Greenhouse without the pane!

The sun has finally arrived and the gazebo has been put over the patio with table and chairs underneath.  With the cloth sides on to keep out the drafts it makes for perfect alfresco modelling.  The first set of cottages have been installed,  although they still need some details adding to finish them off,  so it was time to start on the gardens.  Having build a couple of garden sheds and an Anderson Shelter thoughts moved to a green house.  Initially I called into the model shop to buy a kit with the intention of butchering it.  With the weekend approaching I returned home somewhat disappointed at being unable to purchase one.  A search through my plasticard and bits and pieces box inspired me to try to use up some of the bits of waste plastic and have a go at building a greenhouse.  As with every building I have built I always draw my idea out on paper first.  This helps me to see with my eyes what I have created in my mind.  It also ensures that I can work out all the measurements.  Having  done this it is then transferred onto the plasticard ready for cutting out.  I started with the base walls which are one piece of plasticard sandwiched between two bits of brick embossed plastic, leaving a small lip at the bottom to allow it to be sunk into the baseboard.  At the door end of the building the middle of the sandwich also formed the basis for the door.  The next stage was to create the glass windows.  Clear plastice was cut to size and all the frames made from thin plastic glued to both sides of the clear plastic.  All the sections were then assembled along with a rear supporting wall.  As it is going to be up against a large garden wall constructed of random stone, the first part of the rear wall has had embossed random stone pasticard with a brick top to simulate a brick extension to the top of the existing garden wall.  The roof was made in the same way as the glazed sides complete with small boarding around the edge and the door details are made from thin plastic.  With the brick work painted and allowed to dry weathering powders were applied to tone it all down.  The whole greenhouse has been made from scraps of plasticard found in my recycle box and I am very pleased with the result.  The next stage is to construct the interior with tomato plants and various plant pots etc.  Now there’s a challenge!!

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A Bus for Abingdon Station

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of ‘Bus Lane’, the Magazine of the Oxford Bus Museum Trust (OBMT) and is reproduced here with permission of the Editor.  Some detailed changes have been made to aid readers who are not familiar with Oxford and its buses.

The Oxford Bus Museum is located in what was the goods yard of Hanborough Station (on the Oxford to Worcester line).  It is open on Sundays and Wednesdays throughout the year and also on Saturdays during the summer.  For further information visit

One of my interests, when I am not restoring 12 inch to the foot buses, is model railways.  Two of my colleagues at the Abingdon and District Model Railway Club are currently building a OO-gauge scale-model of Abingdon Station.  While this is still incomplete it was shown at the Club’s Abingdon Exhibition last March.

They have, of necessity, collected a lot of information on the prototype station and several photographs show one or more City of Oxford Motor Services (COMS) double-deckers alongside the station building.  This prompted me to offer to produce a suitable bus to be incorporated in the layout.  My intention was to purchase a proprietary 1:76 bus and to add additional detail where appropriate.  The period of their model is 1947/8 – ie at the transition  between The GWR and British Railways.  It seemed that I had two options.  Corgi produced a model of a Guy Arab Utility in Oxford livery which would be right for the period, but although COMS had some of these, they are not ‘proper’ Oxford buses.  Corgi also produced a model of a Weymann-bodied AEC Regent II in Oxford livery.  Although this particular version did not enter COMS service until early 1948 it is representative of the many Regents (of various Marks) operated by COMS.  I did consider modifying it into an earlier, pre-war Regent, but decided this would introduce more anomalies than it cured.

The Corgi model’s basic shortcomings are the presence of two rods running vertically through the passenger saloons (to hold the various parts together) and the lack of detail around the stairway.  Some brutal surgery with a cordless drill reduced the model to three metal components (chassis, lower deck and upper deck/roof) plus two plastic inserts representing the seating and two acetate ‘boxes’ for the glazing.  This allowed me to first remove the rods and then to start adding new details.  I fitted a ‘kicking-plate’ to the inside of the stairs using black styrene sheet and made a more comprehensive set of handrails using 0.45mm brass wire.  The arrangement of these was based on experience gained in the restoration of the OBMT’s 1950 low-bridge Regent III (PWL 413) and examination of the other Regent III and V buses at the museum.  I also replaced the over-thick grab-pole with one made from piano wire.  The stairwell was then repainted in Oxford maroon.

The seat portions of the plastic inserts were painted a dull red colour and the areas representing the floor a brown colour.  The safety-bars across the front upstairs windows and local to the stairway were represented by thin strips of styrene, glued to the inside of the acetate glazing.

The whole was then assembled, like a layer cake, with the metal parts glued together and the other components (and handrails) being fitted as I went along.

