looked too small; it is possible they had been printed at 25% (The area reduction) rather than 54.4% which gives the necessary shrinkage in each linear dimension.

SLS Workload

This is one of the reasons for the delays mentioned above.Situations Vacant adverts are included in the current Journal going out to members in the hope of filling some of the vacancies. Once that gets delivered to members the adverts for those vacancies where open recruitment will be possible will also be circulated to non-members. In the meantime several officers are doubling up, even tripling up, on roles to keep us going. The trouble with being a volunteer – you tend to volunteer whenever crisis looms.

 

SLS Website

main Plum Hollow page

 

 

 

Writing event – 9 Oct Littlemoor Library, Weymouth

event poster image

Writing event

Why not come along to Littlemoor Library, near Weymouth, a week today (9th October) where Kathy, Judi and I will be taking part in this event next week. Come and join us for some insights into the factual, fanciful and fictional world of writing.

An opportunity to see, and buy, from a cross-cutting range of books highlighting the range of output from our local authors. A cornucopia with something for everyone as we span the range from Tudor to modern, from mystical islands to the heart of academia and from coast and country to the heart of industry. Come and discover the world of writing, editing self-publishing and output via traditional outlets.

If you haven’t been to the venue before the Library is adjacent to the local shopping centre with free parking available; alternatively use the local No.2 bus service which stops close by.

writing event poster image
Poster for the 9th October event

Stoptober

Only a brief update in today’s post but if anyone has a bit of cash to spare then Stella and I are taking part again this year in stoptober/Go Sober to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.  Any sponsorship welcome towards this extremely worthwhile cause.

 

Gales, garage and gunge

Cropped Screen Shot showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.

Gales, garage and gunge

Garage

As part of the ongoing tidying and fixing of the garage it became apparent that the roof was leaking. Closer inspection indicated that almost the whole of the edge strip where the roofing felt bends over the edge had split. On getting onto the roof I also discovered that the original installation in several places had left voids and the local gulls had pecked holes through. All these edges now patch fixed but I think we may need a replacement garage roof next year, part of the problem is some  sagging between the joists so that on a flat roof, the water simply puddles rather than running off. I have never liked felted, flat-roofs, this one is now 44 years old and showing its age.

Gales

The forecast threats of gales sharpened the mind to the need to get the garage roof fixed, or at least bodge-patched, rapidly. Stella and I got much of it done on Sunday. The finishing off work I did during Tuesday. It seems to have survived the gale; hopefully, it will last through to the Spring when we can see what needs to be done for  a proper re-roof. Ideally, I would hope to go for a change with some extra wedge shaped walling at the ends, new joists on a slope and the flat felted roof roof replaced with corrugated sheeting. The alternative is to have it re-felted and then put a sun-deck up there too. The forecast gale; when it arrived was less strong than many we have had recently. I think we escaped quite lightly this time around.

Gunge

So that brings me to gunge, despite wearing riggers gloves, and the oldest set of workwear I could find, the bitumen based roofing felt jollop gets through the tiniest of cracks. Yes it will scrub off, and needs to be as it is mildly hazardous, but how do you get it out from under finger nails?! Despite days of scrubbing there is still an un-shiftable layer underneath the finger nails.

Google, Facebook and changes

Cropped Screen Shot showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.
Cropped Screen Grab showing the, to me at least, pointless changes to Google.

Google

Google have made, and are making further, changes. I can see the logic in the behind the scenes changes to how they are to index websites that are not structured in a way that is responsive to the device being used to access it. Technology has changed, Google needs to reflect that; yes it if forcing work onto web designers to ensure compliance but that is work that should be undertaken anyway to keep the websites current. What I really can’t see the point in though, and Twitter did the same thing recently, is the switch to round icons and rounded edges to search boxes etc. This seems to be just a design fad and change for change’s sake.

Facebook

The same can be said of Facebook’s annoying changes made recently (one example below); from a user’s perspective they are just annoying and are making social media, at least the FB aspect of it, more difficult. Shooting one’s self in the foot comes to mind, make it harder  to use and people won’t bother adding their content, less content less viewers, less viewers, less adverting revenue. This does not appear to require a genius to see.

