Friday, January 26, 2018

DJM Mermaids

So I thought I’d do a review of the most recent purchase to arrive from my “local” hobby store – Hatton’s of Liverpool.  I’d actually been going online to buy some short shank NEM couplers and was tempted by a pair of the DJM Mermaids.  They were in “Dutch” grey and yellow livery whereas I’d prefer black (which is much earlier in their life) but I figured it isn’t hard to paint something black and in any case I have some Modelmaster Transfers which will suit so another UFO joins the pile….

Anyway, as these are the first examples of some models from DJM that I’ve obtained I was curious to see what was different from the Dapol offerings which Dave Jones had overseen at his time there – and what hadn’t really changed much at all.

So first impression – the boxes were nice but not as sturdy as I am used to from Dapol.  No plastic boxes here.  More like Farish although I felt the window was a little small to allow a reasonable view of the model.  A bit like Ixion before him, Dave has gone for a slogan – theirs was “Own the Finest”  his is “ Setting Higher Standards”.   

As far as the model goes, it looks pretty good.  The necessity of the plastic moulding process and the nature of these wagons (being side tippers) does mean the representation of the support structure and the tipping bits are a bit over – if they were scale I am pretty sure there reject rate would be uneconomically high.   Turning the wagon over I was very impressed with the brake gear and what not – stuff which unless you have really bad track laying skills you won’t see but adds to the authenticity (and having spoken to a professional model maker it actually doesn’t add to the cost of the tooling – and adds only a little to the design CAD stage).

The ballast load is well modelled too – and easily removed for those wanting to run it empty or to replace with something more realistic (like actual crushed up ballast).  Having a pair they do look a little to alike (but again the cost of having more than one mould for this is not economic – and then you are still relying on luck to get two different loads although with the different running numbers it shouldn’t be that hard).

For me the biggest let down was the coupling spacing.  As is now the industry standard, NEM pockets are fitted but the choice of coupling length is, frankly, ridiculous.  I don’t know if DJM only do one size of coupler and I get the cost of a mould has to be covered but when the gap between the buffers measures at 9mm this is way too big.  Not setting higher standards at all.    Now I understand the Rapido coupler isn’t that great – but I think we can all acknowledge that for RTR British N we are stuck with it.  Farish provide a short shank NEM coupler (the item I was actually buying from Hatton’s when the siren song of the mermaid called to me) and fitting a pair of these brought the gap down to 4mm.  It is still too big – and I would expect at 4mm it will go around “trainset” curves (which I define as anything under 12 inches radius – my layout runs 15” on the hidden sections and much, much larger on the visible) so why DJM thinks a 9mm gap is setting higher standards boggles the imagination.    I would like to get mine down lower than 4mm but at this stage that’s where they are until after the repaint.

Overall 8/10 with the buffer gap accounting for all the lost of marks.  Once they are painted to match the Dogfish, Grampus and Shark they’ll make an interesting addition to my ballast train.

Pictures of the two gaps:


Saturday, January 20, 2018

DIY Transfers

One of the LAG members dabbles a bit in USA outline.  My original trainset, given to me at birth, is also American and I have, from time to time, dabbled a bit myself.  The collection isn’t particularly big and, owing to not knowing very much about the US at the time, the Roads which I had locos and stock for were more purchased on the basis of either it was cheap or I liked the look of it.  When I finally sat down a couple of years ago to consider what to do with it all, I found I had bits and pieces from 5 roads, three of which were orphans – or very tenuously connected to the others.

It was about this time that David mentioned he was going to do is own shortline and was essentially running his railroad as a hook and pull operation from the nearest Class 1 down a branch.  I had a bit of a read around the internet and found this was a pretty common method of playing trains in the US and figured it would enable me to justify most of what I had – all I had to do was assume the Class 3 Road I was operating had purchased the random locos from the Class 1 which had purchased them from the manufacturer.  This would enable a PRR K4 Pacific for instance to be running over next to a GN F7. 