I kept the original registration number (MWL 964), but changed the Fleet Number from 864 back to its original 330.  These, plus the addition of roof ventilators and the modifications around the stairwell involved touching up some of the original paintwork.  The whole body was then given a coat of satin varnish.

New destination blinds were fitted, to show that it had just arrived on the number 17 service from Faringdon.  These were produced on my computer, based on an original blind at the Bus Museum, although the size and style of the lettering is not quite correct.  My excuse is that I had an exhibition deadline to meet.

Certain inaccuracies remain; the Corgi model represents the version of the Regent II with side panelling which turns ‘out’ at the bottom, whereas those supplied to Oxford in 1948 had side panelling which turned ‘in’.  Changing this would have involved some brutal filing and a complete repaint.  Also the doorway in the rear bulkhead of the lower saloon is wider than it should be; I guess this is due to a limitation in the manufacturing process.  Finally the glazing is far from flush, although this is not so noticeable  given Oxford’s red livery – when compared with liveries that had a band of light coloured paint a window level.  Nevertheless I think it is a reasonable representation of an COMS AEC Regent II.

I should like to thank fellow OBMT members Michael Bartlett and Nick Taylor for information on the model and its prototype and John Bayliss taking the photographs and for his advice on the paint mixing required to achieve the correct colours involved in the touching up.

Allan Goode
Member OBMT and Abingdon & District MRC

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The summer is here and the grass is growing

eng shed 1Scenic work has started in abundance.  Recent purchases of Sea Moss along with various materials from Woodland Scenics, has enabled the team to push ahead.  I would like to express my thanks to Peter Warwick for allowing us to raid his box full of scatter and foliage material whback eng shedich has kept us going.

 We have concentrated on the fiddle yard (Radley end) of the layout as there is very little work that can be done at the station end until the main station building and the cottages are constructed.  All of these are about 12 months away, regrettably. 

The Sea Moss is sprayed with matt varnish and then covered in scatter material.  Then it is re-sprayed to hold it all in position.  Some modellers use this for trees but I prefer just to make bushes out of it.  Small holes are then drilled into the baseboard; a selection of the Sea Moss is broken off the main stalk and glued into position.  It then receives another spraying with matt varnish and sprinkled with scatter.  The excess is removed, later when the glues are dried, in the old fashion way of stocking over the end of the hoover.

eng shed frt

What I have found really useful to use in bulking out the scenery is the waste from the foliage when making trees.  The foliage matting produced by Woodland Scenics sheds loads of bits and pieces while working with it.  This is saved and put into a bag of its own and then used as a “building up” material in conjunction with the scatters powders. 

The photographs show progress around the engine shed, pump house and platelayers hut.  The gap around the base of the coaling stage will need attention but as it is not, at present, permanently secured in position, this will be completed at a later date.

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Tiny Signs

Abingdon Platform SignAfter much nagging and bullying from you know who, I spent much of the weekend and a little of yesterday evening trying out different tequniques for painting the etched sign (see previous article).

Initially, Ivan and I had got together on Thursday evening for a good old chin wag and “planning” session that rapidly turned into a making, testing and experimenting session.  We started by cleaning the least successful platform “Abingdon”  sign with a glassfibre pencil.  After carefully cutting it from the fret and filing of the burrs, we soldered it to a couple of rail posts and glued a piece of plasticard to the back to help disguise the holes.  Ivan dug out some black primer spray paint and after five minutes dancing around the garden playing samba rythms (rattling the can) he sprayed the sign matt primer black.

For the lettering, we tried the suggestion of using a roller to just add paint to the raised parts of the sign but unfortunately this was disasterously unsuccessful (though may work with some of the smaller signs).  After re-applying the primer, I used a small brush to carefully paint in the lettering.  It takes a very steady hand and a lot of patience to achieve good results this way and despite using Ivan’s magnifying glasses, the end result was looking very ragged with a lot of accidental slips needing to be fixed with the primer.

To the River & Salters SteamersGW NoticeOver the weekend, I was able to get hold of an even smaller brush (OOO) and clean up some of the edges and cover over some of the slips.  A quick rub with the glass fibre pen helped to take the shine off the lettering and a brush over with weaathering powders toned down the white and gave the whole sign an aged look.

With the smaller signs, I used a slightly different method.  After painting in the background base colour with black paint, I used what is commonly called a dry-brush technique (I think !?).  Goods Office SignI loaded a flat and relatively wide brush with the white paint and then carefully wiped it on a piece of scrap paper until only a small amount of paint remained on the brush.  This was then very lightly stoked across the signs so that only the highest parts of the lettering picked up the paint.  I repeated this several times until there was enough paint built up on the letters.  This method seems to have been very successful, particularly on the GW notice that will be fixed to the side of the goods office.  (Incidentally, if you take a look at in the “Martin Smith” collection of photographs on our website, there is an excellent image of the original sign in glorious technicolour.)