Facebook no longer supports Publicise connections to Facebook Profiles, but you can still connect Facebook Pages. Please select a Facebook Page to publish updates to.

GDPR, was it pointless?

Now this is shaking down was it pointless? Today I startled one of the junk callers as they were clearly from the slightly more responsible end of this annoying trade. It was a human caller, not a recording, and obviously not expecting what she got. I definitely think my request that my details to be removed from their database under GDPR was not what she was expecting! Since doing that I have now decided I can use this regulation to my satisfaction. How? The next time someone rings I am going to ask them to supply me with my full details, as held under GDPR, and log their’s too so I can check compliance. On receipt of the info’ I will then add to their workload by asking them to remove it! Let’s annoy these blighters back!

Of course the counter problem is that regarding most of these annoying SPAM and Junk callers/emailers the GDPR is totally pointless – if you are spamming you are hardly likely to be operating within, or with a care for, the law or bothered about compliance with it. Very pleased though to note from the news that the regulations do have teeth and the first high-profile offender has been fined.

Writing and editing

Moving on from the G’s another SLS Journal done and published. All that needs doing now, and all is one of those words with a hidden meaning, is update the website with the latest contents. Why has all got a hidden meaning? The answer is simple, it appears to be an easy job, but in actuality is a lot of fuss and faff making changes to around a dozen pages to varying degrees of alteration. It will be done but may be delayed a bit.

Copy of SLSJournal cover
SLS Journal cover

 

Railway modelling update

Old baseboards image

Modelling update

This is just a short post. I am taking advantage today of what might be one of the last sunny autumn days to get some garage tidying done and make my railway modelling gear and stock more accessible.

Old baseboards image
Old baseboards

Sadly the garage check has produced a major casualty. The old, stored, baseboards haven’t warped (I stored them well supported to prevent that) but will all have to go the dump later due to woodworm attack. Although this is not in fact too big an issue as I’d forgotten how heavy 1/2 chipboard made them! That weight would probably have stopped reuse anyway, and it was also what I was expecting having found wood worm in another item recently, a secondary trigger for the tidy and slinging session. Only sadness is for the one survivor, see board marked A, that had survived in one form or another from the first proper layout I made back in the late 60s.

Portable not static

This is also is indicative of a change in the style of my railway modelling. Back when I started the abandoned project the boards were to have been left permanently up, albeit they could be dismantled in case of house moves etc., and mounted on a fixed Dexion frame. Anything I model these days is intended to be light and portable as most of the time I am having a running session it is outdoors in summer; the garage is too cold and damp for a permanent layout.

 

 

Jottings for August

Image of Yorkshire Rose

It’s August

Image of a Yorkshire Rose.
Yorkshire Rose – original creator unknown.

Firstly why the Yorkshire rose? 1st August was Yorkshire day, a day when we can all celebrate the best of the county and our heritage.

I was going to head up this up as August jottings, however, that would perhaps have suggested a gravitas for the post far greater than justified. The problem being positioning of the capital letter, would it get read as August (the month) or august (the word)? Conversely, the revision immediately suggests the blindingly obvious retaliation of “no s**t Sherlock”, although, when placed in the listing of blog posts sorted by title, it will be logical.

Why add this jotted note? July, for me, had been one with a high output of writing, 5000 words of academic prose for a Conference, interspersed with fiction pieces at two writer’s groups plus some work on the first draft of an ongoing work of my own. Together those generated around another 5-6000 words. The style swapping was an interesting challenge.

Today’s blog post therefore just a few observations on writing, publicity and the related software used.

Heat

Indoors, or outdoors, where to write in a heatwave? The dilemma of going outdoors is that whilst the concept is ideal, the practicality of working with a laptop screen in the outdoors not so. Indoors though is hot and stuffy unless all the windows are open; opening the windows attracts in the flies. Not only that but the very Mediterranean nature of the weather is a distraction to aid procrastination. How did those writers who deliberately based themselves in the Med’ cope?