A bit more thinking and I decided to upgrade to a Class 2 Road as this enabled me to have more miles and more money, justifying repainting the eclectic collection and so the Empire Railroad was born. 

All this back story is necessary I suppose to explain how I came to getting some decal paper and making my own transfers.  I needed to do something to make my own railroad livery!

I got my paper from eBay and an Australian supplier.  Heaps out there and much of a muchness for price.  I got a single clear A4 sheet to practice with.  As I can’t print white, any white lettering needs to go on a white paint swatch.  Similarly, I have found that unless I print in black, and at photo quality, I have to put colours onto a white background as they appear washed out.  It is still a trial and error process.

I have however had a couple of successes.  The Empire Railroad has three 2-8-0 steamers (Bachmann ex-Missouri Pacific) and these have had Empire put on the tender and 1977, 1980 and 1983 applied to the cab sides for the road numbers.  Because I did these myself, I wasn’t limited to what Fox or anyone else did for fonts and so they were done in BANK GOTHIC Lt with a bit of manipulation on spacing and so forth.  These were printed by firstly printing the desired shape and size on plain paper then cutting enough transfer paper from the sheet to cover, sticking it over with scotch tape and reprinting.  I painted a white square on the tender and slide the transfer on.  Once dry I painted around the transfer with matte black.  The same approach went on the cab side but this was a bit more lumpy with detail – US locos aren’t as neat and tidy as UK – and so I had to use microsol to get the transfer to lie flat.  One of the six number squares mucked up – must get around to sorting that.

image2 - Copy

I also did three Microtrains cabooses – two started life as BN Green (so post 1970 which was much later than I decided on – I’ve decided 1950s for steam to still be hanging on in parts but broadly diesels hold sway) and one in PRR brown.  They were painted rattle can red from Bunnings – and then suitably adorned with the Empire logo and number 501, 502 and 503.  As these were black it was very simple.

image1 - Copy

Finally, I mentioned last week I’d have a photo of the Simple Green for those who want to find it and give it a go – as I mentioned I got mine from Bunnings in Australia so I don’t know if it is available overseas but if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told to use Johnson’s Klear….  Turns out Simple Green is made in NZ so chances are they export it further than the West Island eh bro?


Friday, January 12, 2018

Atso-Cad LNER D120 Pigeon Van - a reprise of sorts

Just on four years ago I posted about building one of the resin kits which had been done as a limited run of these vans.  My comment then was that I hoped I would eventually get my own if it were added to Steve’s Shapeways shop.  Fortunately it has been (There is a link to the shop in the original post) and while the exchange rates and general costs haven’t been especially friendly, I took an opportunity late last year when Shapeways had a free shipping plus 10% discount sale on for designers to add one to my order.

Essentially it was much the same as the cast version – chassis and body but the buffers were printed on as was the brake gear to the chassis.  You also need with this one to supply wheels and couplings. 
I managed to break a buffer off by dropping it before I had done much and having spent a few minutes looking decided a brass replacement was going to be quicker so that’s what it got.  The print is pretty good and considering it is of a wooden paneled vehicle I didn’t find the lining an issue but if you wanted to rubbing the roof down between coats of paint would help.  Doing in the individual panels…. that would be tedious and fraught with danger I think.

The two parts were cleaned with Simply Green – I’ll put a pic of the bottle up next week – which I got from Bunnings.  I don’t know if it is available in the UK or elsewhere (although Bunnings and its snags are in the UK) but it worked a treat – best cleaner for FUD I’ve found.  Painting then followed with some rattle can primer and Humbrol crimson (also the rattle can – quicker than getting the airbrush out).  The roof is Grimy Black from Modelmaster.  The chassis was painted separately with a rattle of black.  