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The Acid Test (results)

Disappointing results

Disappointing results

Having set up the acid bath, making sure to follow all the necessary safety precautions we got down to the all important preparation of the brass in readiness for ironing on the resist which had previously been printed, using a laser printer, onto the special toner-transfer paper.

The first fret that we tried was a “Crane Wheel” fret.  The brass was given a good clean with wire wool and then wiped with methylated spirit to remove any remaining grease or grime.  The piece of brass was slipped into the pocket made by folding the toner-transfer paper corresponding to the registration marks included on the print and stapled in place.  It was then ironed on both sides for about 5 minutes in the hope that the toner would transfer sufficiently to provide the necessary “resist” to prevent the required area being etched by the acid.

After about 15-20 minutes in the acid bath (regularly checking progress), the fret was removed and given a thorough wash to remove all traces of acid.  As can be seen form the photo, the results were rather poor and disappointing.

Still poor results but showing promise

More care = better results

 The next fret to get the acid treatment was the Abingdon Signs fret.  Again the brass was prepared and the toner ironed on.  This time it was realised that tiny specs of dust were trapping air between the brass and the toner sheet, preventing adhesion in those areas.  As you can see from the photo to the left, these caused holes to be etched through the sheet where they weren’t intended.  It was also realized that the areas with no toner also trapped air which expanded with the heat of the iron, forcing the toner away from the brass along the edges and causing jagged edges to some of the signs.

With the next attempt at the Abingdon signs, we took a lot more time and care, firstly in making sure the toner sheet was clearer of dust by giving it a quick blow and secondly by piercing every air bubble trapped beneath the toner sheet.

More care = better results


On the photo to the right, you can see that there are fewer holes and the edges of the signs are cleaner, straighter and smoother.

By printing the sheets closer to the time that they will be used (in this case they were printed about 3 weeks before use) and by taking more care in keeping them clean and free of dust, we should be able to acheive even clearer etches in the future.

Tiny Sign!

Tiny Sign!

Cleaned up with a glass fibre brush you can see the level of detail that has been achieved even in this first attempt at the technique.  Considering that the goods shed sign is only 10mm across and the lettering not much more than 0.5mm tall, you can see from the following photos that the text is almost readable.  Certainly clear enough for it’s intended use and viewing distance. 




You can see that the slightly larger lettering on the Goods Office sign is perfectly clear and usable.

Whilst it’s true that at this size the signs don’t really need to be 3 dimensional and excellent results can be achieved with a standard printer, I don’t think that would be anything like as satisfying or as much fun!

The next problem to overcome is how to successfully paint the signs without obliterating all our effort but I’ll leave that for a future blog … watch this space! 

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Recent progress

I am pleased to report that the track work is all now working well with locomotives and rolling stock performing as it should. Tom has worked very hard to get the fiddle yard cassettes working as they should be. Unfortunately when constructed the securing angles were a little too big and consequently fowling the brake gear on some locos. This has taken several club evenings to do but Tom has now completed the task and all the cassettes now accept trains with no problems.

There are various little projects under way at present. We recently had an evening where a few of us were making components for the sprat and winkle couplings needed for the rolling stock. Phil Evans has been working hard fitting couplings but was running short of items. With a few team members we were able to complete most of the pieces needed and now we are moving on the soldering them all up.

In the mean time I played around with various methods of making vegetables in 4mm. Now that this has been perfected the project has been opened up to other group members to build a supply of items to be stored in readiness for when the gardens of the 7 cottages are ready for planting. There are a lot of plants to be made so there will be no reason for anyone to get bored!!!

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Identifying the issues

19th March 2009


Some of the issues with the layout highlighted at the Abingdon Model Railway Exhibition on 7th March 2009 have started to be addressed.  Last Friday and this Wednesday we have started to concentrate on the track and point work. 


Tony worked hard on Friday removing the motor from underneath the goods shed point, locating and repairing the fault.  The operating rod had become stuck to the underneath of the baseboard.  Glue had seeped down the side of the droppers form the top and adhered the sliding firmly in one place.    It was returned to service by the end of the evening and now operates perfectly.


Several of the moulded chairs on the inside of the rail were slightly high and were fouling the flanges.  These have been cut down or slightly filed away enabling the flanges to run through smoothly.


Some point blades have been adjusted, filed and slightly tweaked.  Some check rails have been identified as requiring replacement and the double slip continues to give problems and at present and will need further attention.  Work was brought to an abrupt halt on Wednesday when one of the blades came unsoldered.  By now it was time to retire for the evening.

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