Facebook changes – adding complications

This appears to be a company, for whatever reason, trying its hardest to shoot itself in the foot. They have decided that blog posts can no longer be linked to a Profile but have to go to a Page. (See quote below from my ISP)

“Facebook no longer supports Publicize connections to Facebook Profiles, but you can still connect Facebook Pages. Please select a Facebook Page to publish updates to.”

That doubles the hassle and faff for the content provider. I do not currently have a separate author page; for the SLS where I manage the FB content, we have that split and there are some issues, for example people Friend one or the other – not both, and content often shows up twice in the main FB feed. That experience is why I have, to date, neither needed, nor wanted, a second FB page; my serious stuff is on my website.

(Updated) It initially it appeared the back-door cheat for a blog link still worked, that a twitter post forwards onto a FB page, as it appeared to work when first tested. It appears that is not the case for blog posts – out to Twitter – then on to FB does not work. Only Twitter posts started on Twitter hold the FB link.

FB are also, allegedly, messing about with their filtering algorithms, probably forced on them by the fake news scandals, although the cynic in me suggests this is entirely from a need to boost income via paid for content promotion. I will await this outcome with interest. FB generally is a poorer service than it was (personal opinion obviously) with many posts from people I am friends with on FB never showing up: either they have moved on to other social media providers or the filters stop me seeing their posts.

That generates the last observation – social media was a great  invention when there were only a few providers. Now that there is a wide spread I find there are too many to monitor or push content into all, it therefore decreases the usefulness of social media to both content providers and readers.

Software changes generally

More changes on the way, this time in the WordPress editor. I don’t mind changes where it adds functionality, although relearning can be annoying when they move items from one menu to another (needlessly from a customer perspective), or even worse removal in the new release of a useful piece of functionality that was in the older version. The latter something done over the years by both Adobe and Microsoft.

NB Post subsequently updated regarding Facebook.

My next published work

Cover ERC6

Early Railways 6  – Edited by Anthony Coulls

This book, Early Railways 6, for which this is the advance call for subscriptions, will be my next academically published work.

Cover of Early Railways 6
Cover of Early Railways 6 (Source & Copyright Six Martlets)

The series of Early Railways Conferences held its sixth gathering in June 2016 in the cradle of railway history that is Newcastle, with visits and events across Tyneside away from the conference venue. A full programme of papers showed that there is still a rich seam of research being undertaken into early railways across the globe. In this volume, a selection of papers cover that international aspect whilst others break new ground in terms of location and subject, always part of the excitement of the conference, where conversations over coffee turn up new research potential almost every minute. Dr Michael Lewis examines the very basics of early pointwork and track, John R New’s paper explores why the horse was displaced as motive power and Dr David Gwyn reflects on the first railways in Africa. Between the variety of other papers, the social, economic and technological history of early railways is covered. Given the amazing wooden waggonway discovery and excavations on Tyneside in the summer of 2014, the book begins with Discovering the Willington Waggonway which was the public lecture and sets the tone for the rest of the publication.

The papers

Discovering the Willington Waggonway: Archaelogical excavations at Neptune Yard on North Tyneside in 2013, R Carlton, L Turnbull & A Williams

Early Railways In The Bristol Coalfield,Steve Grudgings

Why Killingworth?,Robert F Hartley

Pointwork to 1830, Dr M J T Lewis

Why Displace the Horse? John R New

Early Locomotives of the St. Etienne-Lyon Railway, Miles McNair

Blücher and After: A Re-assessment of George Stephenson’s First Locomotives Dr Michael R. Bailey

Interpreting Sources for the operation of the Durham & Sunderland Railway 1836-56, Colin Mountford

Early Locomotive Performance, Peter Davidson

Penydarren Re-Examined Andy Guy, Dr Michael Bailey, Dr David Gwyn, Robert Protheroe Jones, Dr Michael Lewis, John Liffen, and Jim Rees

Two Early French Non-Railways, Dr M J T Lewis

Joseph Atkinson and the Early Images of the Tanfield Arch, Robin Adams

Plateways, Steel Road Rails, and Rutways in Australia, Dr Jim Longworth and Phil Rickard

The First Railways in Africa, Dr David Gwyn

When to Stop Digging: Assessing the Excavated Evidence, Helen Gomersall

Sierra Leone: Proposals for a Colonial Early Railway, Anthony Coulls

Publication

The book will be published by Six Martlets Publishing on behalf of the sponsors at the discounted price of £35 each plus postage and packing. To reserve a copy go to www.earlyrailways.org.uk or contact the publisher for an order form.