The couplers are NEM boxes as part of the print – as I run minimum 15” curves I opted for a pair of the short Farish ones and, unlike Ben’s, didn’t put the steam heat pipes on – guess it is summer for mine.  Glazing done with Krysal Klear.   Following the transfers Testors dulcote was applied and then glazing.  The glazing was done with Krysal Klear.  Transfers from the collection – the number was lucky as a set of coach numbers had the 5 digits in almost the right order – took the two from the front and put them at the back.  Wheels from the spares box – they fitted and rolled smoothly which was the criteria.  Not Peco but I don’t know whose they are.


Similarly to Ben’s, Tatlow’s book was consulted for a number (70209 to go with Ben’s 70199) and the whole lot finished within about 2 weeks of getting it.   A lightening fast time for me!


So a pretty quick and easy model of a prototype which would appear to have travelled fairly widely in the days when homing pigeon races were a frequent weekend event.

Lastly, thanks for the comments on last weeks post – I am pleased that some find my ramblings and bits and pieces of interest.  Hopefully you’ll also be inspired to give something a go.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Return

Like Lazarus rising, I have come back to this blog as a means to keep track of what I am doing modelling wise and, having also returned to the setup for modelling and photographing which I started with back in Longreach in 2010, I think it is going to be a lot easier to maintain the posting – always a key part of having a blog!

So what has been happening?  Well bits and pieces – 2017 was supposed to be the year of making a significant dent in the UFO pile and moving as many models as possible into the FO pile.  Alas what actually happened was I generally did bits and pieces but didn’t get anything finished.  Some of this was due to work commitments, other family (tidy up the modelling area and when modelling resumed start on a different one to the one previously being worked on).  Other reasons were the lack of bits to actually finish things.  The considerable changes of the N Gauge Society Shop has, at least for this overseas member, meant that much of what appealed in being a member has been lost – and frustratingly, the news dropped in the renewal Journal having coughed up for three years.  Ho hum. 

The other, and probably most significant issue, was my eyesight.  I was trying to solder some axle boxes on back in September 17 and realised I just could no longer focus where I used to be able to.  A trip to the optician resulted in the previous one set of glasses (for distance vision) becoming three – sunglasses for distance (they live in the car), tri-focal for distance, computer screens and a bit of modelling and dedicated modelling glasses.  The latter enable me to see my finger prints clearly on a glass at 9 inches and don’t let me see my hand at the end of my arm!  I took a model with me to the optician to show him what I was doing and he was very helpful.  The prescription enables me to read the calibration message for his equipment so money well spent.

So the modelling – most recently I have renumbered the pair of Farish Std 4 2-6-4Ts I received for Christmas.  80027 with early crest became 80037 – which for a few years early in is career was allocated to Watford Junction and may have been (although no definitive evidence has appeared) being used on the branch to St Alban’s Abbey.  The other went from being 80119 to 80103 – which had the unfortunate distinction of being the first of the 999 Standards to be condemned having suffered cracked frames in 1962 – a mere 2 years after 92220 came out of Swindon.

To renumber them I tried something new.  I got some Simply Green cleaner from my local Bunnings Hardware (incidentally Bunnings is in St Alban’s and would, if I were modelling the station today, manage to make it onto the corner of the layout!) as I had seen some posts on various forums as to its worth as a gentle paint and decal stripper.  A bit painted on the transfers and left for about a minute then a cocktail stick and the numbers removed quickly and easily with no damage to the paint underneath.  New numbers from Fox transfers and sides done.  I was able to do the smoke box door number plate on 80037 but 80103 needs the “wrong” right hand crest applied as the pictures I have of it after its only Heavy General overhaul show it having the wrong facing lion.  Order sent to Fox and hopefully it will be sorted fairly shortly. 

Std 4 and Ivatt renumber

While I was on the transfer roll, my inadvertent eBay purchase of a 46521 – inadvertent as I thought I had a black one, not a green so ended up with two the same – became 46512 which was also a Swindon built example finished in lined Brunswick Green.

So that’s it for this week.  I’ve a few more things to show so will be making the effort to post weekly for the next few to clear the backlog.