The postage and packing rates will be: UK, £3.50 per book. Europe, £9.00 per book. Other countries, £14.00 per book.

All subscribers will receive a copy of the book at the discounted price for advance payment and will have their subscription acknowledged in the preliminary pages. The subscription list will close on 1 October 2018 and the book will be published shortly after. This will be the only opportunity to obtain a copy at the discounted price. To order contact Six Martlets Publishing, c/o Better Prepared Ltd, 15 Diamond Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DU. sixmartlets@uwclub.net

ER6 was sponsored by The Newcomen Society, The Railway and Canal Historical Society, The Institution of Civil Engineers & The National Railway Museum. The Stephenson Locomotive Society also fully support the publication of this volume containing papers presented at the Conference by several SLS members. Although, as at the 2016 event date, the SLS, of which I am a Director, was not one of the official event sponsors the SLS has subsequently become actively involved in promoting the Early Railways Conference serial.

Notes

  1. More about the 2016 Conference was in my September 2016 blog post.
  2. List of all my published work.

 

April and June (Missed blog posts)

Steam loco

Missed blog posts (April & June)

This is a shortened rewording of what formed the Editorial to the most recent SLS Journal and Newsletter (J912 July/August), a bi-monthly magazine which I now edit and giving the reasons for my missing the task of making blog posts here during both April and June.

SLS stand

SLS Stand ready for show opening Easter 2018

Firstly my apologies for the fact there was no blog post made during either April or June. This was disheartening as I had been consistently managing one a month before then. However, during the run up to the expected dates I was ill and with my commitment to getting a Journal out, and attending the York Model Railway Show over the Easter weekend both as a Show Director and with the SLS display stand, all my spare time just vaporised.

Steam loco
MN Class 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co. at the Cotswolds Festival of Steam

The illness continued through May, and as I had the next Journal to get out, together with taking the SLSL Stand to the Cotswold Festival of Steam and writing/presenting a paper to the Second Early Mainline Railway Conference in York during late June, of necessity, those were also prioritised. 

What I had thought it was initially, hay fever, it almost certainly was not and I therefore looked around for possible alternatives.It was probably not legionnaires disease as such but the symptoms were similar hence mentioning it in this post. Hopefully the illness’ cause has now been traced to either bugs coming through from the car air conditioning unit or bugs in the car screen washer system (both, obviously, now sanitised). I would certainly encourage anyone suffering any odd flu like symptoms to consider getting their car air conditioning unit and the screen washer system checked out. This illness has hit me three years running and I had not previously correlated it to warm weather and the first early season use of the car AC. Whilst the flu like illness may be unrelated to that it has not returned since the work was carried out on the car.

Both images by and copyright the author. NOT FOR REPUBLICATION.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental Health Feedback

This is not a full feature blog post but back in October I wrote a piece on Mental Health Awareness and have subsequently received additional feed back on it. This is therefore just a short snippet updating that item and adding extra links.

The problem with stress and other visibly hidden mental issues such as autism and many others is that they are hidden from plain sight and symptoms can be suppressed. The outcome of course is that the pressures then build even more. People see, and sympathise, with the obvious physical issues of crutches, wheelchairs and the like; the internal mental scars go unnoticed.

How to Deal With Stress at Work

A further article on Work Place Stress worth reading is this one by Helen Sanders ‘Beyond Blue – How to Deal with Stress at Work‘ and it can be found on the Health Ambitions website.

Alcoholism

A related problem and one for which support is also required. I am therefore more than happy to add these links as requested by the groups concerned.

  1. Rehab 4 Alcoholism is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug and alcohol issues.  Rehab 4 Alcoholism aims to save lives by stopping addiction before it becomes too late. Tel: 0800 111 4108 Web: https://www.rehab4alcoholism.com
  2. https://www.alcoholtreatment.net/  AlcoholTreatment.net is an organisation dedicated to helping individuals seek recovery from alcohol addiction. You can contact them to speak to one of their treatment specialists to learn more about alcohol rehab centres, treatment options, insurance, and more.

 

 

A short Harry Potter fan-fic

Harry Potter

A slight change from recent blog posts as, although the content mentioned previously still justifies being written, I have not had time to add it. Therefore for this month’s post a short piece of Harry Potter fan fiction written from an idea and title sparked by the recent Weymouth Writing Matters group take-away prompt of Absent Friends. The date is the usual start date for Surrey schools and has been verified*(1).

Absent friends

Wednesday, 4th September 1991, was proving a worrisome day for one small, now insignificant, boy. Gordon Harrison’s two best friends from the last few years, Dudley Dursley and Piers Polkiss, had both left, going off together to Smeltings, their new private school but Gordon’s parents had not felt the expense was value for money. With its annual fees well over the cost of a new car the Harrisons felt that, however much Gordon nagged, whined and badgered about it, Smeltings just wasn’t worth the effort or expense.

It wasn’t that his parents were anti private education, oh no, they just couldn’t afford to enrol him into the few private schools where the nation’s true elite sent their sons and daughters and therefore considered, perhaps rightly, that anywhere less showed a loss of face. Smeltings was definitely a non-U sort of school to the Harrison’s social circle. Also, if truths were to be shared, which in the Harrisons circle of suburban cronies of course it rarely was, neither parent felt Gordon was bright enough to justify the cost. No, the cover story of wanting to support the local education system was good enough and far more socially acceptable all round.

Had they felt inclined to do so finding school fees for Gordon would have meant dropping too many other social activities and niceties; their motor cruiser on the Solent and the villa in the Dordogne brought with them just that necessary veneer of social respectability that funding a second-rate school for the boy couldn’t match. Albert and Jennifer Harrison understood the social niceties of commuter belt Surrey in the way that neither the fawning Vernon Dursley, nor his shrew like wife Petunia, had ever quite grasped.

The outcome of the long months of one-sided family arguments had led to this morning and Gordon standing waiting for a number 442 bus into Stanwell by himself. Technically he wasn’t alone at the bus stop at the end of Privet Drive; but he was undoubtedly there on his own. The other children with him, also off to Stonewall High the local comprehensive, were a mix of ages, laughing, joking, sharing, brothers, sisters, friends, a mix of school years, but all noticeably shunning Gordon. He was going to have to face the new big school for the first time on his own.

Without his two mates there was no one to bully and the gang’s former school morning target, Dudley’s cousin Harry, had also gone off to a school up-country somewhere. So here he stood, surrounded by the kids who had been his classmates at the Little Whinging Primary for the last six years, and they were not interested in him.

From the smallest bedroom window of number 4 Privet Drive Petunia Dursley had earlier caught a glimpse of Dudley’s friend walking past on his way to the bus stop and wondered how her own boy was settling in at Smeltings. To her nephew, Harry Potter, who’s bed she had been stripping for the weekly wash, she gave hardly a thought.

When the bus arrived Gordon was jostled and pushed, an elbow caught him hard in the ribs, and he was sure young Deidre Fortescue had stood on his toes on purpose. Last on board he was forced to stand as the other youngsters took the seats reserved for them by their friends. It was going to be a long, long term for Gordon Harrison.

Notes

  1. As with the Hogwarts term dates UK Independent and State schools do not, of necessity, have matching term dates. Whether or not Dudley and Piers would have left for Smeltings to commence their term before the start of the term at Stonewall High is unknown. All canon suggests in Philosophers Stone is that Dudley was going off to have his tail removed after Harry had been dropped at Kings Cross on 1st September.
  2. Incidentally Wednesday 4th is the correct day/date; 1st September 1991 was a Sunday. Some divergences exit between actual and written calendars as documented here.
  3. Gordon [Surname unspecified] is a member of Dudley’s bullying gang as mentioned in Chap 3 of Philosophers Stone.
  4. COPYRIGHT  – All references to the Harry Potter characters and locations mentioned above are fully recognised as the intellectual property of J K Rowling and her publishers.